Hike the First Peoples Buffalo Jump Loop
Montana › First People Buffalo Jump State Park
Added by Jen Weir
Looming out of the prairie of Central Montana is the First Peoples Buffalo Jump. The jump and the surrounding trails sit inside the Ulm Pishkun State Park, just south-west of Great Falls.
While the trail doesn't offer the typical scenery of a Montana hike, the views are spectacular. At the top of the jump, you're at one of the highest points of the basin, allowing you to take in the full magnitude of the surrounding mountains, which include the Big Belt, Little Belt and Highwood Ranges as well as the Rocky Mountain Front.
The trail can be accessed from below and above the jump. Going in from the bottom gives you access to a paved parking lot along with a visitor's center equipped with water fountains, bathrooms, a gift shop and educational displays.
Approaching the trail from the top of the Buffalo Jump provides fewer amenities -- there is a gravel pull-out with an outhouse. If you don't want to hike the entire trail and just take in the views, this is the way to go. The visitor's center and upper access area are open year round; however, open hours are cut shorter during the winter months so double check before you go.
The trail itself is roughly three miles, well-maintained and adequately marked with mainly smooth dirt and grass paths. Interpretive signs and benches are scattered along the trail. The loop is easy enough a four-year-old can hike it, but if you push yourself you can definitely work up a sweat. A relatively steep slope are found on either end of the Buffalo Jump, but they're made easier with several switch-backs. Keep an eye out for rocks on the trail beneath the jump.
As I said before, the views from the top are pretty amazing not to mention the historical significance of the site -- the First Peoples Buffalo Jump is one of the largest buffalo jumps in North America. The jump consists of a mile long sandstone cliff. As you gaze upon the cliffs, it's incredible to imagine the terrified bison falling to their deaths where your feet are currently planted.
This adventure makes a great family outing or a solo trail run. It's a short drive from town but far enough you're breathing in good, clean air. There's a good chance you'll come across rabbits, prairie dogs, rock chucks, many different species of birds, deer and maybe even a coyote. There are rattle snakes in the area so always be alert during the warmer months.
As far as food goes, the small town of Ulm is only a few minutes away or you can drive the 15 miles into Great Falls.
- Water bottle
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