Top 5 Places to Go Camping Near Billings
May is here, and that means it is the beginning of camping season. The nights are still cool, the days are warm, and what a better way to enjoy the weather than to sleep outside.
There are a ton of great camping spots near Billings. But there are a few that keep drawing me back. They each offer something a little bit different, and let you experience Montana in a unique way.
The Bighorn Reservoir runs for 72 miles from near Lovell, WY to near Fort Smith, Montana. You can drive to the Ok-a-Beh Marina near the dam, or you can drive to Barry’s Landing near Lovell. But you can’t drive from Ok-a-Beh to Barry’s Landing. To get to Barry’s you have to drive around the western edge of the Pryor Mountains and then cut back.
But when you do get there it’s a nice little respite from the arid region. You drop down toward the reservoir and pass by a few camp spots. They’re nestled in the trees, and have access to water and an outhouse. Best of all, there is no cost to use them. From there you can enjoy taking the boat out on the southern end of the reservoir.
It’s not exactly camping, but it’s not really staying in a cabin either. High atop East Pryor Mountain is an old homestead that has been restored (I use that word lightly). It is free to use the cabin, but available on a first come, first served basis.
Pen’s Cabin is quite the place. The door is tiny, but the interior feels roomy. It has a small wood burning stove, and due to the elevation you would need to use it this time of year (if there aren’t snow drifts blocking your way). From just outside the cabin you have some amazing views all the way down into the Wyoming prairies. Definitely a great little place to stay when you’re out exploring.
The Boulder River
The Boulder River Valley is one of the most amazing places to retreat to. During the summer it is warm and easily accessible: and thus it can get a little crowded. In the winter it’s snowed in and not easily accessible: and thus you may not be able to do much.
May is a great time of year to head up the valley. The peaks are still snow capped, the river is running clear, and unless we get a late spring storm, the roads are easy to drive. The cool nights keep most campers away, so bring the warm sleeping bag and experience spring on the Boulder.
The Bull Mountains
North of Billings, not even an hour away, are the Bull Mountains. Now I use that term a little loosely. They’re not quite the mountains that you would expect when you picture mountains. More like glorified Rimrocks.
That uniqueness is what makes them intriguing. There are plenty of canyons to explore, sandstone formations to take in, the Musselshell River to fish (until the runoff starts and it gets murky and overflows its banks), and animals to see or hunt. Find some public land, or befriend a land owner and see what these mountains have to offer.
Newlan Creek Reservoir
I generally make it to Newlan Creek Reservoir in June, so I’m not exactly sure what the fishing would be like in May. But there is a good chance that it’s going to be great.
On Father’s Day weekend there is a fishing derby on the reservoir. The campground is packed, there are boats everywhere, and even with all the activity the fish are biting. In May, when the runoff is less, you will have to change up tactics to find a good fishing spot. Take a trip up there and then let me know how you do.
Camping in Montana
The Beartooths are still snow covered, so some of the backpacking spots aren’t quite accessible. But there are plenty of camping spots nearby that you can get to. Where is your favorite place to camp near Billings?
Scott is a writer, outdoor enthusiast, beer snob, and woodworker. When he is not out exploring all of the wonders around Billings, he loves to sit down for a frosty brew at one of the many great breweries we have available to us. You can read about most of his adventures, and many of the fine brews he has sipped right here. Find out more about Scott at