I am always interested in seeing the places that Lewis and Clark mentioned in their journals, but usually they are many miles apart. Can you imagine my surprise when I learned that I could take a four-mile hike near Great Falls, Montana and see two important landmarks from the Lewis and Clark adventures?
This morning, I laced up my hiking boots and set out to explore the Sulphur Spring hiking trail just north of Great Falls. There I found:
- The encampment where the Corps of Discovery first reached the rapids at the beginning of the Great Falls of the Missouri. Until this point, Lewis and Clark had hoped they might be able to complete the journey to the Pacific and back by year’s end. Once they realized there were five falls and an 18-mile portage ahead of them, they knew they wouldn’t be finishing the journey in 1805.
- The Healing Sulphur Springs that Captain Lewis used to treat Sacagawea who was very ill. Her survival was critical to the success of the entire journey. She had been kidnapped as a child from the present-day Three Forks, Montana area and was able to speak the languages of nearby tribes. Sacagawea would be needed to trade for horses to get the party over the Rocky Mountains.
When I finished my hike, I found an elderly gentleman who couldn’t believe his good luck in finding so much Lewis and Clark history in one place. We agreed that this is a must-see for Lewis and Clark aficionados.
Trail conditions: The easy trail is clearly marked and lightly traveled. Since the trail follows the Missouri River, there is little altitude change. The view of the pristine river is beautiful. If you don’t want to hike, there is a beautiful vista near the parking lot.
How to get there: Drive north on Montana 87 from Great Falls. Turn right at Morony Dam Road (paved). Proceed 12 miles to the trailhead that is located near the Missouri River. There is a pit toilet and an informative wayfinding sign there.
What to bring
- Long pants. There are many prickly pears along the trail. I wore shorts and have the scratches to prove it.
- Bottle of water. There is no shade along the trail.
- Bug spray. I was there during a gnat hatch in early August.
- I didn’t see any snakes, but it does look snaky. If you see a rattlesnake, give it wide clearance.