Great Northern Historical Trail

Trail Map

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The Great Northern Historical Trail extends 22 miles between the lakeside town of Somers and the mountain valley community of Kila. The trail follows part of the route of the old Great Northern Railway, which was later bought by Burlington Northern. The railway's iconic logo of the mountain goat standing on a rock is symbolic of the Rocky Mountains through which the rail once operated. The original Great Northern Railway emerged from the Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad and represented the northernmost transcontinental rail in the county. The line, completed in 1893, ran between Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Scenic, Washington.

You'll enjoy this paved, albeit remote, trail through Montana's Flathead Valley, offering unmatched views of the surrounding mountains, including the Swan, Mission, Salish and Whitefish ranges. The inverted V-shaped trail begins in Somers, on the northern shore of stunning Flathead Lake—the country's largest natural freshwater lake west of the Continental Divide. Here you'll find a few cafes where you can feed up before your 22-mile journey (or 44 miles if you prefer a round trip!).

Heading north, you'll see the mountains of Glacier National Park in the distance (on a clear day) to the northeast. Through a landscape of cultivated fields, pasture and light industrial storehouses, you'll travel toward Kalispell, while paralleling US 93 for a few miles before going underneath it at the creek crossing and taking a more westerly tack.

The Great Northern Historical Trail keeps to the west of Kalispell, but if you want to head into downtown, turn east off the trail at Sunnyside Drive and take it to the bend north, where it turns into 5th Avenue W. Follow 5th Avenue to 11th Street and turn right (east), taking it 9 blocks to Main Street (US 93 Bus).

Back on the main trail, continue heading in a northwesterly direction. The trail again parallels the US 93 bypass then crosses another creek. The branch heading to the right goes a short distance farther to dead-end at a government building just north of US 2. The left branch goes under US 93 and continues to Kila.

The trail parallels US 2 through scattered homes sites and fields and past a small waterfowl reserve. You're already on the downward leg of the inverted V and nearing trail's end at Kila and Smith Lake, another waterfowl reserve. From here, enjoy the mountain scenery before heading back to Somers.

Parking and Trail Access

There are plenty of places of hop on the trail on the western outskirts of Kalispell and along the trail's route. Parking is also available in several places. To park at the southeastern end in Somers, take US 93 south from Kalispell and park at the pullout along the lake across from Sunnyside Avenue. You can also park in the town of Somers off Somers Road (across the road from the Post Office).

South of Kalispell, there's space for a few vehicles off Ashley Meadows Road, where the trail crosses the road. West of Kalispell, you can park of US 2 just east of where US 2 intersects Spring Creek Road.

In Kila at trail's end, park along Kila Road across from where it intersects Smith Lake Road or a little farther north on Kila Road at a small pull-out area.

Reviews

Rail Trail - kinda

   June, 2013 by granteaston

One of the problems with the rails to trail group is they don't enforce standards for trails to be "Rails-to-trails". Railroads don't like hills and curves, which makes them a unique ride and riding on 100 year old rail-beds is historic. The Great ...read more

Kali to Kila is complete!

   February, 2010 by Mister Crowley

You can now walk, bike or mosey from Kalispell to Kila on the historic Great Northern. In 2008 the 2 bridges were installed and in 2009 the remaining pieces were paved. In Kila, you can enjoy the waterfowl production area and dinner and a drink at the ...read more

Great Northern Historical Trail, Kalispell & Somers

   May, 2009 by noeljkelller

The Rails to Trails of Northwest Montana is providing a GREAT Trail for the Hikers and Bikers. For $75 you may have your name engraved on a brick and placed on a the new GIFT WALL near Dern Rd. The asphalt surface trail goes six miles west out of Kalispell ...read more