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River's Edge Trail, Great Falls

#2 of 8 in Parks in Great Falls
Hiking Trail · Nature / Park
Extending over 50 miles along both sides of the scenic and historic Missouri River, the River’s Edge Trail stands alone as Montana’s premier urban trail network. Whether walking, hiking, jogging, skating, cycling or mountain biking, the River’s Edge Trail offers unrivaled recreational opportunities along the historic portage route taken by Lewis & Clark. The paved and single track trails provide spectacular views of the mountains, prairie, river canyons, waterfalls, reservoirs, and four hydro-electric dams and link Great Falls’ historic downtown with numerous parks, dining options and attractions. Come experience the natural splendor of Montana’s finest riverfront trail network.


1. In 1989 the City acquired 3.5 miles of BN right-of-way and City Planner Ben Rangel created a conceptual “Riverfront Recreational Corridor” Plan. At the same time a trail support group, the River's Edge Trail Foundation, was formed to work with the City to help implement the Plan.

2. Volunteer built bridges at 6th St. N. and at Black Eagle Falls in 1991 made the trail between Odd Fellows Park and Giant Springs road a reality, though much of it was railroad ballast. The 1991 Great Falls Tribune “Name the Trail” contest chooses “River’s Edge Trail”.

3. The Montana Power Company relicensing process yields donations to help fund various trail segments 1993 – 1997. Conservation and Recreation easements on the 3,000 acre north shore came in 1998. Since 1999 PPL Montana has continued this strong partnership.

4. The availability of Community Transportation Enhancement Program (CTEP) and Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grants to complete 23 separate trail segment projects between 1993 and 2013. Trail donations from the community and funds from Blues & Brews made it possible for RTI to provide the match funds required by the granting agencies.

5. From 1999 to 2001 Montana Conservation Corps crews, Cascade County, PPL Montana, community volunteers and contractors cleaned up and fenced the former ACM housing area. In 2005 an upgraded road through that area began to serve the powerhouse and a new trail was built on the old “Low Line” smelter railroad bed, which previously served as vehicular access to the powerhouse. The island was capped with topsoil and seeded, the truss bridge to the island was restored and trailhead facilities were created near the powerhouse.

6. Extending the south shore trail through Giant Springs State Park to Rainbow Dam in 1996 and then to Crooked Falls in 1998 brought trail users to the privately owned river frontage to the east. In 1996 the City was able to negotiate a purchase of what is now the Cochrane Reservoir Natural Area, home to some of the best mountain biking in Montana. A donation from Zander Blewett in 2010 secured a public trail easement east to Box Elder Coulee.

7. In 1996 the new 9th Street Bridge and intersections with River Drive North provided a trail tunnel under the road, a trail underpass at the south end, a separated 10’ walkway on the west side of the new bridge and separated trail along River Drive North.

8. A project to upgrade a major sewer line at the north end of the 9th St. bridge in 1998 included a total rebuild of the trail south of the refinery, a trail underpass of 9th St. N. and a tunnel behind the bulkhead of the 10th St. Bridge to establish formal public use and access.

9. After 8 years of effort the easements were secured and new concrete trail and retaining walls were designed between Garden Home Park and Federal Building. This project was ready to go when stimulus money became available. Bay Drive 1 was completed in 2009 and Bay Drive 2 was completed in 2010. Bay Drive Trail is the standard for future trail segments.

10. A major MDT roadway and bridge project in 2008-2009 included a separated trail underpass of Warden Bridge, a trail tunnel under Lower River Road and a bike/pedestrian bridge over the BNSF line. In exchange for fill dirt for the road, the contractor developed gravel trails in Warden Park. The trail was paved in 2010 and a gazebo was added in 2011.
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River's Edge Trail reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
171 reviews
  • Stayed in Great Falls before heading to Glacier NP and took a walk down by the river and it was beautiful. A lot of things to look at and some prairie dogs and ducks. Nice easy path to walk along...  more »
  • This walking and bike trail leads from downtown to Giant Springs State Park. The views along the river are nice and you will pass the dams and power plants. There are a lot of informative markers...  more »
  • Good trail network, lots if benches and good views along the Missouri River.
  • Great trails for a nice evening walk/ride

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