Get Fit Great Falls’ National Trails Day 2018
GREAT FALLS – Kick-start your summer outdoor activities by celebrating National Trails Day on Saturday, June 2, 2018. Choose from 14 hikes planned in the Rocky Mountains, Highwood Mountains, Little Belt Mountains and on local Great Falls 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 offers more hiking options in one day than any other community. As a courtesy to landowners and fellow hikers, participants are asked to leave their dogs at home.
On-line registration is required and begins Wednesday, May 9 but all hike listings are already available for viewing at www.getfitgreatfalls.com/hikes. National Trails Day co-chair Megan Schermele said, “People that are interested in hiking should go check out the hikes before registration opens. That way you know which hike you would like to sign up for.” The hikes are free, but space is limited and the number of participants varies with each hike. In past years, registrations for particular hikes have filled quickly, so knowing your preferred hike will ensure securing your spot when the on-line registration opens.
Hikes range from kid-friendly to strenuous and are categorized into six classes: Walk & Talk – Kids – Easy – Moderate – Difficult 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.” Schermele 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.”
All hikes depart from Gibson Park, located at Park Drive and 1st Avenue North. Departures are at staggered times beginning at 8:00 a.m. Hikers are advised to arrive 20 minutes before their scheduled departure time to meet their hike coordinator. Some hikes require car caravanning to a trailhead while others depart directly on foot from the park. Detailed descriptions for each hike are available from a link at www.getfitgreatfalls.com/hikes. For those car caravanning, please arrive with a full tank of gas.
The Walk & Talk category includes excursions with frequent educational stops to learn about local history. Interpretive walks in the historic downtown business district, led by longtime businessmen Ike Kaufman and Channing Hartelius.
Several trips are being repeated this National Trails Day due to popular demand. For little ones, the Kiddos Playday Walk with educator Miranda Murray is designed for pre-school through second grade children; and the longer Kiddos and Grownups Hike is offered and led by Superintendent of Schools Tammy Lacey.
For women and girls looking to hike with friends, choose the all-women/girls hike to the top of Crown Butte with educator Mary Somerfeld. Montana State Park, USDA Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management rangers will lead hikes to Giant Springs Park, First Peoples Buffalo Jump, Sulphur Spring along the Lewis and Clark Trail; and to Clary Coulee 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.
For those whose health does not allow them to hike very far, a short walk in the local neighborhood led by historian Carol Bradley is back by request. Stroll the lower north side neighborhood to learn the history of these grand, old residences and take a lemonade break on the porch of one of the neighborhood’s finest restored home.
Schermele advises participants to come prepared with a daypack, lunch, plenty of drinking water, closed-toed shoes, sunscreen and rain gear, as most hikes happen regardless of 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.”