Some of Montana’s best mountains and rivers are within easy reach of a Great Falls campsite.
Rolling plains stretch as far as the eye can see in Great Falls, Montana. The Missouri River cuts through the fields, thundering over five waterfalls as it winds through town. In 1805, these falls forced Lewis and Clark into a month-long overland detour on their way west. Today, you can trace that historic portage from your campsite. The town is also a jumping-off point for everything from the east side of Glacier National Park to Montana’s unique island mountain ranges. If you enjoy having plenty of elbow room at tent and RV sites surrounded by lush rivers and national forests, Great Falls is an excellent destination on the route to Canada.
Essentially right in town, the day-use Giant Springs State Park is set on the Missouri River with waterfront walking paths and plenty of parking. The Lewis and Clark Expedition recorded their experience here, where the gushing freshwater remains a prominent feature of the lower Missouri River. Walk around, try your luck in the fishing ponds, stand on an overlook, and take in the contrast of the silted river system with the massive influx of crystal clear water. Choose a Hipcamp RV park nearby for easy access—many have full hookups and picnic tables.
Running through Great Falls, the Missouri River provides numerous opportunities for camping along its banks. The waterway is a highlight of a number of small towns in the area, all with great fishing access—try Ulm, Cascade and Craig, all on the “trout highway” renowned among fly fishing enthusiasts. You could spend a lifetime walking and float-fishing this area with no shortage of great days on the water. The river continues northeast to Fort Benton and the Missouri River Breaks, where remote canoe trips are something to consider.
Just to the west of Great Falls is one of the great western archaeological and native culture sites in the United States. The day-use First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park’s limestone cliff was used on buffalo hunts, and it’s estimated that 18 feet of compacted bones are still layered beneath the cliffs. The park features walking paths, a museum, an amphitheater, and cultural displays, making it a great stop that rarely feels crowded.
About 45 minutes southeast of Great Falls, Sluice Boxes State Park is a rugged canyon area with hiking trails and opportunities for nightly backcountry camping only. Keep going to hit more of Lewis and Clark National Forest’s diverse landscape with forests, lakes, and mountains.
Although upwards of two hours from Great Falls, Glacier National Park is undoubtedly worth the trek. The renowned outdoor paradise draws campers with stunning mountain scenery, hiking trails, and abundant wildlife. Snag a coveted campsite in the park with an advance reservation, or opt for a more private Hipcamp just outside the park.
Summer is the most enjoyable time for tent camping near Great Falls, Montana. During this time, Glacier National Park has exceptional hiking, backpacking, and horsepacking, while the Bob Marshall Wilderness is a popular backcountry region in summer when trails are accessible and open. Paddling the Missouri River is also excellent in the prime summer months. Spring and fall bring fewer crowds and are still great times to get on the water for fishing. Great Falls winters are cold and windy, though RV camping is still possible and the Little Belt Mountains offer backcountry snowshoeing and winter hiking.