“Enjoy a pleasant loop through the cottonwood forest at Cross Ranch State Park.”
— Karen Ryberg
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Wildlife
This hike's flat grades, manageable length, and opportunities for wildlife-viewing make it a great option for the whole family.
This is a pleasant loop through the cottonwood forest at Cross Ranch State Park. It takes hikers past the park amphitheater, the cabins and yurts that are available for rental, and along the Missouri River, covering the main attractions of the park.
Need to Know
Ticks can be quite bad in this park, particularly from April through June. If you want to be more protected, tuck your pant legs into your socks, your shirt into your pants, and wear plenty of repellant.
Start in the main parking lot near the Cross Ranch State Park Visitor Center. Head south from the trailhead sign along the Interpretive Trail
through the valley forest. From the intersection with a connector trail, the trail loops to the north and follows the Missouri River. Along this portion of the hike, there are several nice spots for a break or pictures of the river.
Continue onto the Matah Trail
, which also follows the Missouri River, before turning left (west) and eventually wrapping around to the south. Continue south through the cottonwood forest, eventually meeting back up with the Interpretive Trail
Enjoy a few more steps along the scenic Interpretive Trail
before it ends on the north side of the visitor center. Follow the gravel road around the buildings to the parking lot.
In years with little snow, this is a nice hike in the winter as it is well sheltered from the wind by the forest and the higher land to the west. When there is sufficient snow, this is a groomed cross-country ski trail.
Flora & Fauna
White-tailed deer, bald eagles, giant Canada goose, cottonwood, ash, and a variety of other birds can be spotted in the park.
History & Background
This is one of the last fairly undeveloped stretches of the Missouri River. The park is left mostly primitive to preserve the area as a natural part of the Missouri River Valley and cottonwood forest.