Where is Giant Springs State Park Located
Giant Springs State Park is located on the banks of the Missouri river in the state of Montana. Located in the western center of the state, the closest city to Giant Springs State Park is Great Falls. Other outdoor recreation areas close to the park include the Lewis and Clark National Forest and the Flathead National Forest. Giant Springs State Park’s most notable feature is its namesake Giant Springs. However, the park also contains several other features that are popular among visitors of the park. These features include several hiking trails, a visitor center, a fish hatchery, and several historic sites. Giant Springs US State Park is located 158 miles southeast of Glacier National Park and 178 miles north of Bozeman.
How Large is Giant Springs State Park
Giant Springs State Park covers a total of over 4,500 acres. The Giant Springs that reside in the park are the largest freshwater springs in the world and were first documented by Lewis and Clark in 1805. Besides the springs and the Missouri River, the rest of Giant Springs State Park is covered by front and backcountry forests. Hiking trails in the park total over 20 miles and connect to the larger River’s Edge Trail system that blankets the Great Falls area. Giant Springs State Park also contains the Giant Springs State Fish Hatchery and is the only state park in the country that contains a fish hatchery.
Giant Springs State Park Weather
The weather at Giant Springs State Park varies throughout the year. In summer, temperatures in the park average between 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures in the park average between 15 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest days of the year arrive at the park in July and August. The coldest days appear in Giant Springs State Park in January and February. On average, Giant Springs State Park sees about 55 days of rain per year. The total accumulation of rainfall throughout the year in the park is about 15 inches. Snowfall in the park totals around 50 inches per year. A large majority of this snowfall occurs in December, January, and February. However, snowfall has occurred as late as May before.
When did Giant Springs Become a State Park
Giant Springs State Park was established and created by the state of Montana during the 1970’s. The establishment of Giant Springs and their surrounding area as Giant Springs state park was partially inspired by the foundation of the nearby city of Great Falls in 1883. The city’s proximity to Giant Springs led many of its citizens to recreate in the area consistently. This popularity and the pressure to protect the springs from changing environmental factors led the state of Montana to establishing the park.
Things to do in Giant Springs State Park
Giant Springs State Park contains access to a host of activities eager visitors will want to participate in. Our State Park Visitors Guide lists the park’s most popular adventures below:
Start at the Visitor Center
Stopping into the Giant Springs State Park visitor center is the best way to start any trip to the park. The visitor center not only contains several educational and interactive exhibits and displays, but the visitor center also holds important park documents like trail maps.
Hike the River’s Edge Trail
Hiking the River’s Edge Trail will grant visitor’s the opportunity to witness and explore the multiple ecosystems that the park contains. Along the trail, visitors will walk under massive cottonwood trees that cover the banks of the Missouri River.
Drop a Fishing Line
Anglers visiting Giant Springs State Park can either try their luck in the Missouri River and the waters surrounding Giant Springs or in the park’s fishing pond. Visitors fishing on the river can target trout, catfish, bass, and other freshwater species.
Hop on Your Bike
The park’s 30 miles of hiking trails, dirt, and paved roads are also open to cyclists. The park’s trails range from beginner to expert and are sure to provide hours of outdoor recreation and enjoyment.
Check out the Fish Hatchery
Visitors of Giant Springs State Park should check out the park’s fish hatchery. After all, they are visiting the only state park that contains a fish hatchery within its borders. At the hatchery, visitors can learn about the fish rearing process and even feed fish contained in the hatchery’s show pond.
Giant Springs, because of its ecotone location, is home to a highly diverse list of avian species. Notable species found in the park include Bullock’s orioles, great horned owls, willow flycatchers, bald eagles, belted kingfishers, gray catbirds, and black-billed magpies. Various migratory species also make their way into the park throughout the year.
Look Out for Wildlife
Aside from the avian variety, Giant Springs State Park also is home to several other wildlife species. Mule deer, white-tailed deer, turkeys, opossums, raccoons, minks, pine martens, and other woodland mammals have all been spotted with the park’s borders.
Visit the Nearby Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls is only a 20 minute drive away from Giant Springs State Park. Interactive displays and exhibits situated throughout the center offer interested visitors a bountiful amount of information surrounding Lewis and Clark and their expeditions. The center also touches upon the ecology, geology, and geography of the surrounding area as well as the trail Lewis and Clark followed on their journey.
When to Visit Giant Springs State Park
A trip to Giant Springs State Park can be achieved during any time of the year. However, the park is best explored during spring and summer. These two months bring warmer weather to the park and less snow. Park activities such as fishing, hiking, and biking are also best completed in the spring or summer. Fall is another great time to visit Giant Springs State Park. Visitors arriving at the park in late September or October may be able to experience the park’s fall foliage.
Must Have Items to Bring to Giant Springs State Park
Every trip outdoors requires a bit of packing and planning, and a successful trip to Giant Springs State Park is no exception. Below List of Parks outlines a list of essential equipment every visitor should consider bringing with them to the park.
Water and High Energy Snacks
Water and high energy snacks are the two most important pieces of equipment every visitor should make sure they bring along with them to Giant Springs State Park. The average person should pack one to two liters for every hour they plan to spend hiking, fishing, or otherwise recreating.
Anglers visiting Giant Springs State Park will want to make a checklist in order to ensure they have packed all of the necessary fishing equipment along with them. Hopeful anglers should also obtain a Montana state fishing license from either the state’s online portal or a local outfitter or issuing establishment.
Sturdy Hiking Boots
Every hiking trip requires a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Visitors should look to invest in a lightweight and waterproof pair that will provide additional comfort and protection. It is always a good idea to bring extra hiking socks as well.
Wildlife Field Guides and Binoculars
Visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the wildlife species that call Giant Springs State Park home will want to bring along a Montana or North America specific field guide. Birders will also want to remember to bring along their binoculars in order to spot species perched up in the tall trees of Giant Springs State Park.
Layers of Clothing
Wearing layers of clothing to Giant Springs State Park is the best way to combat fluctuating temperatures. These layers can be removed or added at will as your body temperature increases and decreases.
Where to Stay Near Giant Springs State Park
Giant Springs State Park does not operate a campground or other lodging establishment within its borders. Visitors looking to stay near Giant Springs should search for options in Great Falls. The town possesses several lodging establishments that are sure to give tired visitors a good night’s sleep. During the summer season, visitors should look to make reservations as early as they can.
Food Near Giant Springs State Park
The closest food to Giant Springs State Park is located in nearby Great Falls. The city is about a 20-minute drive away from the park, and contains several restaurants and grocery stores visitors can utilize to replenish their stomachs or supplies. Visitors looking for a larger city with a more pronounced culinary scene may want to make the two-hour drive to Helana.
Airports Near Giant Springs State Park
The closest airport to Giant Springs State Park is located in Great Falls. The Great Falls International Airport is 10 miles or a 21-minute drive away from the park. Other international airports within four hours of the park include the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport, the Missoula International Airport, and the Billings-Logan International Airport.