5 Best Dog-Friendly Hikes in Missoula

Taking your dog out on the town or out for a long hike in the fresh air are two of the best ways to spend a beautiful summer day in Montana. We love hiking with our furry friends, and if you live in Missoula, there are many dog-friendly trails to enjoy. Here’s a short list of some of the best dog-friendly hikes Missoula has to offer. 

Five Dog-Friendly Trails in the Missoula Area 


1. Maclay Flat Nature Trail

This easy flat trail is the perfect way to ease your way into hiking, exercise older dogs, or take your infant out for a nice stroller ride. Popular with the locals, this trail can be crowded during peak hours, but it is well worth the visit. Just be sure to bring some insect repellent! As most locals will tell you, mosquitoes can get quite thick. 

Dogs: On-leash only 

Miles: 1.7

Difficulty: Easy

2. Waterworks Hill Trail

Beloved by locals this trail is another great hike for beginners. While not suited for strollers, this trail is still a family favorite. Popular with trail runners and hikers because of the distance and topography, this trail is a must for nature lovers. The trailhead is currently under repair, so be prepared for a decrease in parking until the renovations are complete.

Dogs: Off and on-leash (please keep dogs on leash in parking areas)

Miles: 3.5

Difficulty: Easy

3. Barmeyer Trail 

Opened in 2018, this fairly new trail is quickly becoming a favorite for those who like a little challenge in their day. Dirt paths meet up with a private road before turning back into dirt. Some portions of the trail are on leash only, but they are clearly marked. 

Dogs: Off and on-leash

Miles: 3

Difficulty: Moderate

4. Sam Braxton and 9.2 Trail 

These beautiful trails feature wonderful views and lots of wildlife! With numerous off-shoot trails, it is easy to add a picnic to your hike or explore somewhere new. Bears have been spotted in the area, so keep a careful eye on your dog if you let them explore off-leash.

Dogs: Off or on-leash 

Miles: 2.9

Difficulty: Moderate

5. Historic Lolo Trail at Howard Creek

This historic trail covers some of the same areas that Lewis and Clark trekked in Montana. All along the trail there are learning areas with placards about the expedition. Long and twisty, this trail is for experienced hikers only (dogs included). While dogs are welcome, they must be leashed at all times. 

Dogs: On-leash only 

Miles: 14.2

Difficulty: Extremely Hard 


Keep Your Leash Handy

For many, part of enjoying the outdoors is letting their dogs run free to sniff and explore. While it may seem like good fun, if your dog is off-leash they should have good recall, always stay within your sight, and you should always carry a leash. 

Letting dogs be dogs out in the wild can be disastrous for nature, your dog, and yourself. If you see any danger, other people, or animals on the trail, recall your dog and leash them until they have passed, and ALWAYS pack out their poop.

Three Rules to Follow When You’re on the Trail

  1. Dog poop can have harmful impacts on the environment and on wild animals. Canine feces contain a plethora of harmful bacteria and diseases. If left to fester, dog poop can infect local water sources or kill native plants and animals. 
  2. Letting your dog harass wildlife can lead to the death of other animals or even your dog. Small animals and amphibians have an important place in local ecosystems. If you allow your dog to harass or kill these animals, it can impact the local population and even the ecosystem as a whole. But small animals are not the only ones to watch out for. Many of Montana’s best trails are in Bear Country. If your dog harasses a bear, it could end up being the last thing they do. 
  3. Aside from wildlife, there are also other dogs and people to watch out for when you’re on the trail. While your dog might be friendly, not everyone else’s dog is. Letting your dog approach other dogs can lead to unnecessary fights, putting yourself and other dog owners at risk of getting hurt. In the same vein, not everyone likes dogs. If your dog approaches someone who is afraid of dogs they may lash out, causing harm to your dog or to themselves. 


Healthy Dogs = Fun Hikes

Exercise alone will not guarantee your dog’s good health. Dental problems can lead to illnesses that could keep them off the trail. Don’t let dental pain keep your dog from enjoying the outdoors. With two convenient locations—one right in Missoula— Montana Pet Dentistry and Oral Surgery can take care of all your dog’s dental needs. Contact us today to schedule a cleaning and examination. 

Looking for hikes near Bozeman? Don’t worry—we have that covered too


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (4/30/23). Photo by Jon Koop on Unsplash.