Birding season has arrived, and the mountains, rivers and valleys of Missoula are bursting with life. The brilliant spring flowers blanket the meadows and the vibrant colorful birds have begun nesting. Swallows dive with acrobatic precision to catch insects, while raptors soar overhead. An impressive variety of bird species make their home in the diverse habitat of this region. Birding enthusiasts will discover great opportunities for sightings in forests, marshes, and grasslands. Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast offers sweeping views of the Bitterroot River and the valley. Enjoy luxury accommodations while surrounded by the gorgeous wilderness of our mountainside location. And our hearty, gourmet breakfasts will prepare you for a day of hiking the trails and preserves. Book your birding getaway today and celebrate the arrival of spring with us in Missoula.
10 Great Birding Trails and Preserves
The trails and preserves in our region are as diverse as the birds themselves. Trails can take you up mountains, along rivers, and even through downtown Missoula. Here are just a few to explore during your visit:
- Malay Flat Nature Trail – This 2 mile scenic loop trail along Bitterroot River is an easy hike through a cottonwood and ponderosa pine forest. The spring season brings American Kestrels, Pileated Woodpeckers, and Chipping Sparrows. Ponds along the path are home to Red-winged Blackbirds, Wood Ducks, and Sora Rails.
- Riverfront Trail – First stop at the Montana Natural History Center in downtown Missoula. It’s a great museum with natural history exhibits, educational field trips, and talks. Then pick up the trail in downtown Missoula. Along the path look out for Bullock’s Orioles, Calliope Hummingbirds, and Belted Kingfishers. Ospreys nest on specially built platforms while Cliff Swallows make their homes under bridges.
- Kelly Island – This 631-acre preserve is best reached from the western end. There pick up a visitor walkway to the island. When entering the cottonwood forest listen for Pileated Woodpeckers, Yellow Warblers, and House Wrens. Watch for spotted Sandpipers, Killdeer, and Bank Swallows near the Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers.
- Waterworks Hill – This trail starts off steep and can be windy but hikers are rewarded with a stunning display of wildflowers. Once you reach the grassland scan for Western Bluebirds, Western Meadowlarks, and Vesper Sparrows.
- Greenough Park – This 42-acre park has an easy, partially paved path that circles it. Pause at the footbridges for river views and look for Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Song Sparrows. The trail also includes interpretive signs about birdwatching.
- Kim Williams Trail – This 2.5 mile trail journey’s through a 134-acre nature preserve. Raptors seen on this hike include Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks and Prairie Falcons. The grasslands are home to Western Meadowlark and Savannah Sparrows.
- Mount Jumbo – This diverse open space has grassland, shrub, and dry-forest habitats. Residents here include the Lazuli Bunting, Western Tanager, Vesper Sparrow, and Calliope Hummingbird.
- Council Grove – Raptors love this 186-acre park. Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels can be seen hunting in the grassy fields when exiting the old-growth ponderosa pines forest. And Great Blue Herons, Osprey and Bald Eagles catch fish on the large beach by Clarks Fork.
- Pattee Canyon – This preserve has many trails but the Sam Braxton and Crazy Creek trail offer the best bird watching. Orange-crowned and MacGillivray’s Warblers have been spotted here and several owl and woodpecker species.
- Rattlesnake National Recreation Area – Plan the whole day to explore this 61,000-acre National Recreation Area. Rattlesnake Creek is at the heart of the park and has lakes and meadows that attract many species. Ruffed Grouse, Rufous Hummingbird, and Townsend’s Warbler prefer the conifer forest. While the raptors soar over the meadows. Springtime here also welcomes back many migratory songbirds.
After a day birdwatching in the beautiful parks, forests and trails of Missoula, return to our relaxing garden. Stretch out on our multi-level deck with amazing views of the valley below. You may even spot more raptors circling overhead. Listen for the buzz of hummingbird wings as you stroll past our serene lily pond. Wake up refreshed and ready for another day of birding immersed in beautiful wildlife habitats. Reserve your private suite at the Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast and plan a memorable, spring birding vacation.