Montana Trip 2021 | Our Time in Great Falls, Montana | September 2021
We awoke on Monday morning in our tent in the Snowy Mountains, with our only plans for the day being to make it the rest of the way to Great Falls where Curtis had to work for the next couple days. Since it was only about an hour and a half from where we were, we took our time getting up and breaking camp.
After enjoying the hour long scenic drive out of the mountains, we started looking to the surrounding area for more hiking ideas to kill time. We could see different mountain ranges on the horizon, but when we searched AllTrails for hikes we couldn’t find anything that looked like an official trail. Maybe there’s a whole different website or database for hikes in these mountains that we just didn’t know about. Since we were at the peak of fall here, we decided to go driving into the mountains anyway just to see if we could find anything.
We took US-87 to Geyser, then went North into the Lewis & Clark National Forest and the Highwood Baldy Mountains. As expected, just driving the road through the mountains was beautiful. The high plains and ranches gradually gave way to forests with all the golden leaves on the aspen trees. We soon realized though that the National Forests was interspersed with small ranches and cabins and wasn’t exactly intended for the ‘on trail’ recreation we are used to, even off trail it seemed that one would be liable to trespass on any given number of private parcels. We decided to just pull over in an area that wasn’t an open range and just walked down the road following a creek. It was quiet and lovely, we were alone, and the weather was perfect. (At this time, Omaha was still having record highs in the 90s, so we were happy to be getting a head start on real fall weather!)
We then continued driving back roads for a while until joining with US-87 which we took into Great Falls. Since we couldn’t check into our hotel yet, we drove to the Rainbow Falls Scenic Overlook in Giant Springs State Park. Here we enjoyed walking the South Shore Trail along the Missouri River and taking in the views of the waterfalls. There are only 5 (major) waterfalls along the Missouri River, and all of them are here in Great Falls. Curtis shared what he remembered reading about this area in his book about Lewis & Clark’s expedition, and recalled how reading about it made him want to visit here someday — and here we were!
After our long walk here, we drove to Malmstrom Air Force Base where we were staying for the next few days. We stayed in one of the TLF suites because we had Charlotte, and it was a pretty nice set up. One of the highlights though was seeing two other basset hounds here — that makes 4 and a half bassets seen on this trip (aside from Charlotte)!
Curtis had to work all day for the next two days and had a school project to organize in the evenings so we really didn’t have much time to explore more around the city. This trip was with a group of Curtis’ co-workers, some of whom had been stationed here before, so we went out to dinner each night to a different spot recommended by them. The first night we went to the Montana Club, the second night we got pizza at MacKenzie River Pizza Co., and on our last night we ate at the Celtic Cowboy. The group also went to the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge, which is famous for having a glass window behind the bar looking into a pool with people dressed as mermaids swimming around. We went along just to say we saw it, but didn’t stay for any drinks. All the restaurants were great and it was fun to treat ourselves to meals out – something we are simply terrible at back home. Another highlight from our time here was running into one of my teachers from Carlson Massage School that I hadn’t seen for 9 years.
Great Falls seems like a fun and very small city. Plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities (even if we couldn’t find trails necessarily), and about everything you could need within 45 minutes. It’s no wonder that many of the Air Force personnel who worked there try to come back, either in service or after. Too bad it’s not really an option for Curtis…but we’re very thankful for the few days we were able to spend here!