Tower Rock sits along the mighty Missouri River and was an important landmark for indigenous groups, Lewis and Clark, and others traveling and trading along this route. Living in Great Falls, we spend plenty of time on the Missouri where it winds through the northern plains. Tower Rock State Park provides a nearby spot to get out of the flat grasslands to enjoy some more mountainous views over the river.
Of the many stunning hikes in Montana, Tower Rock is not one to go far out of your way for in our opinion. But, if you’re in the Great Falls area and are looking for a quick day hike that is easily accessible, this is a great option! We also found it to be a good spot to head in the winter and shoulder seasons when many of the hikes further into the mountains are snowed in. With that, let’s get into the details!
Getting to Tower Rock State Park
As mentioned above, Tower Rock State Park is very easily accessible as it sits just off the highway. From Great Falls, head south on I-15. Not long after you pass the town of Cascade, take exit 247 and turn right onto Old U.S. 91. You can see the parking area from the highway.
Round a slight corner and take an immediate left into a gravel parking area for the park. Here, there is ample parking, a vault toilet, and some information on the area displayed near the start of the trail.
A Montana State Park Pass is required to hike at Tower Rock. If you are a Montana resident who registered your car in the state and paid the $9 fee, your entrance to Montana State Parks is covered for the year. We think this is an awesome option and a great deal if you live here and get outside often.
If you didn’t pay the park fee with your registration or are visiting from out of state, entry costs $8 per vehicle or $4 for those walking or cycling in. Note that Tower Rock State Park only accepts cash payments placed in a deposit envelope.
Hiking at Tower Rock State Park
Hike Type: Easy out-and-back trail
Distance: 1.4-2 miles round trip – depends on how much exploring and climbing around you do.
Duration: 1-2 hours
Regulations: Pets are permitted but must be leashed. Visitors need a state park pass and the area is for day use only.
The trail from the parking area leads around the base of the rocky ridge, paralleling the highway. The road is pretty close to Tower Rock State Park and you can hear it throughout the hike, but luckily, we’ve never seen this stretch of road get too busy.
Along the trail, you’ll see tall grasses, yuccas and other small cacti, large boulders, and birds flying from the cliffs above. We’ve never seen one, but sign warn of rattlesnakes, so be aware of your surroundings!
After only about 10-15 minutes of slight incline, you’ll reach the end of the designated trail. This is marked by a sign and a stone bench commemorating Lewis and Clark’s journey. They noted that Tower Rock was the point where the river leaves the plains and enters the mountains. From this spot, you can see the plains stretching to the east and the river below. But don’t stop here! The views only get better as you climb.
Per the sign at the end of the designated trail, the path from this point on is steep and consists of loose rock. But, it’s not too far to the top. As you make your way up the hill and reach the ridge, you’ll see a bunch of paths leading to Tower Rock and the other rocky peaks. It’s a fun spot to wander and explore! Head right towards Tower Rock by hiking along the ridge.
The ridge offers pretty views of the river and surrounding hills and there are some fun rocks to scramble on. For a look deeper into the canyon, we like to head all the way out past Tower Rock to the outcropping above the river. When done taking in the views, head back to the lot the same way.
What to Bring to Hike at Tower Rock State Park
Cash: Bring exact change to pay for the park fee if needed.
Water: An essential for any hike, especially when it heats up here for the summer.
Layers: Even in the summers, mornings can be chilly so pack or wear extra layers. It is also often windy here, so a rain jacket/windbreaker can be good to pack.
Hiking Boots: Sturdy hiking shoes with solid tread are recommended, especially on the loose gravel trail and for climbing around the rocks.
Extra Gear: Hiking poles may help if you enjoy hiking with them. Early or late in the season, you may need spikes/Yaktrax to hike the steeper parts of the trail when it becomes icy.
Sun Protection: The trail offers little shade, so bring sunscreen, a hat, and/or sunglasses.
Camera: In case you want to capture your adventure.