Overlooking the Yellowstone River in the south of Montana, the Pompeys Pillar National Monument is a sandstone butte that stands at around 150 feet high. Visited by around 50,000 people each year, this is a famous national monument that contains the last remaining physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803- 1806.
This BLM property takes its name from Pomp, the nickname of Jean-Baptist Charbonneau, who was the son of expedition member Sacagawea. She carried the 18-month-old tot on her back for the 14 months that she aided the expedition. As well as the signature of William Clark and the date (July 25th, 1806), the pillar is also adorned with Native American petroglyphs, and there is an interpretive center where you can learn the about the expedition.
The monument is open from the first week in May until October, although this is weather dependent, and it is open for walk-in visitation offseason.
Clamber up the 202 steps to the top of the pillar for impressive views of the Yellowstone River Valley below, enjoy a picnic at one of the many picnic spots across the trail, or just relax in the shade of the luscious cottonwood trees. This Bureau of Land Management area is one of the smallest national monuments across the USA, and unfortunately, there is no camping available on site most of the year. However, there are several public and private campgrounds nearby that will provide the perfect spot for your history-infused getaway.
The Pompeys Pillar National Monument is pretty easy to find, situated just along Interstate 94 around 25 miles east of Billings, Montana. The Montana landscape is truly majestic and if you wish to explore the region further, there are many scenic routes that you can take. The Billings Scenic Drive is particularly popular, taking you around Pompeys Pillar as well as by Clark's Crossing, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and the Bear Tooth Highway; offering phenomenal scenery as well as a chance to see the areas where history took place. The roads are subject to closure in inclement weather, and it is advised that you check driving conditions before you set out.
There is ample parking at the monument and there are also RV parking spots available. During the open season (from April to October) there is a charge per vehicle at the gate. If you are looking to walk the loop trail up to the pillar, it is advised that you park just near the Interpretive Centre as it is around a mile walk from the gate itself.
Due to the relatively remote location of this BLM land in Montana, there is limited public transport to the monument itself. However, there are buses to the Billings area, and then the monument is 25 miles from there. There are also some private tours in the area that will take you on a scenic drive around Big Sky Country, which includes the Pompey Pillar monument as well as several of the highlights of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
This award-winning campground has all the amenities you could possibly require, including electric and water hook-up, a pool, Wi-Fi, and so much more. There is RV camping, tent camping and accommodation available as well as all the amenities you could possibly require, including a heated swimming pool, adventure golf, and bike rentals as well as RV hookups, dump stations, and excellent facilities.
The Bighorn Lake and its surrounding landscapes are truly majestic and the Afterbay Campground could be the perfect location for your Montana stay. Offering fishing, boating, camping, hiking and a chance to spot local wildlife, the nearby Bighorn Canyon National Recreation area and the surrounded 120, 000 acres has more than 10, 000 years of history.
This campsite is open all year, with sites on the south shore of the After Bay Lake and near Grapevine creek on the north shore. This is a primitive camping site, and there are no RV hook-ups available, but there is a dump station, drinking water, and bathrooms available. With reasonable pricing, the Afterbay campground is an ideal spot for anyone who is visiting the Pompey Pillar monument.
If you are looking to learn more about the Lewis and Clark expedition, discover the history of the area and tour the Pompeys Pillar Interpretive Centre. The Interpretive Centre is also home to some original J K Ralston paintings and sketches and there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the native culture as well as the geography and topography of the area. There is also a gift shop and book store, which are perfect for picking up some souvenirs for loved ones back home.
Just outside of this BLM property, you can discover some of the best fishing in the Montana region. The Yellowstone River runs from Billings to the North Dakota border.
It is particularly popular for fly fishing but the lower part near Billings is better suited to spin fishing, with the chance to catch catfish, pike, walleye and smallmouth bass. Always ensure that you check the regulations regarding permits and licenses. It should be noted that in most areas of the river, wade fishing is allowed.
Pompeys Pillar Monument is ultimately a significant piece of American history, and the Clark Days celebration is a huge festival that honors the Lewis and Clark expedition. The Clark Days take place at the end of July or the beginning of August.
This is a huge event that is popular among locals and visitors alike, with lots of things to see and do across the park. Plus, it is also the only time of the year when camping is permitted at the monument itself.
Bird watching is a popular activity around the Pompeys Pillar monument, with the chance to spot many native species to the region. The riparian areas, which are predominantly cottonwood and willow, provide an ideal habitat for warblers, tanagers, kingbirds and more. There is also the chance to spot Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, and Osprey, who all nest around the site. Furthermore, you can see falcons, pheasants, sparrows and many other species at the prairie just to the south of the pillar.
Discover the dramatic Montana wilderness and hike amongst this majestic scenery, with several trails nearby. At Pompeys Pillar itself, there is a 0.8-mile loop trail that puffers scenic views and this trail is suitable for all levels.
If you are looking for something a bit more challenging, the nearby Four Dances Trail is particularly popular. A 2.5-mile loop trail, there are some steep inclines and rocky declines. However, if you are walking around the area, remember to pack some serious bug spray, as the mosquitoes can be plentiful.
There are so many spots around the pillar that are ideal for photography, and the diverse region includes mountains, rivers, prairies, and canyons. Climb up the rickety stairs to the top for an Instagram-worthy shot of the Yellowstone River Valley, with 360-degree panoramic views of the impressive scenery. Nature photographers will also love the opportunity to snap local wildlife, with grizzly bears, elks, deer’s, wolves, bison, bighorn sheep and more native to the area.