And as the state’s historical gateway to the west, Billings wears its heritage proudly on its sleeve. The city recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of Pompeys Pillar, where explorer William Clark carved his name into the sandstone lookout rock—the area’s only remaining physical evidence of the expedition.
Nature is never more than a stone’s throw away in Billings. Located a little more than two hours from Yellowstone National Park, Billings also serves as a launch to the northeast entrance. MetraPark (metrapark.com), the area’s premier convention center, features total of 235,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, including meeting rooms, lobbies, the arena floor and concourses.
In Billings, visit the Peter Yegen, Jr. Yellowstone County Museum (pyycm.org), where you’ll find authentic cowboy and Native American artifacts. Or tour the Yellowstone Art Museum (artmuseum.org), showcasing a first-class collection of Western and contemporary art, including a prominent collection by cowboy illustrator Will James.
Visit historic Red Lodge (redlodge.com), now a resort town bordering the park, where you’ll have access to wonders like geysers, mudpots, painted canyons and unlimited recreation.
If there is time, your group can hike the scenic Chief Black Otter Trail. Among the trail’s historic landmarks is Boothill Cemetery, burial site for some of the area’s notorious outlaws. Or take a walk back in time down the historic Nez Perce National Historic Trail (fs.fed.us/npnht).
About 60 miles from Billings, on the historic Great Plains, is the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (nps.gov/libi), glorified in grade-school textbooks as the location of “Custer’s Last Stand.” The monument memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to defend their way of life after Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and 263 soldiers suffered a bitter defeat at the hands of more than 3,000 Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. Take your time, wander about and breathe in the history; you’ll be experiencing Montana’s essence.