5 Must-Explore Trails in Great Falls, Montana

People Doing Cool Things in Great Falls
April 27, 2023

Enjoy a day of adventure on one of these outstanding hiking trails in Great Falls.

By Rebecca Treon on February 1, 2023

Great Falls, MT offers myriad ways to get outside and stay active or spend time with your family.

Visit Great Falls

Great Falls has the good fortune of being surrounded by a unique landscape that includes several waterfalls on the Missouri River, giving residents ample room to explore and take in the region’s natural beauty.

Though Montana overall is as an outdoors enthusiast’s nirvana, Great Falls residents don’t have to venture far to enjoy a good hike – some trails are right in town or just a short drive away. Here are five hiking trails in Great Falls that newcomers should put on their list:

North Shore River’s Edge Trail East

A 3.5-mile mostly flat, paved loop that’s great for walking, jogging or cycling, this trail connects with other trails along the 55-mile urban River’s Edge trail system, making it easy to connect it to a longer trek. Following the Missouri River, it’s an easy way to see the city and it’s lined with public art, dog parks, historic and educational markers, playgrounds and other attractions.

Windy Mountain Loop

In the nearly 3,000 square miles that make up Lewis and Clark National Forest, there are numerous hiking trails, but a popular favorite is the Windy Mountain Loop. Clocking in at almost 9 miles, it’s no problem to make this hike an out-and-back to shorten the distance. But with the spectacular scenery, you may not want to – you’ll get views of Highwood Baldy, the tallest peak in the Highwood Mountains, along with breathtaking flora and fauna.

First Peoples Buffalo Jump Loop

Southwest of Great Falls in Sun River, Ulm Pushkin State Park is home to many hiking trails, including this historically significant one, First Peoples Buffalo Jump Loop, one of the largest buffalo jumps in North America. The scenery, with its cliffs and bluffs, isn’t typical for the area, but allows views of surrounding mountain ranges. The roughly 3-mile jaunt is an easy one on a well-maintained trail, with amenities at the bottom of the trail (paved parking lot, water fountains, bathrooms, visitor center).

Paine Gulch Trail

Southeast of Great Falls near Monarch, this moderately challenging trail is a roughly 5-mile, out-and-back trail that’s fairly remote. The trail leads through heavily forested land then ends in a meadow full of wildflowers. In the winter months, it’s a popular trail for snowshoeing.

Sluice Boxes Trail/Sluice Boxes State Park

In nearby Belt, Sluice Boxes State Park is home to the Sluice Boxes Trail, a roughly 7-mile, out-and-back trail that is surrounded by gorgeous alpine scenery and soaring bluffs. Inside Sluice Boxes State Park, the former mining hub features mines, a railroad and historic cabins as it weaves through a limestone canyon following Belt Creek. The area is a popular one for fishing and leaf peeping. Pro tip: Bring water shoes – the trail has several river crossings.