By Amy Pearson
One of Montana’s most stunning and accessible landscapes sits right along the banks of the Missouri River in Great Falls. In 1989, the River’s Edge Trail was just an idea, but ever since 1992 when paving started on the South Shore, there have been continuous and inspiring expansions every year.
The River’s Edge Trail was built for everyone; you can walk, run, skate, bike or sit at one of the many benches installed at key overlook sites. There are sixty miles of paved and single- track trail running from downtown Great Falls past the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, with access to Giant Springs State Park including intimate views of the five hydroelectric dams all the way out to Box Elder Creek on the South Shore and the Belt Creek Confluence on the North.
The construction and maintenance of the trail has been a tremendous community endeavor with major organizational and fundraising efforts by volunteers at the River’s Edge Trail Foundation, through partnership with the City of Great Falls, and a handful of local businesses and clubs such as the Great Falls Bicycle Club and the MTB Project. Financial support for the trail has come through public and private investments of millions of dollars.
The result is magnificent public access to trails for a multitude of recreational activities and astounding Montana views. Enjoy the vastness of the prairies, river canyons, views of the Highwood Mountains, and craggy nooks where you can stop to take in some shade.
“Our North and South shore trails are among the best mountain biking in the state,” adds John Juras who helped develop much of the information on trails for the MTB Project.
“My favorite section to ride is Lost Fork,” says Chris Leatham of Bighorn Outdoor Specialists. “It has a different feel than the rest of the trail and is more remote and technical.”
This years’ celebratory Luminaria Walk will be held August 25 from 7-11 pm. This free, family-friendly event will consist of more than a thousand hand decorated paper bags with tea lights, music, and vendors. For more information, visit the River’s Edge Trail Foundation website.