Falling for Great Falls

Great falls

The eponymous Great Falls

Exploring the great-est town in Montana.

Great Falls flows with more than just water from the Missouri. Beyond the five notable waterfalls—including the one for which the city is named—the area is rich with history and outdoor opportunity. Great Falls is currently Montana’s 3rd most populated town, (despite residents heralding the number "2" on their license plates), boasting a bustling community and booming town experience. Within city limits, there are over ten museums containing a variety of exhibits, with topics from historical to modern. On the other side of things, there are multiple state parks just a short drive away and plenty of outdoor activities to enhance your visit to this part of the state.

State Parks & Outdoor Attractions
The River’s Edge Trail is one of the best ways to experience the Great Falls area. This 50-plus mile trail system follows the banks of the Missouri River as it winds in and out of town. The trail is paved in some parts and gravel in others, so you can bike, walk or run along the riverfront to get around. This’ll give you a chance to see the "Mighty Mo" in its full glory, as well as town from all angles. After you've worked up an appetite, meander over to a town staple: the Sip ‘N Dip Lounge. They've got great food, drinks, and, oh yeah—mermaids. You can also book a room right next door at the O’Haire Inn if you’re looking for a nice play to stay right in town.

As it currently stands, the Great Falls are actually the town’s largest and most productive hydroelectric dam. Viewing the broad cataract is both a look at contemporary engineering and the great power of the Missouri River. One can’t help but imagine being in the shoes of Lewis and Clark as they first saw the falls and planned their portage around it. Find the best viewing area at Ryan Island Park.

The human history of Great Falls area goes back thousands of years. Get a small glimpse of the land’s first inhabitants at First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park. The park holds what’s thought to be the largest buffalo jump in North America.

Though not quite as massive as the Missouri, Giant Springs State Park and Trout Hatchery is still impressive in its own right, with a huge natural spring that cranks out 150 million gallons per day. And recreation can be found here year-round, as the water always comes out at around 54 degrees.

Truly one of Montana’s most impressive and diverse state parks when it comes to recreation opportunities, Sluice Box State Park is worth the visit. Here you can find floatable rivers, fishable streams, and hiking trails in every direction. There are also mining ruins and old train rail lines from a history of prospecting.

When in Rome… or in the case of Great Falls, you’re going to be seeing a lot about Lewis & Clark. Embrace the call by paying a visit to the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center. Here you discover educational displays and scenic overlooks to put things in perspective, allowing you to imagine the landscape as as the fabled explorers must have seen it.

Honoring the life and legacy of Charles Russell, renowned painter of the American West, the C.M. Russell Museum has something for everyone. There’s a collection of Russell’s art as well as his original house and studio on site, works from Russell’s contemporaries, an outdoor sculpture garden, Native American artifacts, and more. There are new exhibitions all the time, so it pays to stop in on successive trips.

Other Nearby Recreation
On your way into town, if you’re heading from Bozeman, you’ll be following the Missouri River nearly all the way starting at the Headwaters. After Helena, once you hop on I-15, make some time to pull off and drop in a line. The fishing near Craig and Cascade is great and worth a stop.

Once in town, Bighorn Outdoor Specialists is your one-stop shop for everything outdoors. Get recommendations and advice, then stock up on needed supplies before hitting the water or the trails.

On your way back home, mix things up by heading straight south through the Little Belt Mountains. There are lots of hiking and exploration opportunities in this lesser-known Montana mountain range. Don’t let the name fool you, though, these are some big, hardy, and lively mountains, home to Showdown Ski Area; so be sure to wear good hiking boots. By the time you make it back to Bozeman, you'll be thoroughly beat from a weekend in the great-est town in Montana.