The mighty stone walls of Swords Rimrock Park surround beautiful Billings like a natural, protective wall.
Just like we do on this morning, early fur traders and Natives must have once gazed upon the early encampments down at the Yellowstone River, which quickly grew to become Montana’s largest city. Today, Billings is not only a vibrant and active city, but it’s also a perfect gateway to the famous Yellowstone National Park.
A Morning Stroll Through Swords Rimrock Park
From the park, you have a fantastic view over the city, the river and the mountain ranges that define Montana. And even though it’s early, there are quite a few people enjoying the view. Its direct vicinity to downtown and the kilometers-long hiking trails make Swords Rimrock Park a popular destination for jogging, mountain biking and hiking.
We enjoy the views and sunny morning, and as we stroll along the cliffs, we encounter remnants of early civilizations of this area. At Boothill cemetery at the edge of the park, early settlers of the 19th century were buried, and a little further, natives of the Crow tribe were once laid to rest at Skeleton Cliff.
Pompeys Pillar National Monument
Our journey tracing the history all around Billings continues, and we drive east to Pompeys Pillar National Monument. Even from afar, it’s easy to spot this 45-meter tall rock. It’s also easy to see why this place became popular both as a gathering place and lookout point. It’s located on the Yellowstone River, and from here, you can see for kilometers in every direction onto the surrounding landscapes.
As we ascend the rock, we spot many petroglyphs and signatures carved into the sandstone. One of these signatures, however, makes this rock truly special: It’s by William Clark, American explorer and namesake of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. He carved his name into the rock in 1806 on his way west to the Pacific Coast. Even today, this signature is some of the only physical evidence of the expedition.
Getting Up Close With Artists at the Yellowstone Art Museum
We spend the afternoon at the Yellowstone Art Museum in historic Downtown Billings. Here you’ll find Montana’s largest collection of contemporary art, but along with this impressive collection, the museum offers something truly special: Rather than locking away pieces from the public, the museum has a vault in an adjacent building, where visitors can actually view the works that aren’t currently on display. This is also where the current artist-in-residence works in an open studio. During our visit, we get the chance to marvel at the great fantasy masks of Louis Habeck and witness up close as he’s sculpting a giant dinosaur head.
Craft Beverages in the Billings Brewery District
Our discovery tour around Billings continues into the evening. Everything around here is walkable, including six craft breweries and two distilleries located within a 2.4-kilometer radius of each other. We enjoy a beer at Überbrew, and afterward, let our day come to a relaxing end by enjoying a Moscow Mule at Trailhead Spirits directly across the street.
Billings is a city full of history and culture directly at the gates of the fascinating landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. With its cozy and inviting downtown and great brewery district, it’s the perfect trailhead for further adventures in Montana!