24th National Conference on Undergraduate Research
The University of Montana campus is unique in its setting with hiking opportunities in several directions. There are excellent prospects for sighting wildlife along these trails and spring wildflowers should be beginning to open. If you hike, remember to take appropriate rain/cold gear as the weather can change very rapidly without warning. The mountains often hide an approaching storm front. At all times, keep sharp eyes out for ‘ticks' crawling on your hair, clothing and skin; April is prime ‘tick' season. You should carry drinking water as the altitude and low humidity will rapidly dehydrate you. Off-trail hiking is discouraged since many mountain plant communities are fragile and subject to rapid erosion and noxious weed invasions when disturbed.
Mount Sentinel "M" Trail: The trial to the "M" begins from the parking lot east of the Heating Plant and the high rise Aber Hall dorm. It climbs 800 feet via a well maintained switch-back trail; this takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour round trip. Benches are provided at several intervals for good views while you recover your breath. The trail continues above the "M" for another 1200 feet to the summit of Mt. Sentinel. Hang gliding enthusiasts have a launch site at the summit. Round trip to the "M" is about an hour. A summit trip requires 2-3 hours.
Greenough Park: Missoula's Greenough Park is a wooded riparian corridor noted for its bird watching potential. Entrance to the park is a short walk across the Van Buren Footbridge at the north end of campus. Proceed under the highway overpass, take a left on Poplar Street and go two blocks. Spring runoff should have Rattlesnake Creek providing plenty of water music in the background (1.5 hour round trip).
Kim Williams Nature Trail: This trail is a popular running path that starts at the north end of campus and follows the Clark Fork River into the Hellgate Canyon along the former railroad grade of the old Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha Trail. It traverses a riparian community rich in bird life, muskrats and flowering shrubs. A trail up the back side of Mt. Sentinel is encountered about a mile up, opening up the potential for nice loop trip (30 minutes to 4 hours depending on route and distance).
Clark Fork River Park Trail:
Walk past the Adams Center toward the Footbridge and take a left along the Clark Fork River Park Trail. A popular walking/running trail with several parks that tangent off the trail. Under the Madison Street bridge, there is a walking bridge to Caras Park and into downtown Missoula and beyond. Downtown hold the hand-carved Carousel for Missoula and a wealth of boutiques, gift shops and small restaurants. The walk round trip from campus to McCormick Park is approximately 2.8 to 3 miles.
Rattlesnake National Recreation Area:
With the major trailhead only 4.5 miles north of Missoula, The U-shaped Rattlesnake basin is fed by more than fifty small creeks that begin as seeps from springs and melting snow-banks in the upper Wilderness portion of the NRA. Resting in the more than thirty high mountain lakes, crystal clear water then plunges down waterfalls to hanging valleys separated by sheer headwalls and carpets of sub-alpine fir, lodge-pole pine, and spruce sloping down to open Douglas fir and ponderosa pine parklands. Day use is by far the dominant form of recreation, largely due to a rapid increase in use by joggers and mountain bikers up both the main Rattlesnake Creek and Spring Gulch.
Take the Van Buren Street Exit off I-90 on the east end of Missoula and go 4.5 miles north on Rattlesnake Drive to the main parking area and jumping-off point on the west side of Rattlesnake Creek. The main trailhead has handicapped access toilets and another one 1.5 miles up the main corridor.