The best known symbol of both UM and the City of Missoula is the giant concrete “M” on Mt Sentinel. It sits above 13 switchbacks and provides a panoramic view of the entire Missoula Valley. The M Trail was established in 1908 when UM students built the original M out of whitewashed rocks. The current M was installed in 1968, and is 125 long and 100 feet high. This is certainly the steepest part of the UM main campus! Many people don't realize that the M Trail is part of the UM campus.
It is a steep ¾ mile hike to the M, and over 1,000 people make the trip most days. From the M, hikers and runners can connect to miles of trails on adjacent Forest Service land, and can find many loop routes that tie in with the City Park trail system.
While the M Trail is most known for its recreational uses, natural history buffs can tell you that the trail cuts through beautiful native prairie plants. The prairies bloom every spring with arrowleaf balsamroot , lupine, paintbrush, shooting stars and more. Vesper sparrows nest on the ground under bunchgrasses, a fox dens near the trailhead, and dozens of migratory song birds arrive every summer.
Because the M Trail receives to much use, erosion is a constant management issue. We implore hikers to stay on well-established trails.
If you love the M Trail, you can support our work by making a donation of any amount to the Friends of the M Trail (via UM Foundation). Your donation is tax-deductible.