Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Billings, MT

  • Published 2023/01/07

Billings, the largest city in Montana, founded in 1877, welcomes over 2.6 million visitors yearly, with most of them enjoying the free things to do in Billings.

One of the city’s economic drivers is the tourism industry.

The city is also one of the trade and distribution hubs of Montana, likewise having an economic impact over Northern Wyoming and the western parts of North and South Dakota.

Billings’ strategic location east of the Continental Divide has spurred its rapid growth as a railroad town and seat of Yellowstone County.

Incorporated in 1882, the city was named after Frederick H. Billings, one of the pillars of the foundation of the North Pacific Railway.

Aside from its solid economic footing, Billings also takes pride in its natural setting adjacent to the Yellowstone River.

Sandstone cliffs called rimrocks are among the natural monuments worth seeing in Billings, too.

Discover more about what this city offers visitors on the following list of free things to do in Billings, Montana.

Explore the Four Dances Recreation Area

Sacrifice cliff at Four Dances Recreation Area

KPV89 /

The Four Dances Recreation Area is off Coburn Road and spreads over 765 acres on a plateau overlooking Billings.

This undeveloped open space two miles east of the city’s downtown has Sacrifice Cliff as one of its points of interest.

The cliffs in this area tower above the meandering waters of the Yellowstone River.

You can access the top of a rimrock wall here via a quarter-mile footpath for an overlooking view of the river and the city.

Besides hiking, the Four Dances Recreation Area is also ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

It also draws visitors interested in wildlife watching, nature photography, and environmental education.

This recreation area provides a parking lot and restrooms and is for day use only.

Motor vehicles, horses, and bicycles are prohibited in the Four Dances Recreation Area.

Take the Family to Riverfront Park

Riverfront Park is a multi-use outdoor recreational facility located on South Billings Street North 23rd Street.

Families with children love to visit this park which features a well-equipped playground among its facilities.

Besides its riverfront location, this park also boasts Lake Josephine and Cochan Pond within its acreage.

You can explore the expansive natural areas of this park via a 6.3-mile loop trail that accommodates not only hikers but also bikers.

Games of horseshoes, as well as swimming and fishing, can also be enjoyed at the lake in Riverfront Park.

Other activities that families can enjoy in the park include volleyball games, picnics, and BBQs.

Visit Coulson Park

Cemetery at Coulson Park

JWCohen /

Coulson Park, accessible via Charlene Street, spreads over 50+ acres of undeveloped natural land adjacent to the Yellowstone River.

A namesake town formerly occupied this site, but its residents abandoned it around 1822.

Most of them moved to Billings when it boomed as a railway hub.

Currently an undeveloped natural area, Coulson Park’s riverfront location affords scenic views of Billings’ southern rimrocks.

These Billings landmarks include the legendary Sacrifice Cliff of the Crow tribe who once lived in the area.

Experience the Thrills of BMC Motocross

Visiting motocross aficionados have a thrilling destination on the expansive grounds of the Billings Motorcycle Club (BMC) on Old Blue Creek Road.

Riders of offroad motorbikes have a playground encompassing 1,400 acres along the banks of the Yellowstone River.

They have a choice on several exciting tracks, such as Motocross, Supercross, Endurocross, Flat Track, Hill Climbs, the 50s, Sand Drags, and Scrambles.

The centerpiece among these comes in the two-mile Motocross track, complete with a watering system, heavy equipment, and picnic areas.

This track hosts many events throughout the year, making the BMC grounds a magnet not only for riders but also spectators.

Go Fishing at Norm Schoenthal Island

Bridge trail at Norm Schoenthal Island

Adam Reck /

A part of Riverfront Park, Norm Schoenthal Island, or Norm’s Island, is an ideal spot for onshore fishing in the Yellowstone River.

The 130-acre island is easily accessible through Wendell’s Bridge from the west side of the park.

Fishing in the river and its Beebe’s Channel near the island can yield catches of large whitefish, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout.

Visitors can explore the island via its mowed sod and gravel trails stretching over two miles.

This trail forms a node of the Heritage Trail system, a network of multi-use, non-motorized trails, and biking paths set in the greater Billings area.

The non-profit Yellowstone River Parks Association developed the island in the early 1990s and named it after one of the association’s founders.

Go Birdwatching at Joel’s Pond

Joel’s Pond, another conservation project of the Yellowstone River Park Association, is one of the birdwatching hotspots in Billings.

Birdwatchers have been motivated to visit this pocket park on Shiloh Crossing Boulevard following reports of an osprey nest that’s active here.

The park covers about 18 acres, with its banner pond spreading over 12 acres.

Park visitors can fish in the pond, which boasts a self-sustaining bass population.

Anglers can cast their lines from an ADA-compliant concrete ramp or from a floating dock.

Other facilities in Joel’s Pond include picnic shelters, memorial benches overlooking the water, a vaulted toilet, and a walking trail.

Tour the Shiloh Conservation Area

The Shiloh Conservation Area (SCA) is a unique destination on the west end of Billings.

The city transformed SCA’s erstwhile undeveloped site into a stormwater retention and treatment facility melded with recreational features.

Spanning 66 acres, SCA flaunts a two-mile trail, interpretive signs, viewing platforms, and a shelter.

Fish stocks from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks enrich one of SCA’s ponds for urban anglers.

Hikers can easily access the Shiloh Conservation Area via its path linked to Billings’ Heritage Trail.

Enjoy Sports at Pioneer Park

Frisbee golf at Pioneer Park

Jason Maehl /

Pioneer Park spreads over 32 acres on the southeast corner of Parkhill Drive and 3rd Street West, with several venues for outdoor sports and recreation.

Its facilities include several tennis courts, horseshoe pits, multi-use trails, and a wading pool.

The park also has barbecue areas and large open spaces for ball games like football, soccer, rugby, and softball.

You can also catch high school football matches open to the public at the Daylis Stadium on the south edge of the park.

Pioneer Park is likewise home to the Zimmerman Center, where free recreational events often take place.

Check Out ArtWalk Downtown Billings

Launched in 1994, ArtWalk Downtown Billings holds free events every first Friday of February, April, June, August, October, and December.

These recurring events highlight the vibrancy of the city’s art galleries and the dynamism of the local artists’ community.

Check out the roads and streets arterial to 1st and 2nd Avenue North for the signage of ArtWalk locations on the events’ designated days.

On these occasions, you have the chance to brush elbows with local artists in the participating galleries, studios, non-profits, and businesses.

Food and drinks are often served in the host venues, with live music and dancing also part of the activities at various locations.

ArtWalk Downtown Billings proceeds regardless of the weather, and the fee for metered on-street parking is waived after 5 p.m. during this event.

Join the Fun in the Annual HarvestFest

Billings traditionally hosts its Annual Downtown HarvestFest in early October, a fall vendor street festival.

A whole-day event, this festival is open to the public and features diverse arts and crafts, with balloon creations and face painting among the fun activities.

The HarvestFest takes place along the streets peripheral to the downtown intersection of North Broadway and 2nd Avenue North.

This junction notably features one of Billing’s landmarks, Skypoint, a movable triangular structure over the downtown’s crossroad.

All-day live entertainment, including music and dancing, is available at Skypoint during Billings’ HarvestFest.

During the event, the Montana Brewing Company traditionally hosts its annual Oktoberfest Beer Garden, where you can join its beer-drinking contest.

An interactive children’s area offering free crafts and activities is also an endearing feature of the Annual Downtown HarvestFest.

Play Disc Golf at Phipps Diamond X Park

Disc golf at Phipps Diamond X Park

Jason Maehl /

Phipps Diamond X Park on Molt Road offers two challenging courses for avid disc golf players.

This park sprawls over 350 acres, with these layouts as its only developed facilities.

Be prepared to rough it out playing or visiting this park, which is also ideal for hiking and a bit of mountain biking.

Disc golf catcher at Phipps Diamond X Park

JortPics /

The park’s newest disc golf course opened in 2022 and plays at 18 holes that will send you through elevation shifts and desert hiking.

The other layout, set up in 1994, also offers an 18-hole play traversing similar terrain.

Disc golf player at Phipps Diamond X Park

Jason Maehl /

Launch a Canoe at Amanda White Homestead Park

The Amanda White Homestead Park is one of the Billings’ launching areas for paddling the 692-mile Yellowstone River.

Also known as the Blue Creek Boat and Fishing Access, this park is located off Old Blue Creek Road and Secondary State Highway 416.

It’s more navigable to canoe or kayak the Yellowstone River on Billings’ waters, as the currents here are relatively calmer.

The Blue Creek boat launch site was opened in 2019, offering other amenities like picnic tables, a restroom, and spacious parking.

The non-profit Yosemite River Park Association and the MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks developed these facilities in Billings.

Other river access points in the city include those in Coulson Park off Interstate 90 and Mystic Island Park on Belknap Avenue.

Climb the Rims of Zimmerman Park

Signage at Zimmerman Park

Michael Gordon /

Zimmerman Park, another undeveloped natural area atop the Rimrocks or Rims in Billings, is a popular destination among rock climbers.

The rock walls of this park off the roundabout of Highway 3 are ideal for short wall climbs.

These rock faces are easily accessible via the 3.2-mile, single-track Zimmerman Trail, which hikers and mountain bikers visit frequently.

A trail at Zimmerman Park

Michael Gordon /

This trail traverses the Rims, thus providing overlooking views of Billings.

Climbers tackling the rock walls of Zimmerman Park have choices on ascents ranging from eight feet to 20 feet high.

Parking off Highway 3 and an information kiosk are available to visitors of Zimmerman Park.

The view from Zimmerman Park

Michael Gordon /

Tackle the Pump Tracks of Blue Creek Bike Park

Avid mountain bikers visiting Billings are wont to have their first stop at Blue Creek Bike Park.

This park opened in 2020 and is the first in Billings to cater exclusively to mountain biking enthusiasts.

The facility features an MTB loop, a jump, and pump tracks with features suited for all ages and skill sets.

These tracks are located on Blue Creek road near the Yellowstone River.

Pedal United, a non-profit composed of local biking enthusiasts, is behind this park’s development, maintenance, and safety.

Blue Creek Bike Park is maintained by volunteers and funding from the profits of merchandise sold onsite.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

Have a Joyride on the Beartooth Highway

Scenic views along Beartooth Highway

Sam Spicer /

It would be wise to visit Yellowstone National Park to start or take a trip to Billings.

You can take a joyride via the Yellowstone Scenic Route–Beartooth Highway.

This route to/from the Yellowstone National Park has earned the National Scenic Byways designation “All-American Road.”

Highway 212, running southwest of Billings, links the city with the iconic road and the northeast entrance/exit of Yellowstone National Park.

Cliffside road of Beartooth Highway

Jess Kraft /

The Beartooth Highway is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and a trip across it is worth planning.

Opened in 1936, this highway still holds the distinction of being the highest paved road in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Its highest point is at Beartooth Pass, with an elevation of 10,977 feet above sea level.

Along the highway’s route, more than 20 mountain peaks, some over 12,000 feet high, will come into view.

View of a lake from Beartooth Highway

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Final Thoughts

Visitors searching for free things to do in Billings, Montana, won’t run out of choices, given the diversity of the points of interest in this city.

Focusing on Billings’ parks alone provides a wide selection of activities that can be enjoyed at the least cost or none at all.

Many free things to do in Billings are also available if you schedule your visit accordingly with the city’s trademark festivals.

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