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  • Writer's picturethebackpackingblotskes

Southeast Montana: With Kids

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

This post is sponsored by Visit Southeast Montana

"I'm bored!" -said no one on our recent trip to Southeast Montana...

Brotherly love at Makoshika State Park

Some of our best family memories were made while camping, hiking and exploring the great outdoors. Our time spent in Southeast Montana was no different; a memory maker in more ways than one. The majority of those priceless memories made by our boys, ages 3 & 5 (youngest bro, age 1, stayed home with grandma).

There was definitely some uncertainty heading into our 4-day Southeast Montana trip. Having previously spent very little time in the area, we didn't know what to expect. While my husband and I are easy to please, the boys require more "bells and whistles" in order to peak their interest. Nevertheless, we loaded up the motorhome and set our sights eastward, ready to unveil the unknown.

Head east, young man...

Let's just say, any uncertainties we had were quickly diminished. We were greeted with plenty of activities, adventure and even some amusing artifacts. Southeast Montana delivered excitement and fun for all, especially for our two rowdy boys!

If you are considering a Visit Southeast Montana trip with your young family, here is a list of our top 5 activities for kids in Southeast Montana (I will also include our hometown of Billings) :

1. Hiking

Diane Gabriel Trail at Makoshika State Park

The thing we love about the trails in this part of the state is the fact that the little legs in our lives can do them ON THEIR OWN! While our family loves to mountain hike, it requires us to pack the kids on our backs, making the trek a heavy one for mom & dad! If your kids are anything like ours, they love to have the freedom and ability to explore on their own two feet, making the trails in Southeast Montana ideal for those little adventurers!


  1. Four Dances - Billings

  2. Makoshika State Park - Glendive

  3. Medicine Rocks State Park

  4. Makoshika State Park - Glendive

  5. John H. Dover Memorial Park - Billings

  6. Phipps Park - Billings

Honorable mentions: Riverfront Park, Billings - Two Moon Park, Billings - Zimmerman Trail, Billings - Pictograph Caves, Billings - Pompey's Pillar, Yellowstone County

2. Biking

Sunset bike ride at Medicine Rocks State Park

One of the easiest ways to keep a child entertained is with a bike! Not to mention, it's great exercise, too! A place like Medicine Rocks State Park is such a great location to take a beginner biker, with all of the wide open space and light traffic. It's relatively flat, as well, adding to the pros-list.

More biking at Medicine Rocks State Park

3. Dinosaurs, Rawr!

Paleontology tour at Makoshika State Park

What kid doesn't like dinosaurs, am I right?! Ok, they might not be of interest to all children, but most find them to be fascinating. We were privileged to take a private, guided paleontology tour at the Makoshika State Park visitor center. Our boys (especially our 5 year old) ate it up! They absolutely loved learning about prehistoric animals and getting to (gently) touch the many fossils stored in the basement of the visitor center.

Arrowheads on display

The tour concluded with a hike on the Diane Gabriel trail to see a partially excavated hadrosaur vertebrae. The entire experience was roughly 2 hours, which is the perfect amount of time for our kiddos. Anything longer would've been pushing it. There was enough to do, see and learn about in that amount of time to maintain their attention. Our guide was extremely patient and answered any and all questions the boys threw his way. We would highly recommend taking this tour with your young family!

En route to see the hadrosaur vertebrae

Call the visitor center today to receive more information on this interactive paleontology tour!

Honorable mention: While in the area, don't forget to check out the Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum as well!

4. Farm/Ranch Life

"Driving" the tractor at Mahlstedt Ranch

Whether it be as simple as a horseback ride or as immersive as a hands-on, "ranch life" experience, a Montana summer just isn't complete without a little "cowboy fix", you might call it. We were given the opportunity to tour the 5th generation Mahlstedt Ranch, near Circle, MT, led by family member, Tana Canen. To say the kids enjoyed it, is an understatement. They LOVED it! Gathering chicken eggs, petting baby calves and a bareback horse ride... oh my!

Images from the Mahlstedt Ranch

While the Mahlstedt Ranch is not currently open to visitors, Tana's goal is to one day provide a "do as much or as little" as you like, ranch life experience. Stay tuned by visiting their website:

In the meantime, visit to set you on the right path in finding whatever your heart desires, whether it be horseback riding, moving cattle or just an overall "learning the ropes" type encounter, Southeast Montana has you and your family covered!

5. Museums & Historical Sites

The boys at the O'Fallon Historical Museum

Don't overlook the small town museums and historical sites! While a museum tour doesn't often land on a vacation "to-do" list, it's definitely something to consider for your young family. We were SHOCKED at how much our boys enjoyed the two different tours we took while visiting Southeast Montana. They enjoyed it so much that it has found a spot in this blog post! :)


  1. St. Peter's Catholic Church, Wibaux

  2. 1964-1965 Montana Centennial Train, Wibaux Museum

  3. Wanted poster, O'Fallon Museum, Baker

  4. World's largest steer, Baker

  5. School house, O'Fallon Museum, Baker

  6. Classic automobiles, O'Fallon Museum, Baker

One thing we most definitely learned while on this trip is to never assume - you'll never know until you try! What a valuable lesson that can apply to many aspects of life. It would've been easy to assume that our boys would find the museum tours to be extremely boring. Based on that assumption, we would've skipped on the tours and opted for a different activity. Boy, am I glad we went for it! The kids asked questions, marveled at things they'd never seen before and even asked for more when the tour came to an end. What an eye-opening experience for us!

Family hike at Makoshika State Park

I hope this has helped as you and your family pick and choose your activities while visiting Southeast Montana. This area of Big Sky Country has so much to offer, kids included! Be sure to visit for more information and ideas as you plan your trip.

A HUGE thank you to Visit Southeast Montana for planning and sponsoring our trip.

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