Great Falls, Montana sits where the prairie meets the mountains and is Montana’s hub for western art. With the Missouri River passing through the city, Great Falls is a perfect stop for outdoor recreation enthusiasts and art or history buffs, alike.
There are many things to do in and around Great Falls, MT that you may find it hard to see and do everything in just one stay.
Great Falls is named for five waterfalls on the Missouri River just to the north of the city. The Lewis and Clark Expedition spent 31 days in the area of Great Falls making preparations to portage around the five waterfalls. Today, three of the five falls are used to generate hydroelectric power and give the city’s its nickname, “The Electric City”
Annually, around 1-million people visit Great Falls, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Montana. The draw for many visitors includes the 10 museums, the historical sites, and of course the outdoor activities.
The Top 3 Hotels in Great Falls
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Great Falls Main Attractions
Great Falls, MT is steeped in history, and many of the sites you’ll want to make sure to visit revolve around that history. If you aren’t a history buff, don’t worry, there are great things for you to see and do as well.
River’s Edge Trail
The main pedestrian corridor of the city, the River’s Edge Trail is a great way to see all of Great Falls on foot or on bike. The trail connects many of the places you’ll want to visit while in Great Falls including the historic downtown, Gibson Park, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Giant Springs State Park, and the city’s namesake The Great Falls of Missouri.
The trail has picnic tables, benches for resting or enjoying the views of the Missouri. For the more adventurous, there are a number of well-marked single-track mountain biking trails that can be accessed from the River’s Edge Trail.
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
Since the Great Falls area was home to the Discovery Corps for more than 30 days, it makes sense that this would be a great place to learn about the Expedition. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is one of the largest museums in the west, dedicated to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The Center is run by the United States Forest Service and is located within Giant Springs State Park. Along with galleries and educational displays, the Interpretive center also has hands-on activities and interpretive trails that allow you to follow in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps.
Giant Springs State Park
Giant Springs State Park is one of the most visited State Parks in Montana. Besides being located so close to downtown Great Falls, and right along the River’s Edge Trail, this state park is home to one of the largest freshwater springs in the United States.
The Giant Springs was first described In 1805 by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Today, at Giant Springs State Park you can enjoy the spring’s warm waters or take advantage of numerous opportunities within the 4,500-acre park for fishing, hiking, biking and hunting.
M. Russell Museum
For western art enthusiasts, the C.M. Russell Museum is a must-do when visiting Great Falls. This museum is named after and features the works of Charles Marion Russell, one of the most well-known western artists from Montana.
The museum is a really interesting combination of art, C.M. Russell artifacts, and Native American artifacts. The museum even includes Russell’s log cabin and studio.
First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park
A great place for a hike and to learn more about the history and culture of Native Americans is the First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park. This Park has some of the best archeological finds that show how Native Americans used the area’s cliffs as a way to hunt Bison.
There are two ways to experience the Buffalo Jump. The best way is to walk the three-mile interpretive trail from the bottom of the cliffs to the top. Pick up a trail guide at the trailhead before you start your hike.
If walking isn’t your thing or if you’re pressed for time. Follow the dirt road to the top of the cliffs. There’s a nice parking lot and interpretive signs.
Recreation Activities in Great Falls, MT
There are plenty of ways to recreate in Great Falls depending on what kind of activities you enjoy. The city has a busy Parks and Recreation department with plenty of indoor activity spaces and parks. Here are some of our favorite activities and where you can go for the best experiences.
You’ll not have to go far to find great biking in Great Falls. There are plenty of miles of trails around the city for both road biking and mountain biking. Rent a bike in the historic downtown and cruise the River’s Edge Trail. From here you can pick up single-track trails within Giant Springs State Park.
The Missouri River that runs through the middle of Great Falls is a great place to try your hand at fly-fishing. Check out one of the many local outfitters who can set you up with rental gear or guide you to the best spots on the Missouri.
If you’d rather find a pier or a piece of shoreline to cast your line from, Giant Springs State Park has great fishing spots or just find a quiet spot along the River’s Edge Trail.
Remember to check out the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks website for information on fishing rules and regulations, and to buy your Montana fishing license, before you start to fish.
There are miles and miles of hiking trails around Great Falls. Besides the trails accessible from the River’s Edge Trail and those in Giant Springs State Park, you’ll find great hiking in the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge and in Sluice Boxes State Park.
If you want a more robust hiking opportunity, check out the trail to the top of Crown Butte. From here you’ll get to see the same view that Lewis and Clark had on their first visit to the Great Falls area.
Much of the Missouri River through Great Falls has been dammed for hydroelectric power, so the section of the river through town isn’t a great place for water sports.
However, head out of town a bit and enjoy rafting, canoeing, and kayaking on the Missouri. For a quieter spot, head to Sluice Boxes State Park. Belt Creek is a great place to raft or kayak. However, this area is best for experienced rafters and kayakers who can self-rescue.
Less than an hour from Great Falls is Blackleaf Canyon and Memorial Falls. Both of these areas have great walls and well-established climbing routes.
Though a bit smaller than some other communities in Montana, Great Falls has plenty of options for places to stay. You’ll find a range of accommodations including chain hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation homes.
- Crystal Inn Hotel and Suites
- StayBridge Suites Great Falls
- Best Western Plus Riverfront Hotel and Suites
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott
- Hampton Inn Great Falls
- Days Inn by Wyndham Great Falls
If you’re looking for a fun event to enjoy while visiting Great Falls, you’ll be happy to know that the city has a number of great annual events that you can enjoy while visiting.
- January – Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals – Rodeo
- March – Western Art Week – Art and culture festival
- April – Ice Breaker Road Race – Running race
- July – Lewis and Clark Festival – Historical festival
- July/August – Montana State Fair – Agricultural fair
- August – ArtFest Montana – Arts and culture festival
Activities Near Great Falls
- River’s Edge Trail
- Beyond the Dam Ride
- South Shore Trailhead
- Ryan Trailhead
- Black Eagle Falls Trail and Art Along the Trail
- Memorial Falls
- Our Lake
- Highwood Mountains
- Warden Park Disc Golf
- West Bank Park Disc Golf
- Anaconda Hills Golf Course
- Eagle Falls Golf Club
- Broadwater Bay
- Highland BMX
- Jaycee Pool
- Water Tower Swimming Pool
National Parks and Forests
- Giant Springs State Park
- Sluice Boxes State Park
- First People’s Buffalo State Park
- Tower Rock State Park
City and County Parks
- Belview Park
- Bloomingdale Park
- Carter Park
- Charles Russell Park
- Chowen Springs
- Clara Park
- Elk’s Riverside Park
- Gibson Park
- Lions Park
- Memorial Park
- Oddfellows Park
- Tourist Park
- Westbank Park
- C.M. Russell Museum
- Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
- Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art
- The History Museum
- Children’s Museum of Montana
- National Native American Hall of Fame
- Malmstrom Museum and Air Park
What Is The Cost of Living in Great Falls?
Compared to the rest of Montana, the overall cost of living in Great Falls is much cheaper. It compares even more favourably to the national average and is close to 10% lower.
Housing prices are by far one of the main benefits of living in the area. Great Falls Southwest appears to be the most expensive area to live in and Great Falls Northwest one of the cheapest by comparison as far as house prices and living costs go.
Is Great Falls Safe to Live in?
As far as crime goes, Great Falls has somewhat high crime rates with a score of just 3 out of 100 (100 being the best and safest).
That’s a crime incident involving something close to 5 in every 1000 residents, and an annual crime number of over 3,000. It’s definitely not one of the best there is, and it leaves Great Falls ranked as safer than just 3% of other cities in the U.S. The good news if any is that violent crimes account for just 266 of that number.
What is Great Falls Known for?
Great Falls is in the region of the wilderness belonging to the Lewis and Clark National Forest, which is slightly to the west. The area is thus peaceful and scenic, and although recreation is popular in the area it is quite isolated geographically. This restricts the level of tourism that filters through to some degree but there is plenty of opportunity.
Downtown Great Falls is attractive and stretches along the Missouri River and a partially-redeveloped waterfront. The town is located in a valley surrounded by plateaus and hills aside from the northeastern region which is encircled by mountain ranges.
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