Hellgate High School

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Coordinates: 46°51′47″N 113°59′51″W / 46.8630°N 113.9974°W / 46.8630; -113.9974

Hellgate High School
900 Higgins Avenue
Missoula, Montana 59801
United States USA
School type Public, secondary school
School district Missoula County Public Schools District No. 1
Principal Judson Miller
Grades 9–12
Student to teacher ratio 14.6[1]
Language English
Campus Urban
Color(s) Red & Gold
Team name Knights
Communities served Missoula

Hellgate High School is located in Missoula, Montana. It is the largest high school in the Missoula County Public Schools District of Montana in terms of student body population. Hellgate has approximately 1200 students, and a faculty of approximately 100.[1] It is classified as an AA high school, the classification given to the largest high schools in Montana. It is ranked the fourth best high school in the state of Montana by US News, beating the district's Sentinel, which is ranked sixth in the state, and both Big Sky and Seeley-Swan which are unranked.[2]


Knight: Hellgate Mascot

First established in 1908 as Missoula County High School, the school was later renamed Hellgate High, shortly after the foundation of Sentinel High School.[3] Hellgate is one of the oldest high school buildings in the State of Montana. It is a three-story building blending several different forms of architecture, with a network of underground tunnels.

On September 24, 1952, the morning after giving his Checkers speech, Republican vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon spoke at the school. He denied that politics was a dirty game, and stated that if students thought it was, they should get involved and clean it up.

The name Hellgate High School was not used until well after the building now known as Sentinel High School opened in 1956. Originally, what is now known as Sentinel was to be the new Missoula County High School replacing what is now known as Hellgate. As Missoula grew, classes were slowly returned to the Hellgate building, the 9th graders, then the 10th graders. In the mid‑1960s, Hellgate and Sentinel were created as separate four‑year high schools, with all the old team names going to Sentinel, and the new team names (pages, squires, and knights) were created with all new traditions. Before Sentinel opened, Missoula County High School was the only public high school in Missoula, with Frenchtown High School the only other public high school in the County. Hellgate is named for Hellgate Canyon, a passage carved by the Clark Fork River through the mountains where Blackfeet warriors would lay in wait for the Salish.[4] French trappers called the canyon Porte de l’Enfer, translated as "Gate of Hell". Hell Gate Canyon remained a dangerous site until 1855, when the Flatheads and Blackfeet signed a treaty.[5]

Hellgate High School



In 2007, the Hellgate Academic WorldQuest team received first place in the state competition, and second in the nation. The team returned to nationals in 2010 and 2014.


Hellgate High Schools successful music programs send many band, orchestra, choir, and jazz students to the All-Northwest and All-State programs each year.


In 1997, the Choir Director received the Milken Family Foundation's National Educator Award.[6]

In 2014, Hellgate’s choir was selected to sing at Carnegie Hall.

Missoula Youth Choir[edit]

Formed in 1987 by founders David Heidel and Dean Peterson, for the sole purpose of performing at the first International Choral Festival, the Missoula Youth Choir (MYC) has performed at every Festival since. MYC is composed of select high school students from Missoula's public high schools. MYC conductors are local Missoula high school directors who have collaborated on many school festival and concerts.[7]


John Combs, the school’s former band director, who as of 2010, serves as the fine arts supervisor for Missoula County Public Schools, was named outstanding music educator in both Montana and the Rocky Mountain West in 2010.[8]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Hellgate High School". SchoolDigger. 
  2. ^ "Missoula County Public Schools". US News. Retrieved 2014-04-16. 
  3. ^ Andrews, Mea (2005-07-05). "Historians chronicle 60 years at Missoula County High School". Missoulian. Missoula, Montana. ISSN 0746-4495. Archived from the original on 2015-12-01. Cohen and Fisher trace the history ... to the opening, in 1908, of Missoula County High School, now Hellgate High School. 
  4. ^ "Cities and Towns § Missoula". Montana: A State Guide Book. Works Progress Administration: American Guide. Compiled by the Federal Writers' Project (4th ed.). New York: Hastings House Publishers. 1955 [1st pub. 1939]. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-403-02176-5. OCLC 869757480. The Salish had to pass through Hell Gate Canyon to reach the plains on their periodic buffalo hunts. At the entrance to the canyon, an ideal spot for an ambush, the Blackfeet would attack them. The reputation of the place caused French-Canadian trappers to call it ‘Porte de l’Enfer ’ or ‘Gate of Hell’. 
  5. ^ "A Brief History of Missoula, Montana, And its Environs, to 1860". Archived from the original on 2009-10-27. 
  6. ^ "Milken Educator: Dean Peterson". Milken Family Foundation. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  7. ^ "2006 PARTICIPATING CHOIRS". The International Choral Festival. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  8. ^ Moore, Michael (2010-02-07). "Former Hellgate High band director John Combs wins major teaching award". Missoulian. Missoula, Montana. ISSN 0746-4495. Archived from the original on 2015-12-01. 

External links[edit]