I get asked these questions all the time... "Where do you guys go to hike with your kids in Billings?", "Was that picture taken in Billings?!", "What's your favorite trail in Billings?"
Well, friends, here are the answers to those questions! While Billings is not a mountain town and is often overshadowed by other areas like Red Lodge, Bozeman and Yellowstone NP, it has its own unique beauty and sense of adventure. A statement I have heard all too often is, "There's nothing to do here!" WRONG. It's true, Billings does not provide the mountain peaks, alpine lakes, sweeping meadows and wildlife sightings that the areas listed above do, but that doesn't mean it has nothing to offer. We love where we live and we want others to love it, too.
And now, in no particular order, our top 5, family-friendly, hiking trails in Billings, Montana. I'll be sure to point out which one is our favorite ;)
Located on the west end of Billings, headed towards Molt, is where you will find Phipps. As you near the train track bridge, sloooow down because the parking lot is immediately to your left once you drive underneath it (assuming you are coming from Billings and not the opposite direction).
Phipps Park offers a 2.5 mile loop trail. There is a small section of the trail that is fairly steep. While it is straight up with no switchbacks, it's short-lived! It will leave you a little breathless but so will the views at the top ;) From the trailhead to the rims, the elevation gain is right around 400 ft. This is an excellent spot to pull up a rock and take in a sunset, as you will see in a few of these pictures. Check out our recent outing to Phipps Park ---->
Yep, we will raise a glass, or sippy cup, to Phipps Park! Load up the kids and hit this trail, they will love it. CAUTION: Do watch out for rattlesnakes as this area is definitely known to house a few of those. But don't let that stop you from exploring, just be careful & aware.
This one would be considered more of a "walk in the park" then a hike, but nonetheless, it's on our top 5 list because it's beautiful! No matter the season, Riverfront doesn't disappoint.
Located south of Billings, take the South Billings Boulevard exit and make your way towards the river. You will see the park entrance to your left, just before the bridge. If you go over the bridge, you've gone too far.
Riverfront Park has a wonderfully paved trail that makes a loop around Josephine Lake. There are several little side paths you can take if you are feeling extra adventurous. This park borders the Yellowstone River and you can easily hike your way over if you'd like to spend some time there, too. The thing we love most about Riverfront are the trees. As you make your way around the loop, behind the lake, the trees form this natural tunnel that create a storybook feel. When the lighting is right, this path is truly magical, and the lighting was on point when we last visited. See for yourself ---->
Josephine Lake is a fun spot to recreate, as well. You can fish, have a picnic or do what the Blotske boys like to do, skip rocks. I do feel the need to warn you about the goose poop. It is plentiful at Riverfront Park, so just be mindful of that as you are exploring near and around the lake, but if you can look past the poo, this is the perfect spot for a family outing :)
We are all smiles about Riverfront Park! Hope you will take our advice and stop by for a family stroll. We can highly recommend this park for all four seasons.
Four Dances Trail
Voted best view in Billings by the Blotske family! Four Dances has always been one of our go-to spots in the Magic City. The pictures I've taken over the years of our family looking out over the Yellowstone River has had many people ask me, "Is that here in Billings?!" Yep, it sure is! Probably our favorite spot to sit and watch the sunset.
To get to the trailhead, take the Lockwood exit off of I-90. Once again, assuming you were headed east on I-90, you would take a right hand turn off of the exit. From there, take Coburn Rd for about 1.5-2 miles before taking a right onto the dirt road that leads to the parking lot area. The trailhead is right there!
Four Dances trail is another loop and for whatever reason, we have never done the full 2.5 mile trek. As you head up the trail, you will reach a fork in the road... if you break off to the right, you'll find the loop. If you decide to go left, which is what we have always done, you'll end up at this amazing overlook of Billings and the Yellowstone River. This is another one that is awesome in every season! I'm going to include some winter shots, too, so you can see what I'm talking about.
WARNING: the drop from the cliffs is anywhere from 200-500 ft so we HIGHLY recommend that you keep small children in a backpack. We do let our 3 year old out to walk on his own but as we near the cliffs, he has to be holding one of our hands or we carry him. This is not to scare you, just to warn you in an effort to keep you and your family safe!
And here are some winter shots...
Okay Billings, now it's your turn! We can guarantee you'll enjoy the views found at Four Dances. If you're able to, snag a seat for a sunrise or sunset. It's truly breathtaking.
I mean, we have to include Zimmerman, right?! One thing Billings is known for are the rims and its many activities such as hiking, biking, rock climbing and sightseeing. On a super clear day, you can easily spot three mountain ranges - the Bighorn, Pryor and Beartooth mountains.
To get to ZP, it's pretty simple... head north on Zimmerman Trail, right off of Rimrock Rd. When you get to the top, at the round-about, head west and you should spot the parking lot right away. There is usually a car or few there at all times! We recently explored this trail, in early October, and it was the perfect way to spend a fall day with the family.
Zimmerman Park is fun for us because each time we go, we take a different route. We find a new point of view almost every time we visit. We also like it because you can really make this hike as long or as short as you like, and no matter which you choose, you'll end up with a spectacular view of Billings and the mountains.
Just as we WARNED you about the cliffs at Four Dances, we are going to warn you about the rims, too. You can definitely choose to stay high up and away from the drop-offs but if you're like us, we just can't stay away from the gigantic rocks of the rims. With that being said, we certainly keep our little guy in his backpack and our toddler in our arms or at least, holding a hand. This is NOT an area to let them run around and explore on their own. Safety first!
As you've probably noticed, we are pretty big on sunsets, and fall is a great time for us to catch one as a family because they happen early enough in the evening for us to enjoy and get back home in time for night-night.
Who wants to join us on our next Zimmerman Park adventure?!
Ok, are you still with us?? Last but certainly not least.... OUR FAVORITE trail in Billings.....
John H. Dover Memorial Park
Why is Dover our favorite? Well, for a few reasons.
1) Variety. Dover Park loop is a 2-mile trail that can take you right to the riverbank or high up with a sweeping view of the Yellowstone and the city of Billings, looming in the background.
2) Really cool bridges. There are a couple of long bridges to cross and they are just super cool! Something different that isn't offered anywhere else in Billings (that we are aware of).
3) We always have had the place to ourselves! We've been visiting Dover Park for a couple years now and I can recall one time that we ran into a small group of people. It's quiet and not many people know about it, apparently. Almost didn't want to share this one in hopes to keep it as the hidden gem that it is. Buuuut, we like you guys enough to let you in on this little secret of ours ;)
To get to this park, I'm going to direct you from Airport Rd. Heading east, take a left on Main St in the Heights. Stay north on Main until you reach Wicks Ln. Take a right on Wicks, left on Bitterroot Dr and then a final right on Mary St. Follow Mary for about a mile before finding the parking lot, which will be to your right, on 5 Mile Rd.
The part of the trail that leads you to the river...
The part of the trail that leads you to the views...
Someone was having too much fun to take a potty break, which led to an accident, which led to the no-pants pics. Ya know what, hiking with kids is always an adventure and it's good to include some of the behind-the-scenes or "reality" shots, too ;)
So what do you think?! Did you learn something new? Did this motivate you to get out and try one of these trails? We really do hope so!
Will you please email us with any questions? Will you also email us with your answer(s) to the questions asked above? We would LOVE to hear from you, Billings! Or to anyone that is just passing through and needed some help in finding outdoor adventure while in town. We truly look forward to hearing from you ---> firstname.lastname@example.org <---