Travelling to Billings Montana? These are best things to do in Billings!
You’ll hike on the Rimrocks, visit the battlefield of Custer’s Last Stand, see ancient cave paintings and be awestruck by the stunning Beartooth Mountains. After a long day in the beautiful Billings area come back to downtown Billings to enjoy a brew or two.
Billings is definitely a must see on a Montana Road Trip.
3-Day Itinerary of the Billings Area
- Day 1. Explore all the Things to do in Billings and explore local Rimrocks
- Day 2. Old West History Driving Loop: The Crow People, General Custer and more
- Day 3. From Billing, take a Scenic Drive through the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains
- Extra Day. Drive the famous Beartooth Highway from Billings to Yellowstone
Things to do in Billings Mt
With the Rimrocks and the Yellowstone River on its doorstep, there are plenty of fun outdoor activities in Billings. Here are the Best Activities in Billings Montana:
- Four Dances Natural Area
- North Rimrocks
- Black Otter Trail
- Yellowstone Kelly Interpretive Site
- Explore Downtown Billings
Four Dances Natural Area
Four Dances provides one of the best views in Montana. This natural area has some of the best hiking in Billings. Hiking trails crisscross the Natural Area at the top of the beautiful sandstone cliffs of the East Rimrocks. There are 765 acres of sagebrush and ponderosa pines on the plateau ready for you to explore. Some paths lead to Sacrifice Cliff on the western edge where you can look down to the Yellowstone River, 500 feet below. Bicycles, motorized vehicles and horses are not allowed in Four Dances. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are winter activities here.
The best views of Billings and the Yellowstone River Valley are from the top of the North Rimrocks. In the distance you can see five mountain ranges (Pryor, Big Horn, Bull, Crazy and Absaroka-Beartooth). They offer infinite amounts of outdoor adventure: camping, fishing, hunting and mountain biking.
The Rimrocks are also popular with rock climbers. Watch for ropes tied off along the edge as people climb up or rappel down the face of the cliff.
Black Otter Trail
Cycling or walking this multi-use paved trail is a great way to explore the top of the North Rimrocks. The Black Otter Trail connects to a large network of urban trails running throughout the city. There are lots of parking areas nearby so it is easy to leave the car behind.
Yellowstone Kelly Interpretive Site
Learn about Luther “Yellowstone” Kelly’s contribution to the taming of the west. Interpretive signs near his gravesite introduce you to this trapper, hunter, guide, army scout, triple war veteran and businessman who traveled extensively in the late 1800s for the US Government.
Billings Walking Tour
A great way to experience this friendly social city is on a downtown walking tour. The map below is a walking loop linking downtown museums, interesting sites and the “Walkable Billings Brew Trail”. Many of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Walk all or only a part, stopping at interesting points along the way.
To help you customize your tour, here are some noteworthy places along the route.
The Billing Depot was a passenger rail station from 1909 until the last train stopped here in 1979. Today, the Depot is a popular events facility. Check out the information boards behind the building. They provide lots of information on the history of Billings.
Western Heritage Center
The center highlights the regional history of the Yellowstone River Valley. The building was built in 1901 and was originally the Billings Library.
Moss Mansion Museum
The museum highlights the influence that Preston Moss and his family had on Billings’ growth. Built for Preston Moss in 1903, this 28-room mansion was the Moss home until opening as the museum in 1986.
This tent-like structure over the intersection of North Broadway and 2nd Avenue North is 3 “sails” (one moves!) offering protection against sun and rain.
Alberta Bair Theater
This 1931 art-deco theater is now a modern performing arts center, offering performances by both professional and amateur artists.
Yellowstone Art Museum and Visible Vault
The museum is the largest contemporary art museum in Montana. YAM has opened its art storage facility to the public at the Visible Vault. It is a unique opportunity to see how art is handled and stored.
Old West History Driving Loop: The Crow People, General Custer and more
The area southeast of Billings is rich with Native American and early West history. See ancient cave paintings at Pictograph Cave State Park. Chief Plenty Coups State Park provides a great introduction to the Crow People. Pompey’s Pillar National Monument was visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is the site of General Custer’s famous “Last Stand”. The Big Horn County Museum’s 35 acres showcase early 19th century county history.
These world-class attractions are all within an hour’s drive of Billings! Visiting two or three of these will fill your day.
Pictograph Cave State Park
See ancient cave paintings in Pictograph Cave, one of three caves preserved in Pictograph Cave State Park. A short loop trail connects the caves which were visited by generations of Crow and other Plains Tribes’ hunters. The Exhibits in the Visitor Center showcase some of the many artifacts collected locally. You’ll discover what archaeologists believe these artifacts teach us about the lives of the early Plains People.
Chief Plenty Coups State Park
The Visitor Center introduces the Crow culture. Chief Plenty Coups was instrumental in building trust between the Crow and the US government as the reservation system was being implemented. You’ll see his two-story log home, medicine spring and gravesite. The state park is Chief Plenty Coups’ 195-acre homestead on the Crow Reservation.
Pompey’s Pillar National Monument
Pompey’s Pillar is a 150-foot high sandstone monolith in the Yellowstone River Valley. It has been an observation point for more than 11,000 years. See “graffiti” documenting some of its visitors: from descendants of the Crow to Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Take the interpretive trail to the top of the pillar as people have for thousands of years.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
This battlefield is the site of Custer’s Last Stand. Here, in June 1876, several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors won a decisive victory over the 7th Calvary of the US Army, killing Custer and most of his command. Learn about the events leading to this decisive battle and its consequences. Walk the battlefield, see monuments to the fallen, and the cemeteries for both sides.
Big Horn County Museum
This collection of over 20 historic structures, on 35 acres, highlights the early history of Big Horn County. The museum includes a church, school, train depot, blacksmith shop, log cabins and barns full of historic vehicles and equipment including artifacts of frontier life in the 1800s.
Scenic Drives near Billings Mt
These are 2 excellent scenic drives near Billings that take you through the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains:
If you start your day early enough, you can do both.
Beartooth Front Scenic Drive
This drive connects the quaint towns of Columbus and Red Lodge. On the 46-mile paved Highway 78, you’ll travel through wide river valleys and see rolling grass-covered foothills with stunning views of the Beartooth Mountains in the distance. Opportunities for fishing abound as you’ll cross the Yellowstone River and travel along the Stillwater River and East Rosebud Creek.
Below is a quick introduction to some of the interesting places along the road as you travel south. It is stunning in either direction!
Columbus and the New Atlas Bar
Columbus is a gateway to the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains. Make sure you stop at the New Atlas Bar, dubbed the “horniest bar in Montana”. Even a quick look at its collection of mounted animal heads will explain its fame.
If you plan to camp or just cannot wait to get that fishing rod out, check out Itch-Kep-Pe Park on the bank of the Yellowstone River at the edge of Columbus.
This is a great place to grab a quick bite to eat. It is the start of the Absarokee Loop Scenic Drive, described below.
The town has an interesting mix of locally-owned shops and restaurants offering a wide range of food. Red Lodge Ales is a great place to have a meal and enjoy a locally-brewed beverage. Red Lodge is the beginning of the Beartooth Highway, a beautiful route to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. See our side trip below for more information.
Carbon County Historical Society and Museum
Learn about local history, legendary local rodeo families (the Lindermans and the Greenoughs), see an interactive coal and hard rock mine exhibit and more. There is a lot packed into this 1909 building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Carbon County Depot Gallery
When you visit the Carbon County Depot Gallery, in the historic 1889 railroad depot, you’ll discover the area’s vibrant arts culture. The Depot displays original art in a variety of styles and media.
Absarokee Loop Scenic Drive
Drive through the scenic foothills and river valleys of the Beartooth Mountains. Starting in Absarokee, travel the beautiful Stillwater River valley on Highway 420 to Nye. There are many fishing access points to the Stillwater, which is known for excellent trout fishing. To complete the 44-mile long loop, take highways 419 and 78 back to Absarokee.
Interested in a hike? There are 2 hiking options with trailheads less than 10 miles south of Nye on Highway 419.
Sioux Charley Lake Trail
This trail is a nice, easy 6-mile roundtrip hike. It is relatively flat with only a couple of short uphill pieces. The first part of the trip is along the Stillwater River rapids. A beautiful forest path leads you to sparkling Sioux Charley Lake. The large trailhead parking lot is at the end of Highway 419. Families will find this a great hike. It is best to wear proper hiking shoes.
Woodbine Falls Trail
If you are looking for a shorter hike, try the nearby Woodbine Falls Trail. This 1.4 mile roundtrip trail ending at Woodbine Falls is for all skill levels. The trailhead is located in the Woodbine Campground.
Side Trip – Beartooth Highway
The Beartooth Highway has some of the best scenery in Montana. This highway winds for 70 miles from Red Lodge through the Beartooth Pass to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
You’ll see some of the most rugged and wild areas of the lower 48 states, passing from lodge pole pine forest to alpine tundra. Grizzly and black bears along with elk, deer, moose, mountain goats, mountain lions, bighorn sheep and bobcats can all be found in the Beartooth Mountains. There are many alpine lakes and hiking trails to explore. The scenery you drive through is incredible regardless of the weather.
The highway has 7 miles of exhilarating switchbacks between Red Lodge and the Beartooth Pass. The elevation change is almost a mile! Take your time and enjoy the scenery. From Rock Creek Vista Point, look down on the switchbacks you just climbed, to the stunning river valley. Signs here provide information about the natural history of the area and the story of the highway’s construction and opening in 1936.
Allow at least 2 or 3 hours for the trip, but plan on more as the views will have you stopping regularly. Trip length can also be affected by weather changes along the route. Weather can change dramatically along the drive so be prepared for cold weather, even in the summer.
The Beartooth Highway is usually open by Memorial Day and closes by mid-October, but snow and ice conditions vary greatly year to year so use these dates only as a guideline.
More Montana Road Trips
Billings is just one of several great place to visit in Montana. Be sure to see all of the great drives in our article, 5 Best Montana Road Trips – The Ultimate Guide.
Know Before You Go
Best Time to Visit Billings Montana
Visit between June and September. Outside of these months, you could see snow.
Directions to Billings Montana
Billings Logan International Airport has a modern terminal accepting domestic flights. All the major car rental agencies have cars on-site. Uber and Lyft offer service in Billings.
Make sure your hiking pack includes these items:
- First aid kit with blister treatments.
- Water and snacks – There are NO taps on the trail.
- Bear spray
Looking for an accommodation in Billings?
Make Billings your home base while you explore the Billings area. Check out these great options.
- Northern Hotel – Exceptional
- Boothill Inn and Suites – Highly rated
- Here are other great hotels in Billings
Billings Montana Map
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