The first Europeans to arrive in the region were early French fur trappers who migrated west in search of better land to hunt. They arrived in the region that is today Missoula in the early 18th century and discovered a canyon that was the site of considerable carnage. This included bones and bodies from the various Native American tribes. In fact it was common for the Blackfeet to raid and ambush their rival tribes, the Flathead and Salish, in the canyon. Thus the French named it Hellgate, and today the canyon east of town retains the name.

In addition to taking in the natural wonder of the canyon, there are numerous activities around the area including hiking, equestrian and biking trails. These begin on a level railroad grade, that was once part of the Northern Pacific line, and gradually climb up the cliff sides using a series of switch back trails. This heads up the top of nearby Mount Sentinel via Canyon Nature Trail. Due to the loose rock and steep descend mount bikes are not allowed on this trail, but it is an ideal trail to take in the historic past of the region, while enjoying the area’s various wildlife.

Horseback and mountain bikes can also take in the Kim Williams Trail or the Crazy Canyon trailhead in nearby Patte Canyon. When riding on these trails on either a bike or horse watch for others using the trail, and as always try and take only pictures and leave only footprints.