It’s summer, which means warm air and plants in bloom! For many people with disabilities it’s also the best season, as weather typically makes participation in our communities and natural areas easier. Western Montana is the place for outdoor fun!
Missoula’s walkable and rollable community is a great central location for activities and adventure. The Riverfront Trail follows the old Milwaukee Railroad route along the Clark Fork River downtown and connects directly to Caras Park, home to regular day- and night-life. Enjoy free, family-friendly performing arts throughout summer including: Out to Lunch from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Downtown ToNight from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Thursdays. You might even be up for a spin on the full-sized accessible carousel in the park. Within throwing distance of downtown and the Riverfront Trail, there is the Greenough Park trail where it’s easy to lose yourself in the sights.
Downtown also offers easy access to two walking bridges across the Clark Fork River connecting with the Kim Williams Trail heading east, the Milwaukee Trail heading west, and the Bitterroot Branch Trail wandering through town to the south. Just south of Missoula in Lolo, the paved Bitterroot Trail begins and runs along Highway 93 about 42 miles to Hamilton. The surface, grade, and cross slope of all these trails make them usable by individuals with limited mobility or who use mobility devices.
A few minutes’ drive to the east of Missoula is the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area in Lolo National Forest, which offers picnicking, hiking, cycling, nature viewing, disc golf and accessible vault toilets. Just southwest of Missoula is McClay Flat nature trail along the Bitterroot River, which features the interpretive nature trail with trail-side education signs, nature viewing, and more accessible vault toilets. Near Stevensville, about 25 miles south of Missoula, is the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in the wetlands of the Bitterroot River bottom. The Refuge’s accessible interpretive nature trails are complemented by wildlife viewing, photography, fishing and environmental education opportunities.
Other parts of Western Montana offer a number of accessible recreation facilities for a variety of outdoor activities. Within 50 miles of Missoula to the Northeast, along Highway 83, Salmon Lake, Placid Lake, and Seeley Lake State Parks are models of accessibility for wildlife viewing, fishing, camping or picnicking. All three sites were designed to meet federal accessibility standards to allow universal participation in outdoor recreation.
Along the picturesque Highway 200 in Sanders County, 140 miles northwest of Missoula at the small town of Noxon, Pilgrim Creek Park was designed and constructed by Avista Utilities to ensure usability by people with and without disabilities. The day-use picnic area, overnight camping area and trail around the park offer a variety of activities. The trail also leads directly to the park’s accessible fishing pier on the Clark Fork River.
About 35 miles to the east of Missoula is Beavertail Hill State Park, which offers similar accessibility features and activities to the others. North of Interstate 90 is Beavertail Pond which features an accessible vault toilet and an accessible concrete fishing pier. South of the interstate is an accessible public site along the Clark Fork River featuring day-use and accessible toilet facilities.
Great locations for outdoor recreation are scattered throughout Western Montana for recreationalists whether on foot or on tire. Community parks, trails, and summertime activities abound in and around many Western Montana communities for urban adventurers. Those willing to invest a little windshield time can also discover various outdoor recreation sites throughout our rural areas. Either way, summer in Montana ends as quickly as it begins, so now’s a great time to take advantage of these opportunities!