Mount Sentinel Via Hellgate Ridgeline

MODERATE 84 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.

3.1 miles
1,896 feet
Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly



mountain biking

nature trips

trail running




wild flowers



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.

1 month 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!

3 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.

4 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!

5 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...

6 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...

6 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...

11 months ago

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!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

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.

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


Monday, October 10, 2016

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

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.

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.

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

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

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

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.

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!

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.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring is a great time to do this hike with cool temperatures and a view-shed clear of summer fires and a smoke filled river valley. Consider pushing yourself beyond the "M" another 1200 feet in elevation gain to Mount Sentinel directly above; It's worth the extra exertion.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Short fun trail. Several switchbacks with benches. If you don't hike much it is a workout for your legs.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nice easy walk and view. 4.7 mi round trip I walked from UMT - "M" - Mount Sentinel, and returned same track.

On winter/snow/ice is highly recommended use of crampons. Temperature between 1C and 5C, but wind in the top is higher.

Easy trek, always bring your lantern and of course water. Some times gets cloudy.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A must for visiting Missoula.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fun to just wander around.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Hard hike for a flatlander, but a beautiful view at the top!

Load More