The University of Montana (406/243-0211, www.umt.edu ) is located on the south side of the Clark Fork, at the mouth of the river’s Hell Gate Canyon. A green and leafy campus built around a central oval, it’s a pleasant place to explore, as is the university district , an area of grand and historic old homes.
The university, established by the Montana Legislature in 1895, has developed into an academically broad-based institution with a strong liberal-arts emphasis. Its schools of journalism and forestry are nationally recognized, as is its graduate program in creative writing.
The earliest remaining building on campus is the University Hall, built in 1899. Besides containing the university president’s office, the building’s central tower houses a carillon. At noon each day, students are serenaded by a 15-minute recital of bell music.
Behind University Hall is Mansfield Library, named for one of Montana’s former senators, Mike Mansfield, and his wife, Maureen. Across a grassy mall from the library is the University Center (UC), a modern three-story building constructed around a central atrium. It’s a good place to hang out and watch student behavior. At the second-floor food court, a wide variety of quick and inexpensive food is available. On the ground floor is the UC Bookstore (406/243-4921), a good all-purpose bookstore and art-supply source.
One of the university’s newer additions is the Montana Theatre (406/243-4581), which houses two stages for live theater.
For a bird’s-eye, or rather a mountain-goat’s-eye, view of the university and the city, climb up Mt. Sentinel to the university’s big red-and-white M. It’s a 40-minute hike from the trailhead at the north end of the UC parking lot.