(BPT) - Each year some 12.3 million tourists are drawn to Montana, many attracted by the dramatic mountain ranges, unspoiled wilderness areas and other natural wonders that cover the Treasure State.
One of the state’s most impressive jewels? Montana's largest city — Billings. The historical railroad town is famous for acting as the trailhead for an impressive network of hiking, biking and walking pathways overlooking seven area mountain ranges. Billings also offers residents and tourists a huge variety of other fun things to do in addition to the stunning attractions presented by Mother Nature, which is partly why Outside Magazine named Billings “Best Town in America of 2016.” The city's multifaceted nature makes it a hugely attractive summertime destination for families.
Some exceptional attractions in and around Montana's trailhead:
* The Beartooth Highway, a designated National Scenic Byways All-American Road, was named “Best Motorcycling Road” by the American Motorcyclist Association in 2011 due to its hairpin turns and incredible vistas. Just 65 miles from Billings, the breathtaking expanse passes through portions of Custer National Forest and Shoshone National Forest, nears the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and ends at Yellowstone National Park.
* Yellowstone Kelly Interpretive Site, located atop the sandstone Rimrocks in Swords Rimrock Park overlooking Billings, honors the American veteran, scout and warrior Luther Sage (Yellowstone) Kelly, a character of the old west who lived a life of extreme adventure between 1849-1928. The recently restored site includes Kelly’s grave, a paved trail with installations commemorating his story and an outdoor amphitheater for events.
* The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is a 1.2-mile place of reflection in nearby Crow Agency, Montana, that looks back on the deadly 1876 war between the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry and local Sioux and Cheyenne — one of the Native Americans’ last armed efforts to preserve their way of life.
* Pictograph Caves is a 23-acre national historic landmark featuring various cave paintings estimated to range in age from 200 to 2,100 years. Since excavation of the cave series began in 1937, some 30,000 artifacts have been recovered, many documenting the journey of the area’s first Native Americans.
* Pompeys Pillar National Monument, a 150-foot sandstone rock formation above the Yellowstone River, features multiple Native American petroglyphs in addition to the authenticated signature of explorer William Clark of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame. The 51-acre site, which includes an interpretive center, draws some 50,000 visitors annually.
* ZooMontana includes a 70-acre wildlife park surrounding Canyon Creek that focuses on wildlife native to Montana, the Rockies and other cold-temperature regions at or above the 45th Parallel. Get up close and personal with grizzly bears, gray wolves, North American river otters, red pandas, bald eagles and many other creatures big and small.
* Fun in the city: While taking breaks from all that natural splendor, visitors can choose from a plethora of live entertainment, shopping and cultural attractions. Options include Montana’s only walkable brewery district, award-winning restaurants of all flavors, several concert venues, and dozens of cultural and fine art museums. Each summer, the city’s signature music festival called Magic City Blues draws top-notch entertainers (along with thousands of music fans) from all over the country.
All in all, the variety of fun attractions and stunning landscapes in Billings create a winning combination for most anyone seeking a relaxing and entertaining getaway. Start planning your next trip to Montana's City at visitbillings.com.