We chose to spend a June weekend in Billings in large part because we could get pet friendly lodging there. As we discovered, weekends can be busy in touristy areas during prime family vacation season, and hotels often raise their rates simply because they can. Our first choice, Sheridan, Wyoming, had a major event going on this particular weekend, so lodging was booked solid. West Yellowstone was busy and pricey as well. Billings, being the largest city in Montana, has more lodging available and is not a tourist destination to the extent of some other western cities. But we really didn't know what to expect in the way of cycling. Turns out, we got incredibly fortunate in picking this spot to park for a couple of nights.
Barry found a Billings-Molt Road Ride loop online that we could ride in Billings and out into the rural area west of the city. As the description says, "This ride offers plenty of heart pumping hill climbs, adrenaline rushed descents and fantastic Big Sky scenery." I got a little nervous about the heart pumping hill climbs, but of course Barry just saw the fun of a challenge!
And as it turns out, Billings is actually quite bike friendly with some nice marked bike lanes and a good bike path that took us to the edge of town. Here's a map of the route we followed, though we modified it slightly since we pedaled to Rimrock Road from our hotel. We avoided one really steep climb into Zimmerman Park since we had no need to park there. Lucky us!
First, we headed from the hotel on mostly good, flat roads with bike lanes.
We then hooked up with a bike path that climbed gently the rest of the way north to Rimrock Road and provided views of dramatic rimrock that flanks the city's north side.
Once we were up to the rimrock, we took a slight detour to get a closer look.
Next, we turned our bikes westward and headed out into the rural countryside beyond Billings. The road was beautiful, lightly traveled, and initially mostly flat, but that would soon change.
We heard and saw many Western Meadowlarks along the way. They look so similar to Eastern Meadowlarks (and their ranges overlap), so we'd never been able to say definitively that we'd seen a Western one, though we probably had. This time, we were in Western Meadowlark territory only, so we could finally add this beautiful bird to our life lists and not feel that we might be cheating!
As we continued heading west on Molt Road, we reached those heart pumping climbs we read about in the route description. As the description states, "You'll pass by a golf course as the road begins a long (and sometimes steep) ascent on a narrow hogback. As the road continues up, the views of the Beartooth Mountains to the south and the Crazy Mountain to the east steadily improve."
So, this must be a "hogback"! I had no idea, but it was definitely a heart pumping climb, as promised.
The views were indeed great. You have to look closely to see the distant snow-capped peaks beyond the foothills in this photo.
Here, I stopped to catch my breath and take a couple shots, and Barry took a photograph of me taking photographs. This was definitely big sky country and worth the suffering of the climb!
Fortunately, there was almost no traffic as we slogged up the climb (Barry much faster than me). Good thing, too, as this speed limit was just a few miles per hour quicker than I could manage!
Once we finally made it up to the ridge, we had a nice flattish ride almost to the tiny town of Molt, before turning on Buffalo Trail Road. Most of this road was downhill and very scenic.
Time to head back east to Billings....
Close to the hotel, one more important stop was in order.
I think we deserve it, don't you?! Blizzards and cold drinks all around on this hot day. Yum!
Since we had to ride to and from the loop, we ended up with over 50 miles on the day.
One thing we found interesting about Billings is that nowhere near our hotel nor on the ride through the city did we ever see a single grocery store. Plenty of restaurants, but no groceries. Don't people in Billings cook?!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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