10 Best Things to Do Near Billings, Montana

Billings, Montana, is a fun place to visit with western museums, breweries, restaurants, and a wildlife sanctuary where you can see bears and wolves.

You don't have to drive too far out of Billings, ​​Montana, to find outdoor recreation and more wild west history. The region is diverse with terrains to explore including mountains, rivers, and canyons. History buffs, in particular, will find this region's national monuments, historic sites, and old west atmosphere fun to delve into.

01 of 10

See Pompey's Pillar National Monument

Pompeys Pillar National Monument
Getty Images/Stephan Saks
3039 Hwy 312, Pompeys Pillar, MT 59064, USA
Phone +1 406-969-5380

This is a must-stop for history buffs. Located just east of Billings off of Interstate 94, Pompey's Pillar is a fascinating historical spot with unique physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark expedition. On the return route from the Pacific Northwest, a party headed by Clark separated from the rest of the expedition to follow the Yellowstone River. William Clark carved his name and the date on a sandstone rock formation, which he designated as Pompey's Pillar after Sacagawea's son (Pompey was the child's nickname).

The site is now preserved as Pompey's Pillar National Historical Monument, with an interpretive center and trail.

02 of 10

Experience the Little Bighorn Battlefield

Headstones at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Kerrick James/Getty Images
I-90 Frontage Rd, Crow Agency, MT 59022, USA
Phone +1 406-638-2621

This National Monument preserves and interprets the site of one of the late and most notorious battles of the 19th-century Indian wars. The battle between 263 U.S. Army soldiers, led by Lt. Col. George Custer, and thousands of Lakota and Cheyenne warriors took place on June 25—26, 1876.

Today, visitors to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument can learn more about those fateful days by taking a self-guided walking and auto tour, by experiencing the exhibits and film at the official visitor center, and by exploring some key sites on the battlefield.

03 of 10

Visit the Dam at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Devil Canyon, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
John Elk/Getty Images
Fort Smith, MT 59035, USA
Phone +1 406-666-2412

The Yellowtail Dam on the Bighorn River created a vast reservoir that extends over 70 miles down into Wyoming. Passing through colorful canyons, the Bighorn Lake, and the surrounding landscape provides opportunities for outdoor recreation of all kinds, from fishing and boating on the lake to camping, hiking, and wildlife watching.

Stop by the Yellowtail Dam Visitor Center to learn more about the natural and human history of the canyon through films and exhibits.

04 of 10

Learn About the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs

Wild Horses, Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Refuge, Montana-Wyoming Border

Mark Newman/Design Pics/Getty Images

1106 Rd 12, Lovell, WY 82431-9757, USA
Phone +1 307-548-9453

South of Billings, in Lovell, you'll find a relatively small mountain range which is home to a free-roaming herd of mustangs. Visitors to the Pryor Mountain area will enjoy wildlife-watching along with interesting geology and historic sites.

To learn more about the Pryor Mountain mustangs, visit the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center museum in Lovell, Wyoming.

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05 of 10

Visit Chief Plenty Coups State Park

Chief Plenty Coups State Park
Visit Montana
1 Pryor Rd, Pryor, MT 59066, USA
Phone +1 406-252-1289

Located within the Crow Reservation south of Billings, this official historic site preserves the farmland and home of Chief Plenty Coups, a famous chief who was known for peace-making. Visitors to this day-use state park will enjoy a visitor center with interpretive exhibits, hiking, wildlife-watching, and fishing.

Special events include Native American Heritage Day, held in September, where you can see a parade and Crow drummers and dancers.

06 of 10

Drive to Red Lodge, Montana

Red Lodge Montana
Red Lodge.com
224 Broadway Ave N, Red Lodge, MT 59068, USA
Phone +1 406-446-3667

This mountain resort town is a fun place to wander and explore. Red Lodge is located an hour south of Billings ​in the foothills of the gorgeous Bighorn Mountains. The charming downtown offers numerous shops and eateries in historic buildings.

Local attractions include the Carbon County Historical Society and Museum. The museum is housed in a 1909 brick building and features exhibits on the history of Carbon County, and a shop with western-related books and gifts.

Red Lodge is located at the east end of the famous Beartooth Highway, considered one of the most scenic drives in the U.S.

07 of 10

Take a Scenic Drive to the Old West

Roads in Montana

Michael Lynch/EyeEm/Getty Images

There are a number of scenic driving routes you can explore both east and south of Billings. All of these drives have an Old West flavor, featuring river and canyon scenery. Loops that include driving east on Interstate 94, then cutting south on one of the state highways, and returning to Billings via Interstate 90 are popular.

The Billings Scenic Drive is a marked route that takes you around Billings and also outside of Billings to Chief Plenty Coups State Park, Pompey's Pillar, Clarks Crossing, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and the Beartooth Highway. You'll never be far from Billings.

08 of 10

Hike the East Lake Rosebud Trail

The East Lake Rosebud Trail in the Custer Gallatin National Forest will take you to a number of scenic lakes depending on how far you want to hike.

To get to the trailhead from the Beartooth Ranger District Office on Hwy 212 in Red Lodge, drive north on US Hwy 212 for 2.1 miles. Turn left (west) onto MT-78 and drive 19.7 miles. Turn left (south) onto Roscoe Rd. Drive 2.3 miles, cross the bridge and turn right (south) onto East Rosebud Rd. Drive 10.6 miles and until you dead-end at the trailhead. 

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09 of 10

Visit the Wildlife

Grizzly Bear at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary

William Campbell/Getty Images

At the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge, you can visit the walk-through facility to see and learn about wildlife such as black bears, foxes, wolves, birds of prey, mountain lions, bison, and more. There are tours available as well as classes.

The wildlife sanctuary is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, except for when the staff and volunteers are off-site for education programs and field trips.

10 of 10

Go Horseback Riding

Sculpture on Custer's Battlefield National Monument

 Steven Clevenger/Getty Images

You can ride on the reservation near Custer's Battlefield National Monument or along the Pryor Creek with wranglers and horses from Western Romance Company.

They offer scenic rides from several locations for both beginners and experienced riders. The company also offers wagon rides and pack trips.

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Best Things to Do Near Billings, Montana