Mount Sentinel via Hellgate Ridgeline

MODERATE 155 reviews

Mount Sentinel via Hellgate Ridgeline is a 3.1 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Missoula, Montana that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 3.1 miles Elevation Gain: 1,896 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

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.

Cool views, intense gain in elevation.

hiking
no shade
1 month ago

Great trail. It was a great climb. It’s all uphill to the top and the views are awesome. Three hours from The Doubletree to the top and back down.

hiking
2 months ago

Trail was a lot of fun with the M probably the most challenging due to the switchbacks and rocks. I accidentally took the outer loop to get to the top but glad I did. On my descent I actually ran most of it until The M - great trail for running.

hiking
no shade
rocky
2 months ago

great 2 hour hike, moderate but rocky so be careful. panoramic view of Missoula, UM campus, and surrounding mountains. go early in the day because it's totally unshaded

mountain biking
no shade
rocky
3 months ago

Great quick ride in Missoula for a hill climb. Bikes are allowed on the Crazy Canyon connection to this trail system. Hot in the late summer.

Great cardio workout! I only go up this trail — going down is quite steep and possibly slower than going up. A fair amount of people, including trail runners (I don’t know how they do it!). Good views of Missoula.

hiking
no shade
rocky
4 months ago

Kansas boy who lifts, runs 13.1s and bikes. Steep inclines and thinner air. Whew! I LOVED it. And, it was a half step past moderate. Pretty hard actually on the ascent and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just go in with realistic expectations. Great views. Put down the phone is you want to continue to draw breath. :-)

5 months ago

Great hike today. Low traffic for a Sunday morning. Saw a few hangers at the top. Trail in good condition. Only one pile of dog feces the whole way.

walking
5 months ago

We went to hike The M trail and it turns out it is also Mt Sentinal, for inexperianced hikers this trail is hard,excessive switch backs but worth it. If you hike all the time it may be easy to moderate.

hiking
10 months ago

Started up the M trail and continued to the summit via Hellgate Ridge. Fairly easy hike with some steep portions and beautiful views of downtown. Took me about 2.5 hours round trip as I'm not in the greatest shape. You'll definitely need spikes as all of the M is ice, hellgate ridge was a mix of blown snow and ice didn't find anything deeper than 6 inches. Overall a very nice hike.

hiking
Sat Oct 20 2018

A good start for those who are looking to get into hiking or backpacking. Its a challenge that's worth it

Thu Sep 27 2018

Challenging with reward!

Mon Sep 10 2018

Parking at Albertsons and crossing the foot bridge makes parking easy and free for this hike. Be prepared for lots of uphill - mostly gradual with some steep. I like this route up Sentinel due to the tree cover. Easy to make a loop by heading down via the M trail.

Tue Aug 07 2018

Great hike roughly 2hr round trip with slow steady speed;) Go early before sun hits mountain!

hiking
Sun Aug 05 2018

Another beautiful summer day and cool enough to hike this beast! Parked near Griz Gateway no issues because it's Sunday. Dappled sunlight all the way up. Had my dog Otis jump in the river right before the hike & maybe I should've too! But it's crisp today for mid summer, in the 70s right now, high of 81. This is usually a perfect fall hike but the tree cover is keeping us cool enough today. Would not recommend this hike if it was weather in the 90's unless you leave real early. My favorite hike around Missoula by far! It's less baron than the other hikes and less trafficked. You have to walk quite a ways down Kim Williams trail and turn right at the white metal sign that says day use only. The trail is definitely at least moderate but not painstakingly long, it'll take you right up over Mount Sentinel where there's a variety of routes back down.

hiking
Mon Jul 30 2018

Parked at the M trail parking lot but walked around to the Kim Williams Trail and down it until it met up with the Hellgate Canyon trail. Took that up the backside of Sentinel, which provided much-appreciated shade, sporadic thimbleberries, and occasional views of the river and East Missoula. Hiked to the top of Sentinel and then back down the front side and down the M trail for a total of about 5.8 miles. Really enjoyable. Hazy views though due to smoke in the sky from nearby wildfires (which still didn’t dampen my enjoyment of it). All in all, a great hike.

hiking
Thu Jul 26 2018

Beautiful view from the top of Mount Sentential! We started at the M Hike and continued to the top. It was quite strenuous for moderately in shape people. Once you got passed the M it was very quiet. Took about 3 hours to do the about 4.5 mile hike. The parking lot has $1.50 per hour so plan accordingly, 3 hours was perfect with about 20 minutes to spare (and we took a handful of breaks on the trail). Well worth it!

Tue Jul 24 2018

30-40 minutes up to the M. 1.5 to the top. After the first tree line above the M a long rather banal hike around to the other side. Very quiet and great views at the top, however. Only saw two other people on a Saturday near the top.

Wed Jun 06 2018

Amazing views! Wildflowers were in bloom and provides an excellent splash of color to the already green landscape. The trail provided a great hike on this Memorial Day and has left a lasting impression of the beauty that Missoula has in its vast surroundings. I recommend this trail to anyone that wants a taste of country hiking close to town. Awesome!

hiking
Sat Apr 21 2018

I created a nice loop about 4.5 miles heading out along the river on Kim Williams Nature Trail, then turn up Hellgate Canyon Trail to the summit of Mount Sentinel, then down the face of Mount Sentinel on the M trail. This gives you a much more interesting ascent, and more gradual though still hard work, through beautiful forest with occasional views of the river. Still some snow on the trail in patches but I was fine in sneakers. We didn’t meet anyone else on the mountain coming up that way on a Saturday morning. Lovely to have the trail to ourselves. Coming down the M was busy.

hiking
Thu Mar 01 2018

Although this is not a very long trail I found it to be a pretty intense climb. It had beautiful views and I was rewarded with paragliders when I reached the summit. Would definitely go again!

Thu Jan 18 2018

Nice little hike to the top, not too difficult, after the "m" it gets quiet and offers wonderful views of the ancient lake bed now known as missoula...

hiking
Wed Jul 26 2017

Hiked the M in late-April at the recommendation of a local. Nice little introduction to Missoula.

Fri Jun 16 2017

Beautiful trail! Very uphill but worth the walk. Well maintained and suprisingly quiet for the amount of traffic. the entrance being on campus makes the entrance and parking situation very easy.

Mon Jun 05 2017

A lot of fun, easy short hike to see a Missoula landmark. Definitely worth doing, plus a great view of Missoula once you reach the top.

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