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Many groups collaborated to create the scenic and wild River's Edge Trail: the city of Great Falls, Cascade County, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Montana Department of Transportation, PPL Montana, and Recreational Trails Inc. And the result is stunning. The trail meanders through a picturesque landscape along the bluffs above the Missouri River in the local footsteps of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Though the explorers passed through here more than 200 years ago, much of the landscape remains unchanged—except that the Missouri has been dammed, and you'll see first-hand those dams along this trek.
The pathway, which was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 2018, starts at the visitor center at Broadwater Bay in Montana's city of Great Falls, heading through town and linking parks and points of interest along the river, including a waterslide park, boat launches, a skateboard park and open spaces on both sides of the Missouri River. You'll also be able to cross the river on a former Milwaukee Railroad bridge that was converted for trail use.
The trail sections in the city are paved and ADA accessible; other sections of the trail, along the reservoirs, are gravel or single- and double-track trail. In the city, the trail has benches, tables, shelters, drinking fountains and information kiosks. The trail segments on both sides of the river bank are linked by the Weissman Trail Bridge, Eagle Falls Memorial Bridge and the Cochrane Dam crossing.
In additional to the historical aspect of the trail, the city of Great Falls, with its magnificent falls and great rock cliffs, provides a compelling backdrop for the River's Edge Trail. The same waterfalls in the canyon of the Missouri River that forced an arduous portage of the Lewis and Clark Expedition provide today's trail users with spectacular views of the downtown area, the river canyon and distant mountains.
Much of the River's Edge Trail is located on portions of the former Great Northern and Milwaukee Railroad lines that ran through the area. As the trail continues east, the urban environment gives way to a more wild feel. This section enters the carved river canyon on a part of the former Great Northern Railroad right-of-way that hugs the canyon wall. Here the River's Edge Trail passes a boxcar and caboose trailhead display and passes Black Eagle Falls before entering Giant Springs State Park. Tunnels and trail segments link to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, the Montana State Fish Hatchery and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Headquarters and Visitor Center. The wheelchair-accessible trail continues through the State Park to an overlook of Crooked Falls.
The trail is a total of 55 miles long: 3 miles concrete, 20 miles of asphalt, and 32 miles of singletrack.
The trail has 12 trailhead parking areas. Urban portions of the trail are plowed as necessary during the winter. Free trail maps are available at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, Giant Springs Visitor Center, the Park & Recreation Department and local bike stores. Visit the trail's website (see link under "Related Content") for more information about parking and access.
Nicely paved trail along the river. You can get to 3 of the 5 waterfalls along the paved portion, then it turns to a single track Mt bike trail. There are restrooms and picnic tables along the way. It runs up both sides of the river, with a few places to cross safely. The portion that runs through town is a bit tricky to navigate. Loved the entire ride.
The paved section, which is from downtown to a mile south of Giant Springs, is scenic and well maintained. Plenty of restrooms, but not much water. Giant Springs is unique, don't miss it. Good parking and modern restrooms at the Lewis & Clark Center at 4201 Giant Springs Road.
The gravel section, which is east (downstream) of Giant Springs, has a lot of hills and so you need a mountain bike.
Hard to imagine a nicer trail then what this one is. Beautiful every step of the way. Uncrowded. Very well maintained. Check it out
I've been on the trail many times. The description is pretty accurate. It's paved in town. When you leave the paved surface on the south shore, a hybrid bike probably wouldn't handle the trails. The up and down through the ravines will test your cardio. The north shore has a gravel road along the river. Cochrane Dam is open to link the north shore and south shore trails ONLY on certain weekends in the summer.
You can pick this trail up in town along the Riverside parkway. While going through town, you make a lot of jogs as the trail gets eaten up by development (including riding through the police station lot). Once you leave town you are back on the railroad grade as you travel along the river. Near the Lewis and Clark museum, you leave the river and head inland a bit, then the railroad grade runs into the existing mainline which crosses the river. This leaves you without a rail grade, and now you have to climb a hill to get back to the top of the canyon. The paved trail ends after a downhill run to a plateau with a nice viewing area.
I was able to ride the River's Edge over the Memorial Day weekend. It was cold and overcast, but I had a good ride.
This is a really well laid out trail. I took it as far as Horseshoe Falls, where the pavement ends. I recommend it to everyone!
"We biked this trail in July and, except for the 100 degree temperature we experienced that day, it was a great ride.
"This is a smooth little trail that extends north out of the waterfront park and follows along the rim of the Missouri River canyon and the once elaborate series of water falls--hence Great Falls--since filled in by dam activity down river.Only Black Eagle Falls remain.The bird life in the canyon is rich. We rode along with scores of brown pelicans who nest here in the summer.The trail also skirts along a Lewis and Clark Heritage Center and Giant Springs State Park, an enormous seep that dumps millions of gallons of spring water into the Missouri.The trail is paved and appears to have been embraced by the folks of Great Falls as we saw many families and even convolescent center patients in wheel chairs in the early evening. I rate this one high for its wildlife viewing possiblities and historical perspectives. It's in great shape and an easy ride, especially after a huge dinner across the river in Black Eagle at Bori's Restaurant where the portions of rigatoni are as voluminous as the open sky."
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