Caras Park, a 15-acre city park downtown along the Clark Fork River, is considered the hub of the Missoula trails network. Here, you’ll find ample parking, restrooms, picnic tables, benches and an outdoor amphitheater for community events – plus ready access to downtown shopping, restaurants and other points of interest.
In the summer, be sure to join the Out to Lunch program held every Wednesday in Caras Park. It’s a weekly Missoula celebration with free music and other entertainment, and a variety of food options available for purchase from vendors.
On the west side of Caras Park, check out A Carousel for Missoula, a hand-carved carousel that was created through the effort of Missoula volunteers, and its companion Dragon Hollow play area.
From Caras Park east to Bess Reed Park, the trail is paved and readily accessible to wheelchairs and people who need a smooth, level surface for walking. Enjoy the close-up view you have of the river along this stretch and, in spring and summer, notice the wildflowers that bloom along the riverbank.
Just east of the Higgins Avenue Bridge, look for the sculpture “Returning” by Montana artist Jeffrey Funk. Children love to touch and climb on Funk’s trio of trout.
There’s a short gap in the riverfront trail just east of Bess Reed Park, but you can easily follow city streets to get back on the trail at Kiwanis Park. From Bess Reed, turn left (north) on Washington Street, then right (east) on Kiwanis Street. This street dead-ends at Kiwanis Park, where you can pick up the pathway on the levee next to the river. You’ll find a picnic area, a baseball field and tennis courts in the park.
The trail follows the levee through Kiwanis Park to a residential area next to the Madison Street Bridge. At this point, you’ll need to make another detour onto city streets to continue east. Go left (north) on Parsons Street to East Front Street. Turn right (east) on Front, continue across Madison Street and pick up the trail near the Van Buren Street Footbridge.
At the footbridge, you can cross the river to the Southside Trail or continue north to access trails in the Rattlesnake Valley and the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Note that the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is just north of the bridge; inquire there if you need more information.