With an estimated population of approximately 165,000, Yellowstone County is the most populous and the second-largest county in Montana (World Population Review). It is named after the Yellowstone River that runs through the county, which was named after the yellow-colored sandstone cliffs that are found in the area.
Yellowstone County stretches across 2649 square miles, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It is home to two national protected areas: Nez Perce National Historical Park and Pompeys Pillar National Monument, which Lewis and Clark named after the son of their guide, Sacagawea, after passing through in 1805-1806 (Britannica).
The county seat of Yellowstone County is Billings, which began to flourish after the growth of the cattle industry and irrigated agriculture after the turn of the 20th century.
The first known inhabitants of the area were the Bannack Indians, who were compelled to leave by the Crow. Today, the Crow Reservation is located to the southeast of Billings. It was first established in 1868 upon the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty (Thirteen).
Visit the Yellowstone County Government website.
- Pompeys Pillar
- May – Billings Gem And Mineral Show
- July – Downtown Strawberry Festival
- July – Montana Brews and Barbecues
- August – Magic City Blues Festival
- August – Montana Fair
- September – Burn The Point
- October – The Nile Stock Show And Rodeo
- November – Holiday Food & Gift Festival
- November – Dream Chaser’s Racing Supercross Championship at MetraPark
- November – Billings Holiday Parade
- December – Festival of Trees
Pompeys Pillar National Monument
The rock formation known as Pompeys Pillar is one of the most impressive landmarks in Yellowstone County. Located by the Yellowstone River, the pillar stands 150 feet tall. It is made from sandstone that dates back to the Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation, which took place between 66 and 75 million years ago (Landmark United States).
Pompeys Pillar contains the only physical evidence remaining of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; Captain William Clark carved his name and the date on the surface of the rock on July 25, 1806. Visitors can still see the famous signature today.
The monument is open from May through October. There is a small fee for the use of a private vehicle in the area, which also covers visiting the interpreter center. For more information, please visit the official website.
Pictograph Cave State Park
Located just south of Billings, Pictograph Cave State Park contains three notable caves: Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost. These three caves served as shelter for generations of hunters in prehistoric times.
Most famously, the caves contain rock paintings that are a testament to the fascinating history of human habitation in the area. Thousands of artifacts have also been discovered in the caves, including stone tools and weapons.
Along with viewing rock art that is up to 2,000 years old, visitors can tour the original site of the three caves as well as the new visitor’s center. The park also features an interactive trail that loops up to the caves, as well as picnic facilities. (official website).
The Moss Mansion Historic House Museum is ideal for both history buffs and fans of striking architecture. The famous red-stone mansion is located in Billings and was constructed in 1903 by entrepreneur Preston Boyd Moss and his wife Martha Ursula Woodson Moss.
Featured in films such as Son of the Morning Star and Return to Lonesome Drive, the property is famous for being an example of spectacular craftsmanship. Preserved within the home are turn-of-the-century furniture pieces and amenities—an example of privileged Billings life in the time period.
Guided tours of the mansion run for most of the year and visitors can also tour the museum at their own pace. You can also book the mansion for weddings and private functions! (official website).
For animal lovers, a visit to ZooMontana in Billings is a must. The 70-acre wildlife park is the only zoo and botanical park in the state. The zoo is home to bears, birds of prey, reptiles, large cats, and plenty more.
The zoo is open on most days throughout the year and holds several annual events, including Montana’s only drive-through light display in the holidays. (official website).
Read more on The Best Zoos And Wildlife Parks In Montana