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10 Top-Rated Things to Do in Great Falls, MT

Written by Brad Lane
Mar 11, 2019

On the Mighty Missouri River in Central Montana, Great Falls is a great basecamp to explore all the fun things to do in this rugged part of the state. Bountiful gardens, mountain views, and freshwater springs line the public parks connected by the River's Edge Trail on the northeast side of town, as well as tourist-orientated places like the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Other outdoor attractions surrounding Great Falls include First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park and Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Near the historic downtown district of Great Falls, the legacy of the famous cowboy artist and once-resident of Great Falls, Charles M. Russell, is on full display at the C.R. Russell Museum. In the central part of the city, the community of Great Falls really shines with friendly faces and public art adorning nearly every street. Other fun places to visit near downtown include The History Museum and Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art. Plan your trip with our list of the top things to do in Great Falls, Montana.

1. River's Edge Trail

River's Edge Trail | Photo Copyright: River's Edge Trail Foundation

Following the banks of the Missouri River for 60 miles, the River's Edge Trail connects natural spaces, the historical downtown district, and cultural attractions including the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Considered the crown jewel of the city park system, Gibson Park is a great starting point for the trail, with bountiful gardens and reflective ponds. Particularly fun things to do along the trail include the free telescope at the Warden Park Gazebo and the large freshwater spring found at Giant Spring State Park.

Public art lines this paved pedestrian pathway, and any time of the year you can expect joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers, or snowshoers sharing the route. Benches, picnic tables, and drinking fountains can also be found along the River's Edge Trail, as well as established single-track mountain biking trails. On the eastern portion of the River's Edge Trail, views of The Great Falls of the Missouri can be seen from designated viewpoints and parking areas.

Official site: http://thetrail.org/

2. C.M. Russell Museum

C.M. Russell Museum exhibit | Blake Handley / photo modified

Dedicated to the life and legacy of the influential American West artist Charles M. Russell, this museum complex goes beyond paintings on the wall. Encompassing Russell's historic studio space in Great Falls and an extensive research library, the C.M. Russell Museum provides great insight on the cowboy artist and what influenced his work. Walking through the C.M. Russell Legacy Galleries transports tourists into a different world, where the West was wilder, and other exhibits at the museum highlight other cultural elements of the American West.

Address: 1498, 400 Thirteenth Street North, Great Falls, Montana

Official site: https://cmrussell.org/

3. Giant Springs State Park

Giant Springs State Park

A major attraction for tourists and long-term residents of the region, Giant Springs State Park lives up to its name as one of the largest freshwater springs in the country. First recorded by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 and now one of the most visited state parks in Montana, Giant Springs encompasses over 4,500 acres on both sides of the Missouri River. Offering opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting, this state park also encompasses The Great Falls of the Missouri for a great hiking or picnic destination.

Address: 4803 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls, Montana

Official site: http://stateparks.mt.gov/giant-springs/

4. Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

Lewis and Clark

Operated by the United States Forest Service and surrounded by Giant Springs State Park, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center provides deep historical insight on the path of these two famous explorers. The Interpretive Center encompasses over 25,000 square feet, including permanent galleries, an educational movie theater, and interactive space for hands-on learning activities. Outside the interpretive center and connecting to the surrounding state park, interpretive trails literally let tourists follow in the path of Lewis and Clark.

Address: 4201 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls, Montana

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hlcnf/recarea/?recid=61458

5. First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

Fifteen minutes west of the city, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park is an archaeological site believed to be one of the largest ancient buffalo jump sites in the country. Over 1,000 years ago, the indigenous population used this mile-long sandstone cliff to stampede buffalo over the edge, and evidence of this ancient hunting tactic can still be found today. Within the state park, a 6,000-square-foot education center provides interactive opportunities to learn more about the cultures that came before Lewis and Clark.

Address: 342 Ulm Vaughn Road, Ulm, Montana

Official site: http://stateparks.mt.gov/first-peoples-buffalo-jump/

6. Great Falls of the Missouri River

Black Eagle Falls

Within Giant Springs State Park on the Mighty Missouri River, this set of four waterfalls lends the city its name and provides a stunning place to visit. Lewis and Clark recorded their encounters with these massive waterfalls in 1805, and while the landscape has changed since with the implementation of dams, the area is still intriguing as ever. The Ryan Dam provides the largest of the four water features within the park, and the aptly named Great Falls plummets nearly 150 feet from the top of the dam.

7. Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art

Featuring rotating exhibits and countless community activities, the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art is a central hub for culture in Great Falls. Centered around Paris Gibson Square, this prominent piece of architecture constructed in 1896 was transformed into a museum in 1977. Many different works line the museum today, including local, regional, and international installations, as well as a unique sculpture garden outside the building. The museum regularly hosts different events, including workshops, auctions, and art walks on the first Friday of each month.

Address: 1400 1st Avenue North, Great Falls, Montana

Official Site: http://www.the-square.org

8. Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS Mountain-Prairie / photo modified

On the western edge of the northern Great Plains and a thirty-minute drive from Great Falls, this National Wildlife Refuge is home to hundreds of migrating bird species and covers roughly 12,000 acres of mixed-prairie environment. Popular things to do at this federal refuge include bird-watching, photography, and automobile touring, as well as hunting and fishing. A kiosk at the refuge's main entrance provides interpretive information for a self-guided visit, and the Refuge Visitor Center is open throughout the week for additional insight.

Address: 922 Bootlegger Trail, Great Falls, Montana

Official Site: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/benton_lake/

9. Showdown Montana

Showdown Montana

An hour south of Great Falls within the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, Showdown Montana is one of the oldest operating ski areas in the state. With a local feel and friendly staff, the 640 skiable acres at Showdown receive ample snowfall, providing fun terrain to explore all winter. Lift tickets to Showdown are affordable, as are the concessions found at the grill and cafe on the mountain. Lessons and gear rentals are available at Showdown for beginners, and powder stashes wait to be discovered by more seasoned athletes.

Address: 2850 US-89, Neihart, Montana

Official Site: https://showdownmontana.com/

10. The History Museum

A few blocks from the River's Edge Trail along historic Machinery Row, The History Museum offers a distinctive look into the heritage and cultures that define Central Montana. Operated by the Cascade County Historical Society, the History Museum has over 10,000 artifacts in collection, as well as thousands of photographs, with rotating exhibits covering a wide range of unique moments in Great Falls history. The vast archive at The History Museum contains detailed county records, homestead records, and maps from the past 200 years.

Address: 422 Second Street South, Great Falls, Montana

Official site: http://www.thehistorymuseumgreatfalls.com/

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Discovering Montana: Every city in Montana offers unique things to do and places to visit. The state capital of Helena has a long history tied to the Montana Gold Rush, and exciting attractions like Reeder's Alley. For some collegiate appeal and culture, both Bozeman and Missoula feature a college campus surrounded by gorgeous mountain surroundings. For a gateway to great skiing and Glacier National Park, the resort city of Whitefish is ideal for vacations and adventurous weekends. Skiers should be sure to check out our complete list of the best ski resorts in Montana.

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