Billings Montana is an outdoor lover’s paradise. With mountains, rivers, national forests, and wildlife reserves, there is something for everyone who loves to be active in nature. Billings, MT is a particularly great destination for hikers, with hills, mountains, nature trails, and beautiful scenery nearby. If you’re planning to be in Billings and you want to take a hike, read the list below. These four areas are great destinations to experience natural Montana, challenge yourself, and get some exercise while you’re at it.
Just two miles east of downtown Billings is the Four Dances Natural area, a great place in Central Montana to go for a hike. Four Dances is made up of 765 acres of undeveloped land, and the area is now open to the public for recreation and exploring. The land at Four Dances is made up of Sagebrush and grassland, and the area is rocky – with rising elevations and cliffs that overlook the city. Visit Four Dances Natural Area, and there are several walking trails to choose from. Each leads to the top of a large plateau, and the top offers the best views of the city of Billings of anywhere in the entire area. The hiking trails are long, but luckily, there are lots benches along the way in case hikers need to take a break. Visit Four Dances to have a great hike and take in a breathtaking view of Billings; it’s also filled with lots of natural wildlife, so if you’re lucky, you may spot a snake or falcon (just be sure to keep a safe distance).
Billings is actually built at the foot of a massive wall of rimrocks – natural sandstone formations that create staggering and magnificent cliffs. Just west of Billings is Phipps Park, a park that is set atop the rimrocks that offers hikers dirt trails to get to the top. Phipps Parks is a city park just outside the city limits, and it allows its visitors astonishing views of the city and surrounding area – particularly the Yellowstone River Valley and several mountain ranges nearby. Phipps Park is home to even more recreation opportunities, like roped climbs for experts or an excellent disc golf course – Diamond X.
To get a little taste of history while you hike, check out Pictograph Cave State Park, a Montana State Park located just outside of Billings. Pictograph Cave State Park is the site of over 100 pictographs left by prehistoric hunters who once camped out in the area over 2,000 years ago. Pictograph Cave State Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964, and today visitors can explore the site of the caves or take a tour of the new visitor center. Hikers can hike the ¼ mile trail to the caves, and once they reach them, can walk through the three caves – Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost. History buffs will also want to check out the artifacts in the museum, which include over 30,000 instruments, tools, and artifacts – and offer a great glimpse into how Montana got to be the place it is today.
Located about 60 miles from downtown Billings are The Pryor Mountains, home to some of the best hiking in the area. Another great option for hiking and cave-lovers alike is the Crater Ice Cave/Big Pryor Mountain hiking trail, a quiet, serene hike for nature-lovers to the top of Big Pryor Mountain. The hiking trail through Crater Ice Cave is about 1.7 long, and it climbs 1,600 into the air. The trail is cut through a forest of Douglas fir, and it is lined with animals, beautiful flora, and, best of all, very few people. Crater Ice Cave is an actual cave along the trail. It can be dangerous to go in it, especially during the winter, but it makes for a beautiful sight of limestone and ice crystals. Choose to hike to the top of Big Pryor Mountain if you really want an escape – the hike is strenuous, but the beautiful sights along the way make it worth it.
Photo Courtesy of Kevin Keller