Northeast of Yellowstone, find a brewery district, gluten-free pancakes, Montana’s only zoo and historic charm in Billings, Mont., a city of 110,000. Here is a list of our favorite things to do before heading down the road to Yellowstone National Park.
1. Walkable Brewery Tour
Reason to Go: Visit six breweries, two distilleries and a cider mill on this 1.5-mile stroll past outdoor patios.
Access: Start at Thirsty Street at the Garage with a Rimrock’d Amber and end with a Skypoint IPA at Montana Brewing Co.
2. Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery
Reason to Go: Legendary among locals, this downtown breakfast establishment serves up traditional morning food with stellar baked goods and even gluten-free pancakes.
Quirky Fact: Pancakes here may be larger than your head.
3. The Northern Hotel
Reason to Go: This elegant historic hotel has been voted “best hotel in Billings” for eight consecutive years. It features two fantastic restaurants: Bernie’s Diner for breakfast and lunch and TEN for upscale atmosphere and innovative Montana cuisine.
Quirky Fact: Break all the rules and order the “Vacation Breakfast” at Bernie’s – it’s chocolate cake coupled with a chocolate milkshake.
4. Swords Rimrock Park
Reason to Go: Walk, bike or skateboard along the 4.5-mile, ADA-accessible pathway that runs the length of the city-owned park located along the top of the Rimrocks, a geologic formation.
Trivia: These sandstone bluffs surround the city and are estimated to be at least 70 million years old. On a clear day, five mountain ranges can be seen from the trail: Pryor, Big Horn, Bull, Crazy and Absaroka-Beartooth.
5. Pictograph Cave State Park
Reason to Go: See warriors and animals painted on rock walls by ancient people more than 2,000 years ago in Pictograph Cave just five miles south of Billings. The cave is 160 feet wide and 45 feet deep.
Quirky Fact: Archaeologists have discovered more than 30,000 artifacts, including tools and weapons here.
6. Pompeys Pillar National Monument
Reason to Go: On their return route after reaching the Pacific Ocean, members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped here and Clark engraved his first initial and last name, along with the date, July 25, 1806, into the rock.
Quirky Fact: The rock is named after Sacagawea’s child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, also known as “Pomp.”
7. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Reason to Go: See the site recognizing the June 25-26, 1876, battle where the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry fought Sioux and Cheyenne Indians in one of their final armed efforts to preserve their way of life.
Quirky Fact: Sixty miles from Billings, this is the third most-visited place in Montana.
8. Zoo Montana
Reason to Go: See wolves, grizzly bears, wolverines, Amur tigers and other animals, most of whom are rescues and all of whose natural habitat is at the 45th parallel. This means they can handle Montana’s cold winters and hot summers. Dedicated to wildlife conservation, this zoo is the only one in Montana and oversees critical breeding programs. It also has great interpretive exhibits about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, making it a nice tie in with your Yellowstone vacation.
Quirky Fact: Winston the Sloth is the zoo’s newest celebrity animal who even has his own Instagram account.
For more information:
Billings Visitor Center
(406) 252-4016, (800) 735-2635
815 S. 27 St., Billings, MT 59107