Brian Jewell

Billings: The Start of Something Special


Brian Jewell
Published January 01, 2017

The people of Billings, Montana, want to get you into their city. They also want to get you out.

It’s not that they are inhospitable — quite the opposite. Billings’ location in the southeast of the state puts it within an easy driving distance of some of the area’s most beautiful scenery and most historic sites. Locals want you to enjoy the attractions and amenities within the city limits without missing the chance to explore these nearby treasures.

“You could stay here for a week and see all the things in town,” said Alex Tyson, executive director of Visit Billings. “But our community brand is Montana’s Trailhead. It’s a hub-and-spoke mentality. If you’re going to come here, you should take in a little bit of the United States history and also see the scenic wonders around us. You won’t be disappointed.”

The Local Look

For many people, Montana exemplifies the essence of the rugged outdoors and the Wild West, and travelers often begin their Montana journeys in Billings, which is Montana’s largest city and offers air service from several major national carriers. The landscape of the area immediately surrounding the city is an impressive sight to many first-time visitors.

“Montana is one of those bucket-list destinations — Big Sky Country,” Tyson said. “You can see for miles. Billings is situated where the mountains meet the plains.”

It’s a short trip from the airport to the center of town, a regional hub of shopping, dining and entertainment. The city has 55 hotels and hundreds of restaurants, along with a wide variety of local shops where visitors can purchase anything from custom-fitted, handmade hats to beautiful artwork created in the area.

The city’s geographic surroundings also offer some outdoor highlights.

“Our entire city is sheltered by unique, beautiful sandstone cliffs,” Tyson said. “We are situated in between these rim rocks and the Yellowstone River. We have the Marathon Loop trail system that runs approximately 26 miles from the river to the rim rocks.”

Tyson said groups visiting town often enjoy watching the sun set over the rim rocks, and some enjoy the experience so much that they return to the spot to experience the sunset again the following night.

Nearby Nature

Among Billings’ greatest assets is its proximity to some of the most impressive natural and historic sites in Montana.

Groups can reach the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park from Billings in a little over an hour. But they should also take advantage of some of the other National Park Service (NPS) sites and scenic stops located throughout the region.

“About an hour’s drive south of Billings, we have major U.S. history with the Battle of Little Bighorn and Bighorn National Monument,” Tyson said. “And 90 minutes south of us is Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. It’s one of the most spectacular and undiscovered NPS entities. It’s breathtaking, with 200-foot cliffs.”

Pompeii’s Pilar National Monument, site of the only physical evidence of Lewis and Clark’s journey across the West, sits about 30 miles east of Billings.

Many of the most popular scenic sites in southeast Montana are connected by Beartooth Highway, a 68-mile-long National Scenic Byway that winds through the area.

“Charles Kuralt called it America’s most beautiful road, and USA Today Travel rates it as a top scenic byway year after year,” Tyson said.

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