Billings, Montana: Gateway to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is massive in size, and therefore, a fair amount of consideration must be given to how you will get there.
The park has five entrances: north, south, west, and two in the east.
Commercial airlines serve the following airports near Yellowstone National Park all year: Cody and Jackson, WY; Bozeman and Billings, MT, and Idaho Falls, ID. The West Yellowstone, MT airport is serviced from June to early September from Salt Lake City, UT.
Recently, the Billings Convention and Visitors Bureau flew us to Billings so that we could experienced first hand the advantages of flying into their city as the gateway to Yellowstone National Park.
Billings is Montana’s largest city, and therefore will offer baby boomer travelers a wide variety of options to stay, play, and dine.
Nicknamed the Magic City because of its rapid growth from its founding as a railroad town in 1882, the town has experienced continued growth through the years as a result of the recent Bakken Oil Formation (the largest oil discovery in U.S. history), tourism, cattle ranching, and the simple fact that Billings offers more hotel accommodations than any area within a five state region.
Besides all of that, getting to Yellowstone from Billings will take you across the world-famous Beartooth Highway which the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt called “the most beautiful drive in America”.
On the way to Yellowstone, you simply must drive the world-famous scenic Beartooth Highway!
Spending two nights in Billings, Montana doesn’t make us experts on all things Billings, but we did greatly enjoy our visit and look forward to sharing our experiences with you.
Where to Stay in Billings, Montana
Billings has a wide variety of lodging options, but for baby boomer travelers desiring luxury accommodations, we believe the Northern Hotel to be your best bet. Located in the historic district of Billings, you will be within easy walking distance to the town’s best restaurants, boutique shopping, and local entertainment.
For our article on the Northern Hotel, CLICK HERE
Where to Eat in Billings, Montana
Here too, Billings has a lot to offer those who consider themselves foodies. As we were traveling in Montana cattle ranch country, we figured we should definitely enjoy some of the local grass-fed beef, and then we opted for a little urban contemporary Montana cuisine as well.
Here are two fabulous restaurants we found only a block from our hotel in Billing’s fun historic district:
By clicking both of these links, you’ll find our articles loaded with mouth-watering photographs, as well as a detailed description of our experiences.
What to do in Billings, Montana
We recommend that you take a half-day and visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. For it was in these very plains, in 1886, that the Battle of Little Bighorn took place and General Custer and the men of the 7th Calvary all met their death at the hands of Sitting Bull and various other plains indian tribes.
For our article on Little Bighorn, CLICK HERE
If the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument doesn’t float your boat, here are some other activities recommended by our friends at the Billings Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The World-Famous Beartooth Highway
While we greatly enjoyed all that Billings has to offer, when we learned that we could also include a drive across one of America’s most famous scenic byways, we were instantly sold on making Billings our gateway to Yellowstone.
Heralded as one of the most scenic drives in the United States, the Beartooth Highway, a National Scenic Byways All-American Road, features breathtaking views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, and open high alpine plateaus dotted with countless glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls and wildlife.
When considering the trip from Billings to Yellowstone, you should plan on making a day out of it. If you drove straight through, I’m told the trip might take around 3-4 hours. However, with all the photo opportunities, and jaw-dropping scenery, it took us nearly 8 hours to make the trip. Therefore, plan to leave right after breakfast. This should allow you ample time to enjoy the scenery, and get to your Yellowstone lodging in plenty of time.
By the way, at the foot of the Beartooth Highway lies the quaint western-town of Red Lodge. Chances are high that you will want to spend a little time poking around the town’s boutique shops, and perhaps grab some water/coffee as you make your way to Yellowstone.
Lastly, you should know that because of its high elevations, the Beartooth Highway doesn’t generally open until late-May/early-June. Be certain to check the Beartooth Highway Website before making your plans. We made the crossing on June 6th, and the highway had only been open just a few days.
Here’s a few photographs from our early-June drive across the Beartooth Highway:
As you can see, our early-spring drive from Billings to Yellowstone was absolutely stunning. We highly recommend that when you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park you give strong consideration to making Billings, Montana your gateway to the park.
Have fun, and share some pictures with us when you return!
Disclosure: our Billings, Montana experience was provided by the kind folks at the Billings Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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The Beartooth Pass is amazing! I drove it 4th of July weekend in ’10 into Red Lodge and drove back to the park by the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. I had been there the year before in September, fun to compare. In September tiny, tiny flowers the size of my finger nail were blooming about an inch high. In July, the snow still covered where I had seen and photographed the flowers. I have several photos similar to yours. Such an awesome place!
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your love of the Beartooth Pass. We agree, it is amazing!
I am heading there April 27-30. What recommendations do you have for one day of hiking?
We haven’t done any hiking in that area, but you might check this link for Yellowstone Hiking: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/hiking.htm Hope this helps! 😀
We’re flying in and out of Billings after Labor Day. Thinking about a circuitous route to Yellowstone and Teton…We have the 8th-15th. anyone have any suggestions? Have to spend the last night in Billings, does it make more sense to do Beartooth Highway on the way back
I am trying to plan a frugal trip to Yellowstone, for my family in the summer of 2017. HELP! There will be 6 adults and two children. I would appreciate your recommendations. New experience for me but very excited! Nana wants to trip the kid!
LaNay, here is what we’ve written on Yellowstone: https://www.theroamingboomers.com/category/destinations/usa/wyoming/yellowstone-national-park/
Is it possible to do this drive in December? Will be there for work next week. If not, any suggestions? Thank you!
I’m guessing that the answer is no. However, I would call the Department of Transportation to inquire. It all depends on snowfall amounts.
This sounds amazing! We have plans to go to Billings, but wondered about driving with our 43’ RV on the Beartooth Hwy?
Yikes. I would check here: https://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/beartooth/