Mount Sentinel Via Hellgate Ridgeline

MODERATE 96 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

birding

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running

walking

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.

9 days ago

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.

1 month ago

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

hiking
1 month ago

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
1 month ago

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
1 month ago

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!

1 month ago

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.

3 months ago

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
4 months ago

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
6 months ago

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!

7 months ago

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...

8 months ago

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...

8 months ago

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
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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

Friday, June 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.

Monday, June 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.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Beautiful views!

hiking
Tuesday, May 09, 2017

hiking
Monday, May 08, 2017

You owe it to yourself to do the M if you are here. Great view of the Valley and a bucket list kind of hike.

hiking
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pretty fun and easy hike. We were up to the M in about 1/2 hr and had hiked all the way up to the Top of Sentinel in about 1 hr and 10 min. Great morning hike to get the blood flowing pretty much a straight up incline but a pretty view of the valley below.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A great workout!

Monday, March 20, 2017

SO WORTH THE CLIMB.

hiking
Monday, October 10, 2016

It's always a great place to see the whole valley!

hiking
Sunday, October 09, 2016

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.

hiking
Friday, September 09, 2016

Steep hike but gives you a great view over Missoula and the mountains surrounding. Saw a couple deer grazing by the trail on the way up. Fast hike that starts on University of Montana's campus.

walking
Friday, August 26, 2016

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

hiking
Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Tough, quick hike. Great sunset views of Missoula Valley. Will be doing it again soon.

hiking
Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Tough but short hike! Has 13 switchbacks, the first being the hardest in my opinion, but don't quit on it.... the view at the top is awesome!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Get winded fast.

hiking
Friday, June 17, 2016

Beautiful view of Missoula especially at night even just from the M. To the summit, there are two main paths from the M that get you up there one is easier but the path is longer and it does come across a cool yet short cave. This Map of the trail is a little out dated when it comes to hiking to the summit since there has been trail restoration and land preservation efforts, but if you are not sure just ask somebody around you they are all pretty nice!

hiking
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A beautiful and challenging trail, especially during the winter months. I remember exerting much more effort than was necessary in order to avoid the patches of ice and snow mixed with mud.

The view is worth it from the 'M' alone. Pushing yourself to the top of Mt. Sentinel results in astonishingly gorgeous views. Well worth the added effort.

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