Bike season is starting to wind down in Montana and everybody in Billings is getting out and hitting the streets on two wheels before fall starts to set in next month. Sure, there are some die-hard riders who push the motorcycle season, riding into late October or when the snow flies (whichever comes first).
Everyone knows about Beartooth Pass and Going-to-the-Sun Road. These are certainly awesome rides that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. Preferably, once per summer. I’m talking about other fun, local trips that you can do in as little as an hour or so from Billings. Most locals know about these popular rides, but if you have motorcycle friends visiting Billings, what are some of your favorite places you’d tell them to ride? Here are my Top 7:
Billings to Laurel via Duck Creek Road. Time = minimal. The ultimate quicky. Anytime I have to travel between Laurel and Billings on the scoot, I take this route. Take the Frontage road east. Turn south on Duck Creek Rd. Cross the Yellowstone River then turn right on River Road. It’s a fairly curvy, quick little rip following the river to Laurel. Watch for deer all times of the day. Fat Fender Freddy’s bar is a pretty cool little stop at the end. You can turn south to Red Lodge or go do your business in Laurel and maybe head out to #2…
Molt Road via Buffalo Trail. Time = medium. From Laurel head north past the high school and cemetery. 1st Ave turns into Buffalo Trail and winds up through some pretty scenic little canyons areas for about 10 miles until you plateau onto the open country. You’ll end up at a T intersection (actually, it’s a four-way if you want to continue north on gravel. This gravel road is rough and I got a flat tire with my car once. I wouldn’t recommend it on a cruiser bike but go for it if that’s your style or if you ride an enduro style bike). There are a couple of paved, pull-over areas near the intersection that are nice for stopping to stretch, turn off the bike and hear the quietness of Big Sky Country. Go left at the T and you’ll hit the tiny town of Molt. Unfortunately, there are not really any food or drink options, as the Molt cafe closed a few years ago. Molt would be a great spot for a roadhouse-style steakhouse and bar IMO. Go right east at the T on Molt Rd and Buffalo Trail Rd, and you’ll blast thru some flatland for a few miles and then a few fun curvy stretches before you drop back into the Billing west end on Rimrock Road. There can be a lot of bicyclists on this road, so don’t be a douche and share the road.
Edgar. Time = Medium. If you don’t have time to ride all the way to Red Lodge, but still want a nice relaxing cruise and maybe lunch or dinner, then the ride to Edgar is a decent little trip. From Billings, take Route #1 and turn south on 210. At Rockvale turn left at the light. The Edgar Road turn off kind of creeps up on ya. Watch for sign.
Pryor Loop. Time = Medium. This is a great ride, heading south of Billings on Blue Creek Road. Cross the Yellowstone River. Past Briarwood. Fun curves for 15-20 miles or so. When you get to Pryor Road you can go right into Pryor. There is not too much to do for the general public, but you could grab some sweet fireworks and come back. Or you can go left on Pryor Road. Every time I’ve ridden this route, there are always a ton of potholes on this stretch. You’ll end up winding thru the backside of Emerald Hills and coming through Lockwood. The 2nd Shift is a popular Billings biker bar and has great bar food.
Columbus via Park City and Frontage Road. Time = Medium to Long. The two-lane road to Columbus is a fun ride. Take nothing but two lanes from Laurel to Park City. Pop’s Tavern is a nice stop for a cold, cheap beverage and cheeseburger. Continue on two-lane to Columbus, stopping for a selfie/smoke break at that overlook just before you drop into the east end of Columbus. Mandatory stop at the “dead animal bar” on Main to see the two-headed taxidermy calf and other oddities. This relatively short ride from Billings can be extended substantially by continuing on to Absarokee / Nye / Roscoe / Fishtail / Red Lodge. Actually, one of my favorite trips. But not a short trip. Plan on 4 - 5 hours of casual riding with a mix of straights and curves if you explore past Absarokee. Lots of deer and turkey and postcard Montana views.
Cooney Lake. Time = Medium. Take Route #3, but instead of turning at Rockvale, keep going past Joliet and turn onto Cooney Lake Road. It’s a fun little ride, with a mix of curves and straights. Depending on the time of day, the bar at Cooney may be open. Bait, beer, and maybe some basic bar food. If you are not fishing or swimming, there isn’t much to really do at Cooney on a bike, other than enjoy the views.
Roundup. Time = Medium to Long.Highway 87 North to Roundup is not the most exciting ride on this list as far a thrill factor goes, but I do enjoy this little trip. The scenery is pleasant, the wide open spaces are kind of nice and Roundup is a good leaping-off point to either do the Big Timber loop, or continue west past White Sulphur Springs area and into Townsend or continue on the backroads to Great Falls through the Little Belts and Big Belt mountains. Cell service can be sketchy on a large portion of this route.
If you have other fun, local rides you’d like to share, let’s hear them in the comments. Ride safe.