Mount Sentinel "M" Trail is a 3.4 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Missoula, MT that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and trail running and is accessible from March until November.
The "M" on the west face of Mount Sentinel has been a Missoula landmark since 1908, when Forestry Club members forged a zigzag trail up the mountain and students carried up stones to shape the symbol of the University of Montana. A hike to the "M" is a favorite Missoula outing for people of all ages. After just a few minutes on the trail, you begin to get a birds'-eye view of the University of Montana. As you gain elevation, the view expands to include all of Missoula, the valley, the Clark Fork River and distant mountains. While the trail is less than a mile long, the hike can be quite strenuous, depending on how quickly you cover this distance. You'll climb a steep, zigzag path with 11 switchbacks and gain 620 feet in elevation. Many local athletes and fitness buffs run the "M" trail as a regular part of their regimen. Most people make the "M" their final destination, but you can continue to climb for about another mile on one of two routes to the top of Mount Sentinel. The view from the top of the mountain is even more exquisite. To the north, across Hellgate Canyon, you'll see Mount Jumbo and the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Look for the water lines etched into the slopes of Mount Jumbo by the waters of Glacial Lake Missoula. To the south, you can see the Bitterroot Mountains. From the top of Sentinel, you can retrace your steps to the base of the mountain or follow Crazy Canyon Trail into Pattee Canyon. Hikers and equestrians can also follow the Hellgate Canyon Trail linking Crazy Canyon Trail with the Kim Williams Trail.
I do a mix of hiking and trail running on "the M." Basically, it's a trail of switchbacks. It's do-able for most people, as there are benches for rest every few switchbacks. You could take your time and just enjoy the views of Missoula (which are spectacular!), or hike faster/run it for more intense cardio exercise.
doesn't take as long as you think it would. very steep in certain areas n can be a killer work out but there are benches at every other corner to stop and take a few breaths. lots of friendly people
A must for visiting Missoula.