Rimrocks Sunset, Four Dances – Billings, Montana

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Billings might very well be Montana’s least-attractive city, but it sure does have some nice places to view that unattractive skyline.  The Rimrocks are a long stretch of cliffs that form a wall around much of Billings, and they provide some great recreation opportunities.  There are places to hike, bike, and rock-climb, and of course, places to enjoy the view.  If you’re looking for a Rimrocks sunset spot, I’d suggest you go where I went — the Four Dances area on the southeast side of the city.

Location

The Rimrocks wrap around Billings on the north and southeast sides of the city.  You can access the northern cliffs from several parking areas along Montana Route 3 and Airport Road, on the south side of the Billings airport.  The area known as Four Dances is on the southeast side of town.  From eastbound I-90, take exit 492, then take a right, followed by another right.  This will put you on Coburn Road.  Go 1.4 miles, then turn right onto a side road, which will lead to the Four Dances trailhead. From westbound I-90, take exit 492, turn left and cross over the interstate, then turn right onto Coburn Road.  From downtown Billings, follow 1st Avenue (which is also Business Loop 90) northeast, cross the river and the interstate, then turn right onto Coburn Road.

My Visit

After a very long day of driving across central Montana, my reward would be a great sunset, from a nice spot overlooking Billings.  I had already checked into my accommodation for the night, and with just enough time to spare before sunset, I headed towards the southeastern Rimrocks, which rise above the Yellowstone River.

If you’re not sure exactly where you’re headed, I’d suggest looking for the radio towers.   If you get to KULR’s transmitter on Coburn Road, you’ve already passed the turn-off to Four Dances (which is marked, but I still wasn’t sure if it was the right place until I backtracked).

At the Four Dances parking area, you’ll find restrooms and a not-so-reassuring sign.  Be aware of snakes as you head up the hill towards the rim.

Rimrocks Sunset

Once you get to the top of the hill, the view of the rimrocks sunset opens up.  From here, you’re looking west, at the sunset as well as the downtown Billings skyline.  Directly below you, at the bottom of the cliffs, is the Yellowstone River, then I-90…

…then a Conoco facility.  Beyond that are Billings’ skyscrapers — the tallest of which is a whopping 272 feet, or 20 stories (it’s also the tallest building in all of Montana).

That view is very industrial, but it was also very smoky — and most of that smoke was not coming from Billings.  There were wildfires in Canada at the time of my visit, and the wind had just shifted, bringing all that smoke across the state.  In all fairness, it made Billings seem more gritty than it actually is.

While the city itself isn’t breathtaking, all you have to do is look to your left to see something that is.  The Rimrocks continue along the edge of the Yellowstone River.  Yes, it’s the same river that begins in Yellowstone National Park, and the same river that slices through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, pouring over Yellowstone Falls.  After passing through Billings, it continues northeast, across eastern Montana and into North Dakota, where it empties into the Missouri River, then the Mississippi, and eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.

Thankfully, I didn’t spot any snakes along this trail, but I did see a bunny!

All that smoke in the air did create a beautiful orange sun and red sky.

As the rimrocks sunset came to an end, I started walking back to my car.  It only takes a few minutes from the rim to the parking lot, so I wasn’t worried about tripping over any of those snakes after dark.

On the way back to my accommodation for the night…

I tracked down a beautiful neon sign that I had spotted earlier.  Yellowstone Electric Company is located along 4th Avenue North.  It’s a two-sided neon sign, but only one side was lit, probably because 4th Avenue is one-way, so very few people would see the other side.

That brought Day 7 of the trip to an end.  What followed on Day 8 was an unforgettable trip over America’s most scenic road: the Beartooth Highway.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive up to Four Dances for a Rimrocks Sunset:

The Bottom Line

The Rimrocks are among Billings’ nicest natural features, and despite the ugliness of the city’s industrial area, the views from the Rimrocks are very nice.  Check out Four Dances for a nice view of the sunset.

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