Mini Adventures: Montana Day Trip Ideas

When the “I’m bored,” and “There’s nothing to do,” refrains start to reach their peak this summer, maybe it’s time to hit the road. There are plenty of family-friendly destinations within about an hour’s drive from Billings.  Here are a few mini adventures that are fun for the whole family.

Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, located at 615 E 2nd St. in Red Lodge, is home to black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, fox, wolves, deer and elk as well as many birds. All of the animals were relocated to the sanctuary because they were unable to survive on their own in the wild. The sanctuary is a short easy walking loop and provides children with a glimpse into the lives of each species. Each animal has a story, which can be read on their individual exhibits. The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary includes a gift shop.

While you’re in Red Lodge, indulge your sweet tooth with a stop by the Candy Emporium, which includes one of the state’s widest selections of candy, including homemade fudge and chocolates.

Pompey’s Pillar, located about 25 miles east of Billings off Interstate 94, is a historical landmark with lots to offer. The pillar, which rises out of the prairie along the Yellowstone River, is where William Clark carved his name more than 200 years ago during his trek up the river on the Corps of Discovery. While historically significant, the location offers even more in the way of attractions. It includes several walking paths in a park-like atmosphere. It’s a great place to observe birds and other wildlife. There’s also a visitors’ center and plenty of places for a picnic. Because it is a popular tourist attraction, you never know who you might meet there and what far-off places they may be from.

Natural Bridge Falls is located south of Big Timber on Highway 298. Here, the Boulder Rivers seems to disappear

underground before spilling out over a large waterfall. During high water in the spring, it floods over the natural bridge and the falls are spectacular. The area includes a paved, ADA-accessible walking trail to vistas overlooking both the natural bridge and waterfall. There are several picnic places near the parking lot as well. This trip will take longer than an hour, but is worth the drive.

While you pass through Big Timber, check out Cole Drug, at 136 McLeod. It’s an old fashioned soda fountain and drug store that offers sundaes, milkshakes, and a long list of traditional sodas you can’t find anywhere else.

Chief Plenty Coups State Park, located just outside Pryor about 40 minutes south of Billings, was once the home of Plenty Coups, a Crow Indian chief who led the crow tribe into many battles and later helped to pave the way for peace between white and Native American cultures. The park includes a walking path around his home and sacred springs. Guided tours of the grounds and Plenty Coups’s home are offered daily and the park includes a visitors’ center. Events are held almost every weekend, and include a wide variety of programs. Check out the calendar for details.