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Montana Stops on the Way

Go Big in Southeast Montana

Big skies and history meet in these authentic Montana cowboy towns on the way to Yellowstone.

When you drive through the towns of Southeast Montana, like Billings, Glendive and Miles City you’ll notice that the skies are big. Like, really, really big. Big Sky Country isn’t just a moniker for the endless daytime blues. It also means that when the sun goes down, the stars are big, too.

If you look at a light pollution map of the United States, eastern Montana has some of the darkest skies in the country. Head to Medicine Rocks State Park near Ekalaka, one of only two International Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the state, to marvel at the Milky Way.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Photo: Andy Austin/Visit Southeast Montana

To experience Big Sky Country during the day, rent a pontoon boat at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Fort Smith to explore this impressive canyon. Grab picnic supplies at the Ok-A-Beh Marina before heading out on the water. If you’re feeling adventurous, reserve one of the boat-in campsites to really get away from it all. (southeastmontana.com/listing/bighorn-canyon-national-recreation-area)

“It’s a great way to get some extra mileage out of your national parks pass,” says Visit Southeast Montana’s marketing specialist Megan Hoffman.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Photo: Andy Austin/Visit Southeast Montana

Southeast Montana is also home to a sobering, yet important piece of Western history, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument on Interstate 90 southeast of Billings. You’ll learn about the battle between the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes and Lt. Col. Custer’s 7th Cavalry – one of the last armed American Indian efforts to protect their way of life. In the summer rangers lead educational tours. Afterwards, fuel up at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post with can’t-miss fry bread and Indian tacos. (southeastmontana.com/historical-sites)

At the end of the day, make sure to grab dinner at one of this area’s many amazing local eateries. In Hardin, you won’t want to miss 3 Brother Bistro’s house-smoked meats. For a taste of Montana’s local agriculture, head to the Fieldhouse in Billings for farm-to-table fare.

And when you’re ready to head out for another day of exploring, coffee is a must. In Glendive, Bloom Coffeehouse and Eatery is known for their excellent breakfast sandwiches and in Ekalaka, Stomping Grounds is the place to fuel up before hitting Medicine Rocks State Park. For more information, visit southeastmontana.com.