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Get Fit Great Falls is a coalition of like-minded people who encourage neighbors, family, and friends to get active and make healthy choices when selecting foods for their dinner table.

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Hikes – Summer

National Trails Day

Hit the Trail - Make new friends - Find an adventure - All for free

National Trails Day 2021

Saturday, June 5th

*Registration Required*

GREAT FALLS – Kick-start your summer outdoor activities by celebrating National Trails Day on Saturday, June 5, 2021.  Choose from 11 hikes planned in the Rocky Mountains, Highwood Mountains, Little Belt Mountains and on local Great Falls area trails.  This one-day event is sponsored by Get Fit Great Falls, a not-for-profit organization advocating healthy, active lifestyles.  National Trails Day is celebrated across the nation, but Great Falls historically is one of the largest.  As a courtesy to landowners and fellow hikers, participants are asked to leave their dogs at home.

Online registration is required and begins Friday, May 21 at noon and runs through June 3. To register and view the hikes click here.  The hikes are free, but space is limited and the number of participants varies with each hike.  In past years, registration for particular hikes has filled quickly, so make sure to sign up soon!

Hikes range from kid-friendly to strenuous and are categorized into six classes: KidsEasyModerate depending on miles hiked and/or elevation gained.  Hikers are asked to read the hike descriptions carefully before selecting a trail to fit their physical conditioning.  Those recovering from physical challenges, families with children in strollers or folks just starting to get into shape should check out the shorter walks and hikes labeled “easy” or described as “stroller-friendly.”  Those seeking a more challenging experience should watch for hikes labeled “moderate or difficult.”  Get Fit Great Falls reminds registrants selecting a hike to “Understand your skill level about hiking and your physical fitness level. A difficult five-mile hike in mountainous terrain is much more challenging than walking 5 miles on the flat paved sidewalks of Great Falls.”

Be sure to read where the hike departs. Unlike past years, hikes will meet in various locations to account for social distancing.  Hikers are advised to arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled time to meet their hike coordinator.  Some hikes require driving to a trailhead, some will meet and then caravan, while others depart directly from Gibson Park.  

Several trips are being repeated this National Trails Day due to popular demand, including Windy Mountain Loop and the Rivers Edge Trail Westbank Loop.  For little ones, the Kiddos Playday Walk with Megan Shermele is designed for pre-school through second-grade children; and the longer Kiddos and Grownups Hike is offered and led by educator Miranda Murray. The Great Falls Bicycle Club will offer a guided bike ride along the Rivers Edge Trail, participants will need to provide their own bicycle.

Montana State Parks and USDA Forest Service rangers will lead hikes at Giant Springs State Park, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, Sulphur Spring along the Lewis and Clark Trail, Memorial Falls, and Lewis and Clark Pass along the Rocky Mountain Front. These state and federal partners help make National Trails Day all the more special, as most of the hikes traverse public land.

It is advised that participants come prepared with a daypack, lunch, plenty of drinking water, closed-toed shoes, sunscreen and rain gear, as most hikes happen regardless of the weather.  In the past, June showers have not dissuaded participants, and the sun has often broken through the clouds for a beautiful day of hiking. Experienced hikers believe in the adage, “There are no bad hiking days, only bad clothes.”

 

Hike descriptions are as follows (remember to register by clicking here):

Windy Mountain Loop

Length: 7 miles
​Elevation gain: 1200 feet
​Meet: 8:00am at Gibson Park Band Shell
Total time: 5-6 hours
Travel Distance to Trailhead: Approximately 40 miles from GF
Age limit: 13 and up in good shape; children with legal guardian
Max. Number: 12

Difficulty Level: Moderate, Difficult based on length
Coordinator: Sean Higginbotham
Note: Bear spray recommended

Take a hike in the Highwood Mountains! This hike starts at Thain Creek Campground and will lead you through the forest, vast open meadows which should be speckled with seasonal flowers, and below craggy peaks. We will climb about 1200 feet to the meadows surrounding the south face of Windy Mountain on this moderate 7 mile loop hike. Bring gear for variable weather, lunch, snacks, water, pack and sturdy shoes for hiking.

 

Memorial Falls

Length: 2 miles
​Elevation gain: 500 feet, (50 flights of stairs)

Hike meet: At the Memorial Falls parking lot off Highway 89, which is between the Belt Creek Ranger Station and the town of Neihart at 10:00

Travel Distance to Trailhead: 63 miles, one hour 10 minutes from GF
Total Time: Four hours
Age limit: None; children with legal guardian
Max. Number: 20
Difficulty Level: Easy
Coordinators: David and Nancy Peters
Join a member of the Forest Service and visit this gem of a waterfall, nestled in the Little Belt Mountains. We follow a pretty creek uphill to the major waterfall, where we will stop to enjoy it and eat our lunch. Then we will continue up a short, steep section to a smaller upper waterfall and continue along the creek for another half mile.

Giant Springs

Length: 3 miles
​Elevation gain: Mostly flat ground with little hills. (half is single track dirt trail and half is paved trail)
​Meet: 10am at the Giant Springs Ranger Station
Total time: 2 hours, including interpretive stops and talks by the rangers
Travel Distance to Trailhead: 3.5 miles from Gibson Park to main parking area at Giant Springs State Park
Age limit: None, strollers not recommended; children with legal guardian
Max. Number: 15
Difficulty Level: Easy/Moderate
Coordinators: State Park Rangers Kasey Linskey & Mason Basely

Description: State Park Rangers Kasey Linskey and Mason Basely will lead you on a nature/history hike through Giant Springs State Park. Learn about the smelter sites which still have remnants of the old stacks still standing, the historical work done by the WPA & CCC in the early 1900s, and the plants and animals that call Giant Springs their home.

You will also discover the amazing natural features in the park to include the springs and the shortest river in the world. The hike will be easy to moderate on single-track dirt trails to paved trails. There is some incline involved but mostly flat terrain. All ages welcome, but strollers are not recommended. Learn and see all the wonderful things about Giant Springs State Park and why it is the most visited State Park in Montana.

Sulphur Springs

Length: 3.6 miles
​Elevation gain: 500 feet, (50 flights of stairs)

Meet: 8:30 AM at Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

Total Time: 4 hours
Travel Distance to Trailhead: 17 miles from GF
Age limit: 8 and up with legal guardian
Max. Number: 15
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Coordinators:  Ray Tetreault and Cortney Reedy

Sulphur Springs Trail is part of the Lewis & Clark Trail. It starts at a trailhead next to the Morony Dam (17 mile drive Northeast of Great Falls). Starting from the trailhead, it is a 1.8 mile hike to the Springs site. The terrain crosses through several small coulees. The trail follows the river through a rocky, native prairie landscape. This hike is a guided interpretive walk with topics ranging from native plants to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

On this hike you have to be in good physical shape; please bring insect repellent, hiking boots, a backpack with about 2 liters of water, sunscreen, and high-energy snacks and food. We will hike at a moderate pace. The distance is 3.6 miles round trip, which we will cover in about three hours. We will take a snack break at the springs.

Hikers can expect great views and possibly wildlife, including rattlesnakes. Insect repellent is suggested as there are ticks and mosquitoes: a true Lewis and Clark experience! The hike coordinators are Ray Tetreault and Cortney Reedy, both staff at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center.

 

Kiddos Playdate Walk

Length: Less than 1 mile
​Elevation gain: None.
Meet: 11:00 am at Gibson Park

Travel Distance to Trailhead: Depart from Gibson Park
Total Time: 1.5 hours
Age limit: None; children with legal guardian
Max. Number: 20
Difficulty Level: Easy
Coordinators: Megan Schermele

Join Megan and her little one for a playtime with your children. Plan on a short walk from Gibson Park to a play area where organized activities will keep your little one active and engaged in fun, fun, fun, including sidewalk chalk drawing and activity booklet to take home! This walk is designed for pre-school to second-grade children. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

West Bank Loop Walk

Length: 3 miles
​Elevation gain: Mostly flat ground with little hills. All is paved.

Meet: 10am Gibson park bandshell

Travel Distance to Trailhead: No driving. We will walk from Gibson Park.
Total Time: 2 hours
Age limit: Ages 5 and up; children with legal guardian
Max. Number: 20
Difficulty Level: Easy/Moderate
Coordinators: Sarah Yoder

A member from the Rivers Edge Trail Foundation will lead you from the bridge to bridge on an easy loop route on the trail. This popular in-town loop will take you across the Missouri River at Central Avenue West Bridge, stroll along the West Bank Park, viewing the many waterfowl that hide among the rushes and islands as you head to the Ninth-Street Bridge. At this point, you will walk the other side of the river by Dog Park and end up where you started, completing the circle back to Gibson Park. A great little hike to get a body in motion. Who knows? You may make this part of your daily walking routine.

 

Kiddos and Grown-Ups Walk

Length: 3 miles
​Elevation gain: none
​Meet: 9:30 a.m. at Gibson Park

Total time: 2 hours
Travel Distance to Trailhead: Depart from park
Age limit: None
Max. Number: 20 children
Difficulty Level: Easy
Coordinator: Miranda Murray
Note: Tennis shoes or good walking shoes required (no flipflops, please)

Grab your parents and join Great Falls Public School Educator, Miranda Murray for a hike across the Central Avenue West walking bridge, then onto

This hike is wheelchair and stroller accessible and is designed for children who are active and inquisitive. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Put on your tennis shoes (no sandals please) and come join the fun!

NTD Bike Ride

Length: Will be decided by group at the start
​Elevation gain: none
​Meet: 10 am Bandshell, Gibson Park
Total time: 1 – 2 hours
Travel Distance to Trailhead: Depart from Gibson park
Age limit: None
Max. Number: 20
Difficulty Level: Easy
Coordinator: Great Falls Bicycle Club
Note: 

Come enjoy a bike ride along the Rivers Edge Trail from Gibson Park. Prior to leaving, the group will decide how far along the paved Rivers Edge Trail they plan to ride. It’s a great way to meet other cyclists in the Great Falls and explore part of the excellent trail system through town

Lewis and Clark Pass Hike

Length: 3.4 miles roundtrip
​Elevation gain: 836 feet

Meet:  Alice Creek trailhead at 10am.  Enjoy a beautiful drive from Great Falls traveling on Highway 200 toward Lincoln.  About 10 miles East of Lincoln, take the Alice Creek road on the right side of Highway 200 and travel 9 miles up a well-maintained, Forest Service road to the trailhead.    

Total Hiking Time: 2.5 hours
Travel Distance to Trailhead: 90 Miles via highway 200 from Great Falls.

Age limit: 10 and up with parent / legal guardian
Max. Number: 15
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Coordinator:  Duane Buchi

Description:  Join Duane Buchi from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at the Alice Creek trailhead on Saturday, June 5th for an exhilarating hike complete with vast views, wildflowers, wildlife, and fairly quick access to the Continental Divide on the very spot Meriweather Lewis crossed in July of 1806 on his return trip with the Corps of Discovery.   The group will take time to eat a snack/lunch on the Continental Divide.  Duane will also provide interpretation regarding some of the experiences of the members of the expedition while they were in the area.  Additionally, he will highlight some of the common wildflowers.

This hike traverses through grizzly bear country and hikers are highly encouraged to carry bear spray.  Additionally, participants should dress for a moderate hike and be prepared for the full spectrum of weather.  Some items to consider:  Sturdy, close-toed shoes, rain gear, water, a sack lunch, sunscreen, and insect repellent.

 

FPBJ North short loop

Length: 1.3 miles
​Elevation gain: 150 feet
​Meet: 10:30 First People Buffalo Jump Visitor Center
Total time: 1 hour
Travel Distance to Trailhead: 13.5 miles to park visitor center where we meet
Age limit: formatted for 12 and under, but all ages welcome
Max. Number: 25
Difficulty Level: moderate
Coordinator: FPBJ Staff – Kylee Meyer
Note:  Trail is not suitable for strollers
​This trail tells the story of how the indigenous peoples and early settlers used the buffalo jump to survive on the open Montana plains. Connect to the ancient and modern history of the jump as we walk 1.27 miles through a prairie dog town and near the cliffs to see natural erosion changing the cliff faces to reshape our idea of what exactly makes history, historic. Structured for children 12 and under accompanied by a guardian.

First Peoples Buffalo Jump North Loop

Length: 2.5 miles
​Elevation gain: 180 ft
Meet:  9:30am  First Peoples Buffalo Jump Visitor Center
Total time:  Up to 2 hours
Travel Distance to Trailhead: 13.5 miles from Great Falls to visitor center
Age limit: none
Max. Number: 25
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Coordinator: FPBJ Staff – Alice Southworth
Note:  trail is not suitable for strollers

Short description

When you look out on a short grass prairie, it may look to be empty of any wildlife. If you know what to look for, the prairie is swarming with life. Along this 2.5 mile hike we will learn all about the animals who call the prairie home, why prairie dogs are known as a keystone species, and much more.