Marshall Mountain has been a community staple of the City of Missoula for a long time. Back in 1937, a rope tow opened at Marshall, leading to a long run as a ski area. Mild winters forced the Montana ski area to close in 2003. The upper mountain became part of the Five Valleys Land Trust. While the lower mountain was private land, it also remained open to public use.  Since then, the land has become a hangout spot for backcountry skiers, mountain bikers, and various events.

In 2021, the land was bought by a new private owner, making users fear that they would be blocked from using the land. This deal eventually fell through, and Izzy Dog LLC stepped in to buy the land. Since then, the land has remained open, while Izzy Dog has worked with the City of Missoula to transfer the land into public ownership.

After years of input from the public, the City of Missoula and Missoula County announced the completion of the draft Conceptual Master Plan in May. The master plan is divided into immediate needs, short-term plans, and long-term goals. Some of the ideas include more mountain biking trails, the creation of a new base lodge, building a mid-mountain shelter, and putting in a small surface lift for beginner skiers. A breakdown of these plans is below.

Some of the ideas for the base area include a remodeled and expanded base lodge or a new base lodge, a pump track for mountain bikers, a building for educational programming, a building for gear storage, an aerial ropes course, an improved parking lot, and most importantly: vault toilets.

Over on the mid-mountain, they want to build a structure for overnight campers. This could range from anything from a yurt, a cabin, a shelter with a roof, or a plot of land for camping. In addition, they want to build a shade shelter near the former top terminal of the T-bar as a spot for guests to take a quick rest.

In terms of their long-term plans for lift-serviced skiing, they’re pretty minimal. The chairlift, which has remained standing but not operating since 2003, will be removed. The plan for the base terminal is to repurpose it into a pavilion for events.

A magic carpet is part of the long-range plans. Located around the base area, the surface lift will help beginners learn how to ski. The resort of mountain will remain as backcountry terrain for skinners and hikers.

A large portion of the skiable terrain at the mountain (picture in the shaded orange area below) will remain relatively clear while allowing for forest revegetation in appropriate areas. According to the plan, the uphill and downhill routes would be chosen for vegetation management based on historic use trends, quality of skiing and riding experiences, topography, and habitat and natural resource considerations.”

Currently, Marshall features six miles of multi-use and bike-specific trails. In terms of their mountain biking trails, lots of additions are envisioned. Their early-phase ideas include a multi-use base area loop route, more multi-use trails, an adaptive multi-use trail that will only allow bicyclists to go uphill, downhill mountain biking trails, and an adaptive directional mountain biking route.

Some of the potential long-term plans include an upper-mountain loop route around the summit, a trail to the top of Marshall Ridge, and connecting Marshall Mountain Park to the Rattlesnake area of Lolo National Forest.

The process to make this a public park is well underway. Back on June 7th, the Missoula Current reported that Missoula County began the process to determine whether Marshall Mountain can become public property. There are a variety of tasks they’ll need to do, which include an environmental assessment and figuring out the liability and operational costs. The property would be owned by the County and the City of Missoula, who will each put in $1 million to buy the property.

In the meantime, Marshall Mountain remains a top destination for mountain bikers. The Missoulian covered an international-level cross-country mountain biking race that happened at Marshall Mountain. The four-day event had riders going up and down the mountain, which athletes call one of the most physically demanding on the circuit. Caleb Swartz, who is a professional mountain biker from Missoula, described the courses at Marshall Mountain:

“It’s really hard. It’s a classic ski resort course — climb to the top, bomb down.”

The survey period for the master plan has ended, so we’ll see in the coming months if Missoula ends up purchasing the property. You can read their Marshall Mountain Park concept here.

Marshall Mountain trail map from 2003.

Image Credits: City of Missoula,


Unofficial Networks Newsletter

Get the latest snow and mountain lifestyle news and entertainment delivered to your inbox.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Have any post ideas or corrections? Reach out to me: