10 Places to Photograph in Missoula, MT

Every year, in the run up to our Weekend Intensive season, we like to dig into the internet to find some of the best places for photographers to shoot in each city we plan on visiting. Our hope is that after having their notebooks (and brains) stuffed full of information on how to use their cameras, shooting techniques, how to read light and so much more, that they will be fired up to get outside and practice. For our upcoming 2017 season of Weekend Intensives, in addition to using the oh-so-helpful Google Maps, we also tapped into our network of graduates strewn across the country, and asked for recommendations in the cities they know first hand … maybe even better than Google knows them. Maybe.

Our first Weekend Intensive of 2017 happens to take place right here in our hometown of Missoula, MT. And since I was born and raised here in this majestic little burg, I reckon that makes me more than qualified to let you in on some of the locations I prefer to escape to with my camera. So, along with the help of RMSP’s vast photo library, here is our list of 10 places to photograph in Missoula, Montana … in no specific order … because they’re all great.

1. Waterworks Hill: One of Missoula’s treasures, this hill on the north end of our valley offers more than fantastic trails to hike/run/walk on and amazing displays of wildflowers. The views from almost anywhere along any of the trails are remarkable. If you are ever looking for a close-to-home place to escape, get some exercise, and create amazing photos, this location will check all those boxes. I’d highly suggest you look into the sunset and sunrise times and plan accordingly as those hours up here are insanely beautiful. Also, if you are on the hill in the evening, you can strategically position yourself to photograph along Missoula’s primary downtown street, Higgins Avenue.

Check out this location on Google Maps here.

 

2. Mount Sentinel: First, let’s get one thing clear. There isn’t enough space on the internet to write about Missoula’s Mt. Sentinel. It serves so many roles to so many people in this town, it really oughtta’ consider running for mayor. Except we already have a fantastic, funny mayor. So, with its political career on the back burner, Mt. Sentinel can just continue to be Missoula’s anchor. Emblazoned with a big white “M,” this landmark is impossible to miss. Good thing for many (many!) new-to-town college students who might need a bit of help finding their way back to their dorms, the “M” on Mt. Sentinel acts as a lighthouse of sorts, guiding them back to their liberal arts homework and food zoo meal plans. For the leagues of photographers in town, literally anywhere on this mountain will provide an incredible view of Missoula. Hike to the “M” and shoot the city lights at night. Climb a bit higher and get some shots of the light crawling up neighboring Mt. Jumbo, or of the Clark Fork River below. Traverse across the fire road in the fall and lose your mind at the orange/yellow/red colors that fill the valley floor. Or just sit on the “M” and observe the happenings on the University of Montana campus below. You just can’t go wrong photographing from anywhere on Mt. Sentinel.

Check out this location on Google Maps here.

3. MOBASH Skatepark: I could go on and on about how excellent I think this skatepark is, or how the process of getting it built was a pure grassroots success story, or how Tony Hawk and Co. came to the grand opening and skated in front of approximately 10,000 people … but I won’t. Since we’re all photographers here, instead I will go on and on about how this ocean of middle grey is a paradise for anyone with a camera. You can photograph the action, portraits of the people, or the never-ending shadows and lines to be found in the 15,000+ square feet.

Check it out on Google Maps here
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4. Brennan’s Wave: For the better part of my life this section of the Clark Fork River, right smack dab in the heart of Missoula, was full on concrete chunks and rebar and garbage. But in true Missoula fashion, a group of people who had an idea came together and turned it into a man-made wave that never ends. Today, it beckons kayakers and river surfers from all over the world to come play. An easy walk from RMSP headquarters, this spot is a favorite for students in all of our programs. Set up shop on the banks and practice slowing down your shutter speed to create flowy water, or speed it up to freeze every drop.

Check it out on Google Maps here
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5. Train Tracks From Northside Pedestrian Bridge: I mean come on! Just look at that photo! It’s awesome. Having seen (and keyworded) almost every photo that has been submitted to RMSP in the last decade, this one still stands out in my mind. It’s clean. It’s simple. It invites you to stare at it. Taken from the pedestrian overpass that connects Missoula’s northside to downtown, the compositions of the tracks that run beneath are endless. And if you need to wait for the light to be right, the Northside Kettlehouse Brewery is within walking distance!

Check out this location on Google Maps here.

 

6. The University of Montana: Since you are already planning on hiking the “M” and hangin’ out on Mt. Sentinel you pretty much have to stroll through the U of M campus. Positioned immediately at the base of the mountain there are tons of unique spots to photograph here. Main Hall, the grizzly statue on the west end of the oval, swirly light fixtures in the University Center … this place will keep you busy. Heck, you might as well enroll and get a degree out of your time spent photographing here.

Check out this location on Google Maps here.

 

7. The Western Montana Fair Who doesn’t love a good ol’ county fair? No one! That ‘s who. A local institution and late-summer tradition, the Fair offers everything a photographer could ever dream of having in one convenient location: Fried food. Junk food. Snack food. Meat on sticks. Questionable rides. Huge stuffed animals. A rodeo. A demolition derby. People watching! Wait … there’s also portrait opportunities, moving lights, fascinating textures, wild colors, and did I mention the fried food?

Check out this location on Google Maps here.

 

8. The Moon Randolph Homestead: This place rules! A tried and true location for our Basic Photography students to visit, the Homestead is just a handful of minutes from downtown, but will make you feel like you are a hundred miles from anywhere. Complete with old barns, license plates on the walls, bees, goats, chickens, and dreamy late afternoon light, photographing here has everything you want. Don’t believe me? Just check out the photo of Doug Johnson holding a reflector while Zack Arias gets down to find his angle. I repeat. this place rules! 

Check out this location on Google Maps here

9. The Wilma Building: The pride of downtown Missoula! Located a couple blocks from RMSP headquarters, a few steps away from Caras Park and Brennan’s Wave, an elevator ride from Scotty’s Table (excellent restaurant), and about three minutes (by inner tube) to MOBASH Skatepark, the Wilma building is the hub of Missoula’s entertainment scene. Having spent most of it’s life as a movie theater with apartments above it, the Wilma is now a popular music venue with condos above it. A more grown up version of itself, I’d say. Interesting architecture details, cool lighting, and sweet angles, this bag of bricks could entertain you and your camera for hours. Also, David Lynch lived here.

Check out this location on Google Maps here.

 

10. Caras Park: Call it Missoula’s front yard. Or back yard. Or whatever part of the yard it is where people tend to gather to hang out and listen to music, eat food, drink beer and generally enjoy life. Between the Wilma and Brennan’s Wave, right next to the Higgins St. Bridge, this public park hosts almost every one of Missoula’s seven billion annual “fests” (Brewfest, Petfest, Kidfest, German Fest, Irish Fest, … you get the point). But it has also has played an important role in making Missoula the friendly, “gather ’round” type of town it is. Point your lens at the white tent-like cover of the pavilion, or the music acts that play here at lunch every Wednesday in the summer, or Bernie Sanders who attracted tons of supporters during his bid for the presidency in 2016.

Check out this location on Google Maps here.

 

 

Want to be better at photographing Missoula?
Join us for the Missoula Weekend Intensive on January 21-22, 2017.

Your camera will thank you.