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Unlike some of Montana's more westerly cities, Great Falls does not lie at the base of world-class ski runs or sheer cliffs for rock climbing. It is nevertheless popular with outdoor enthusiasts, largely because of its central location. Ski lodges and climbing trails are a short drive west, and stretching out north and south are Montana's famed blue-ribbon fishing streams. Not to be forgotten is the "Mighty Mo"—the Missouri River, a recreational playground that runs straight through the middle of the city.
The 33-mi River's Edge Trail follows the Missouri River through the city on both banks; four bridges connect the trail's two branches. The trail, which attracts bikers, joggers, and strollers, passes Gibson Park, the West Gate Mall, Giant Springs State Park, and several waterfalls and dams. More primitive and challenging trails extend downstream of Rainbow Dam. More than 15 mi of the path, which is still under development, are paved; the remaining 18 mi are gravel.Great Falls, MT. 406/788–3313. www.thetrail.org. You can get a brochure on the mining-related landmarks seen along the trail from the Great Falls Information Center. 15 Upper River Rd., 59405. 406/771–0885 or 800/735–8535. Or rent a bike for the hour, the day, or the month at Knicker Biker, three blocks from the River's Edge Trail near Gibson Park. They have the best selection of bikes and bicycle accessories in town. 117 2nd Ave. N, 59405. 406/454–2912.
In downtown Great Falls, Bighorn Outdoor Specialists is an outdoors specialty store with everything from camping-stove fuel and freeze-dried food to ice-climbing equipment and kayaks. The store also rents canoes and kayaks. 206 5th St. S, Great Falls, MT, 59405. 406/453–2841.
Craig Madsen's Montana River Outfitters, facing the river on the north side of town, is known for its guided trips along the river by canoe, raft, or kayak. You can also get outfitted for a float trip with a wide selection of rental equipment. 923 10th Ave. N, Great Falls, MT, 59404. 406/761–1677 or 800/800–8218.