River’s Edge Trail added to national recreational trail system; National Trails Day is Saturday

The River’s Edge Trail of Great Falls has been added to the national recreational trail system.

This week, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke designated 19 national recreational trails in 17 states, adding more than 370 miles to the national recreational trail system of more than 1,000 trails in the U.S.

“By designating these new national trails, we acknowledge the efforts of local communities to provide outdoor recreational opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone,” Zinke said in a release. “Our network of national trails provides easily accessible places to exercise and connect with nature in both urban and rural areas while boosting tourism and supporting economic opportunities across the country.”

The 53 miles of the River’s Edge Trail in Great Falls allows for biking, jogging, inline skating, running and walking.

The trail is owned and maintained by the City of Great Falls and is expanded and further developed in partnership with the River’s Edge Trail Foundation, formerly known as Recreational Trails Inc.

On the River’s Edge Trail, 19 miles are fully accessible paved urban trails that link many local parks and attractions along both sides of the scenic Missouri River. More than 30 miles of natural trails on the north and south shores of the river connect to the urban trails.

Agreement to formalize city-River’s Edge Trail Foundation partnership proposed

Trails of the National Recreation Trails system range from less than a mile to 485 miles in length and have been designated on federal, state, municipal and privately owned lands.

The National Recreation Trails Program is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of federal and not-for-profit partners, notably American Trails, which hosts the National Recreation Trails website.

Saturday is National Trails Day and in the Great Falls region, there are 14 hikes planned.

The one-day event is sponsored by Get Fit Great Falls, a not-for-profit organization advocating healthy, active lifestyles, and includes hikes in the Rocky Mountains, Highwood Mountains, Little Belt Mountains and on local trails.

Online registration is required and all hike listings are available at www.getfitgreatfalls.com/hikes.

All hikes depart from Gibson Park, located at Park Drive and 1st Avenue North. Departures are at staggered times beginning at 8 a.m. Hikers are advised to arrive 20 minutes before their scheduled departure time to meet their hike coordinator. Some hikes require car caravanning to a trailhead while others depart directly on foot from the park.

The Walk & Talk category includes excursions with frequent educational stops to learn about local history. Interpretive walks in the historic downtown business district, led by longtime businessmen Ike Kaufman and Channing Hartelius.

Montana State Park, USDA Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management rangers will lead hikes to Giant Springs Park, First Peoples Buffalo Jump, Sulphur Spring along the Lewis and Clark Trail; and to Clary Coulee along the Rocky Mountain Front. These state and federal partners help make National Trails Day all the more special, as most of the hikes traverse public land.

For those whose health does not allow them to hike very far, a short walk in the local neighborhood led by historian Carol Bradley is back by request. Stroll the lower north side neighborhood to learn the history of these grand, old residences and take a lemonade break on the porch of one of the neighborhood’s finest restored home.

Megan Schermele, event co-chair, advises participants to come prepared with a daypack, lunch, plenty of drinking water, closed-toed shoes, sunscreen and rain gear, as most hikes happen regardless of weather.

For more information, visit getfitgreatfalls.com.