Learn more about Montana’s rich Native American heritage and cowboy culture on this four-day drive through Little Bighorn Country. The history-packed route crosses Indian nations, the state’s biggest city, and the path taken by the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition.
The Route: Billings > I-94 to Miles City > backtrack west on I-94 to exit 72 > MT-384 to Hardin > I-90 to Crow Agency > Crow St. Xavier Road > MT-313 > Pryor St. Xavier cut across to Pryor > MT-418 > MT-416 to Billings
Total Distance: approximately 400 miles
Gateway Airport: Billings Logan International Airport, Billings
From Billings, head south to Pictograph Cave State Park, home to over a hundred rock paintings and artifacts left by prehistoric hunters. Forge on to Pompeys Pillar National Monument, a rock formation rising 150 feet above the Yellowstone River. Look for the spot where William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) carved his name and date into the pillar. Head back to Billings for a fun night in Montana’s big city.
The next destination is Miles City, best known for its annual Bucking Horse Sale the second weekend each May. Learn about the town’s Old West roots at the Range Riders Museum before sampling the latest vintages at Tongue River Winery. Detour east to the town of Terry to shop for Made in Montana goods at Prairie Unique. If you’re driving a high-clearance vehicle, explore the Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area. Head back to Miles City to experience the Montana Bar before turning in for the night.
In Crow Agency, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument preserves the memory of the American Indian warriors and U.S. Cavalry soldiers (led by George Custer) lost in the epic conflict here in 1876. See the site with Apsaalooke Tours, which employs mostly Crow Indians as guides. The one-hour tour includes stops at Reno-Benteen Battlefield (where the Battle of Little Bighorn began) and Last Stand Hill. Stay at 7th Ranch RV Camp and Historical Tours, Garryowen.
On the way back to Billings, detour south to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, aptly billed as “the grandest canyon in the Northern Rockies.” Spend the morning hiking, fishing, boating, or watching for wildlife—including bighorn sheep and mule deer— before heading back to the road trip route. Outside of Pryor, visit Chief Plenty Coups State Park, one of only three U.S. state parks located on an American Indian reservation. Spend your last night in Billings.
This route was published in National Geographic Traveler magazine. To see more about this route—including interactive maps and additional photos—visit nationalgeographic.com/montana/roadtrips.