Winter is here in full-force, and we are loving it. With an average high February temperature of 35 degrees, we’ll bet you cannot resist either. So, while you are visiting Southeast Montana—or if you are simply driving through the region—stretch your legs and enjoy our amazing landscape. Hike, bike, snowshoe or cross-country ski, these Top 3 Winter Hikes are well worth your while.
Swords Rimrock Park
Much beloved by Billings residents and visitors alike, the multitude of trails at Swords Rimrock Park, gives the best-of-the-best: unparalleled views of the Bighorn, Pryor, Beartooth, Snowy, Bull and Crazy Mountain ranges. Known locally as “The Rims,” this expansive park makes you feel, almost literally, on top of the world.
Southeast Montana’s sunny days and the Rim’s hard surfaces typically melt quickly, so plan to wear appropriate footwear. Or, hit a side-trail if you are an off-the-beaten-path type. Several parking spots, both on the east and west sides of N. 27th Street in Billings, give you easy access to these trails. Consider trekking east, along Black Otter Trail, for a decent climb to the Yellowstone Kelly Interpretive Site. When there’s fresh snow, this place is simply magical.
Leashed dogs are welcomed and doggie bags are provided at trailheads. You know the rest.
Makoshika State Park
Pronounced “Mah-koe-she-ka,” Montana’s largest state park is located adjacent to the city of Glendive, just minutes off Interstate 94 in Eastern Montana. Although the park’s road is temporarily closed for construction (tentatively to re-open May, 2019), several trails are accessible. For a short (about 1 mile) excursion, try the Bluebird Trail. If you are a more adventurous soul, consider the Diane Gabriel Trail, which is 4.5 miles roundtrip from the Visitor’s Information Center—there will be some elevation-gain involved.
Bluebirds appear as early as March 1, and you will likely encounter birds, paleo-fans and locals alike. Wear hiking boot for the rugged terrain. Or, if it is a true winter wonderland, snowshoes and poles will provide the ultimate workout. Leashed dogs are welcome on trails – but please remember the “pick-it-up” rule.
If you are accustomed to more mileage, consider stopping at Pompeys Pillar National Monument. During the winter months, staff is reduced and the gate may be closed, but that simply makes your trek a bit more industrious. Walk about a mile along the road (flat terrain), past the interpretive center to the pillar. Then climb 202 steps to the top—that will get your heartrate going and your FitBit buzzing.
The beauty of this trail is that no snow means easy access. And snow means an amazing opportunity to snowshoe or cross-country ski—either way, the view from the top of Pompeys Pillar is stunning. You can see 360-degrees. The defined rimrocks and the ice floes on the Yellowstone River create a dynamic backdrop for photos, scoping or simply standing where Captain William Clark of the Corps of Discovery stood in 1806. How cool is that?
For more trail options, see www.southeastmontana.com/hiking or reach us at 406-294-5270.