Get Active in Great Falls, Montana Year Round

From warm summers to chilly winters, Great Falls residents are met with an abundance of outdoor activities.

By
Kevin Litwin
On Tuesday, February 9, 2021 - 15:49
great falls

From warm summers to chilly winters, Great Falls residents are met with an abundance of outdoor activities.

The Missouri River runs through the heart of the city and accommodates all kinds of watersports as well as trout fishing. Plus, ask any local where to walk, bike or run, and they'll direct you to River's Edge Trail, which stretches nearly 60 miles along the river.

So, where else do the locals go in Great Falls? Well, to break it down, it's best to look at it from a temperature standpoint.

great falls
Visit Great Falls

Warmer Months

Recommendations pile high when it comes to must-try activities to do during warmer months. From sunrise to sunset, outdoor enthusiasts can find places to walk, hike, bike, swim, kayak, fish – you name it. Hot spots include Giant Springs State Park, accessible from River's Edge Trail, and First People's Buffalo Jump State Park, which many folks will tell you is their go-to for a nice hike. Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, located just an hour from the region, features waterfalls, lakes and dense forests, while nearby Glacier National Park boasts opportunities to hike, camp, boat and fish, among other things.

The region is a cycling haven. One popular course that offers a bit of a challenge is the 8-mile route from Great Falls to Sand Coulee. Cyclists can also get their tires spinning at Thain Creek Campground, throughout the Highwood Mountains and on River's Edge Trail, which offers paved and dirt paths. Plus, a challenging 1/2-mile single track obstacle course was constructed near the 67th Street trailhead.

"The Skillz Trail goes gently downhill and is highlighted with bank turns, rollers, balance beams and cable tops," says Steffen Janikula, Great Falls Parks & Recreation Department trails coordinator. "It's a great addition to the River's Edge Trail and ideal for mountain bikers to develop their extreme skills."

great falls
Amber Fern Photography

Colder Months

For residents who like the cold but prefer to enjoy it while staying cozy, there's an arts and culture scene. Bundle up and head over to one or two of the region's 17 art galleries and 10 museums or attend a concert by the Great Falls Symphony. And you can't get out and not pass a restaurant or coffee shop.

Grab a cup of joe at Electric City Coffee, Coffee Bar & Bistro or Crooked Tree, or go for some grub at Roadhouse Diner or the Celtic Cowboy Pub and Restaurant. For those of you who want a nightcap, Enbär or the Sip' n Dip Lounge are great places to order a drink.

Ideas for ways to stay active outdoors don't decrease when the weather turns cold – new options arise. Put your bicycle up and try on some skis, as the area is full of opportunities to go downhill and cross-country skiing. And for those of you who can't get enough of the snow, explore the region on snowshoes or break out a snowmobile.

"I love the colder conditions for fishing, hunting, camping and backpacking," says Brooks Lindquist, owner of Volta Athletics. "In fact, my Volta business is a functional gym, where many of my customers train to specifically get in top shape for all the rugged outdoor recreation options in Great Falls."

great falls
Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development (MOTBD)

Hats Off to Art

Western Art Week transforms Great Falls into the "Western Art Capital of the World" every March (except for 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak). This five-day, early spring festival, which debuted in 1969, falls during the same week of March 19th, the birthday of the famed Western artist Charles Marion Russell, who created more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Native Americans and landscapes prior to his death in 1926.

Throughout the week, several activities occur at the C.M. Russell Museum, including an auction called "The Russell," which is billed as the nation's largest annual auction of Western art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Other events that take place during the five days include Out West Art Show & Sale, the Great Western Living & Design Show, the "Wild Bunch" Art Show and Runway Show at Paris Gibson Square. Plus, workshops, pop-up drawing demonstrations and live music performances take place at several venues throughout Great Falls, like Montana ExpoPark.

Western Art Week is expected to resume in March 2021. For more information about the event, check out visitgreatfallsmontana.org/ western-art-week.

Plus, Great Falls boasts ArtsFest Montana, which normally brings artists from around the continent to create meaningful and impactful murals throughout downtown.

If you'd like to learn more about the Great Falls area, check out the latest edition of Livability Great Falls, MT.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Litwin is the author of Crazy Lucky Dead and a freelance feature writer with a career spanning more than 20 years.