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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.
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.
Took the ride from Kalispell to Kila in late August. Nice ride, but as noted a good portion of the trail was right along the road. Did see a couple quail in the brush along the way.
We were from out of town so we rented from Wheatons Cycle shop in Kalispell. Nice folks, and the bikes were pretty decent...Trek. Only disappointment was that the bike shop only offered full day rentals at $35 a day. No half day rentals...made for an expensive 2 or 3 hour ride
It's a nice paved trail, but be warned, at almost every bridge that you have to cross, the asphalt has sunk. This results in the hard concrete lip of the bridge rising 2" higher than the asphalt and when you hit it the damage will range from destroyed wheel to 4 punctures. I don't even ride my road bike on it anymore because of all the damage it receives.
Was looking for a pleasant family bike ride. We rode from Ashley Meadows to Somers. The path parallels, just yards away, from a 4 lane, very busy highway (Hwy 93). Road crossings every 1/4 mile. Very noisy, not scenic at all. The last 1 1/2 miles into Somers was the best part when it finally departed from the highway. I guess we're just spoiled with the amazing bike paths at home (Calgary, Alberta). If you want to ride your bike along over 800km of beautifully maintained asphalt pathways, meandering along rivers, through city and provincial parks, with little-to-no no road crossings, or other traffic interruptions, come visit Calgary.
For someone who rides in the Desert of AZ most of the year, this was a nice change of scenery. If you want to get miles and time in the saddle this one round trip in either direction is good. I started in Somers to Kali where the sign tells you the END and headed back to the train. Stopped at the Conoco for a refill of water. (Super Nice ladies there).
My only complaint is\are the post's or holes where the post should be at trail breaks at road crossings. They are to close together and the jagged holes could do some damage on road bikes. Just be cautious when approaching them.
Overall really, really good ride!
Nicely paved trail winding through Flathead county. The views are wonderful of the surrounding mountains and pastures and fields. There is so much to look at, especially on a beautiful day like today. With only a few turns to slow you down, this would be a great trail to get some distance riding on.
The only downfall is that the trail DOES follow along three different sections of highways. The fumes were a bit much at times.
We will ride this trail again when the weather gets colder. Should be pretty with light snow all around.
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 Northern trail is mostly in name only, most of the old rail-bed has gone to highway 93 or the McMansions backyards. From Somers, across from the post office is a small 3 car parking area (look for the old logging engine display) the first mile north is on the old rail line and is stunning. Then you cross highway 82 and become a shoulder of highway 93. In Kalispell you can pick up the rail trail on highway 2 just west of town, as you are heading out, look for a blinking yellow light at an intersection, about 100 yards before that on the left is a driveway that connects to the trail, turn hear and drive about 200 feet down the rail trail (yes, it is shared with local driveways) and there is a parking lot. Heading east is true rail trail until you hit 93. Heading west is fake rail trail that follows highway 2. You can spot the old railroad grade in the backyards of the huge houses along the way.
Not the best effort of preserving the rail grade, but heck it is a ride.
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 always interesting Cottage Cafe. Please do what you can to support this locally supported grassroots effort.
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 ( N48.19678 W114.33065 ) and grading of trail, in progress, to connect the 2.4 mile gap with the completed 2 miles asphalt trail around Kila to Smith Lake Rd.
( N48.10817 W114.46160 ) Also there is 5.3 miles of trail north from Somers towards Kalispell
( N48.08090 W114.22573 ).
Parking available just north of trailhead in Kalispell and at trailhead in Somers.
Great vistas, from the trails. Noel Keller 20 Apr 09
The trail is now almost six paved miles one-way. I've run many miles on this and the views are wonderful. Plans are underway to continue the trail. The Rails to Trails of NW Montana group is a very dedicated group of citizens. More power to them!
I rode this trail almost every day last summer. The trail is now paved to Batavia. Those who feel spunky can keep going on unpaved trail to Kila. This summer stop and have lunch at the Cottage Cafe at the end of the trail in Kila.
This trail is now paved for 5.75 miles in one direction. It's beatiful and well utilized. Come visit!
"This trail is still under contruction and not even close to getting to Marion from Kailspell, a distance of 23 miles one way. The trail has oposition from private land owners and has stalled out for the time being. If it ever gets completed, it will be one hell of a trail to ride on....."
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