By angelamontana

Posted: August 30, 2023

GREAT FALLS – Bicyclists and hikers will have a unique chance to access and cross over the Missouri River at Cochrane Dam on Saturday Sept. 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The dam is normally closed to public access, but Northwestern Energy and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are working together to provide this special opportunity to the public to experience the trails along both sides of the Missouri River near Great Falls.

Normally only available as an out and back hike or ride, opening the dam for public access will allow trail users to make a loop and hike or ride both sides of the river on the same trip.

The River’s Edge Trail from the North Shore to the South Shore (or vice versa) can be used to reach Cochrane Dam, and once there, visitors may hike or walk their bike across the dam. Park staff and volunteers will be present on the dam during the event, and signage will be out around the trails to help direct visitors.

Participants should expect at least a five-mile hike or ride and be prepared with proper footwear and plenty of drinking water. Keep in mind that there is little to no shade anywhere along the trail, and this is rattlesnake country. Participants should arrange a shuttle or park a vehicle at their ending location. Park staff will not provide a shuttle service.

All trail users should expect to encounter heavier than normal traffic during this event, and bicyclists should control their speed, yield to all, stay to the right except when passing, and ring a bell or call out before passing.  A few areas of the trail are rated more difficult and riders should plan accordingly.

Cochrane Dam can be accessed:

From the Lewis and Clark Trailhead –

  • A 3.6-mile hike/ride starting on the paved trail going towards the crooked falls overlook and then following the marked trails to the dam.  Trail is moderate in difficulty.
  • A 3.5-mile hike/ride following the marked trails the entire way.  This is a dirt single track trail and features rolling hills and an elevation change of 300-400 feet.  Trail is moderate in difficulty.

From the Rainbow Trailhead-

  • A 2.5-mile hike/ride from Rainbow Trailhead on the gravel service road, with rolling hills and 100-200 feet of elevation change.  This road is traveled on by NorthWestern Energy vehicles, please travel single file and stay to the right to stay out of their traffic.
  • A 3.7-mile hike/ride from Rainbow Trailhead onto the River’s Edge trail, with 300-400 feet of elevation change, rolling hills and some single-track spots.

For more information contact the Giant Springs ranger station at 406-727-1212.


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