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Nez Perce National Historical Park is a celebration of a Native American tribe, though it extends much further than that. The Nez Perce have lived in the inland northwest region of North America for thousands of years, occupying the prairies, valleys, plateaus, and mountains in the area. The park is a living testament to their history and culture; it is also connected to the cultures of the immigrants who settled here. Lewis and Clark took their expedition through the Nez Perce's homeland twice, earning the trust of the Nez Perce peoples and creating cultural ties.
The Nez Perce NHP spans four separate states, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, and includes a long list of specific landmark sites. Some of these sites are recognized for specific historical events, while others are in recognition of certain people who played important roles.
In the Montana sect of the park, Canyon Creek Battlefield marks the site of a fight between the 7th U.S. Calgary and Nez Perce warriors. The canyon's shape aided the Nez Perce in controlling the scene during a surprise attack. Though the landmark is protected and off-limits to visitors, the untouched open grassland surrounded by towering rock walls can be viewed from a distance. The auto tour along the Nez Perce Trail is an excellent way to experience the area. Download the map, stock up on snacks, and strap in for a historic cruise in the Billings motorhome rental.
Your first stop on the way into the wilderness should be Custer Gallatin National Forest near Red Lodge. This massive nature preserve extends across several Montana counties and even into South Dakota; it is the northeastern gateway into Yellowstone National Park and contains an ecologically diverse landscape. This diversity means wildlife viewing will be spectacular, and there will be many activities you can enjoy here, such as hiking, bicycling, and picnicking.
Lake Mason National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 by an executive order from then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the expressed purpose of creating a refuge for migratory birds. The park is primarily dedicated to mountain plovers, a species of bird that is native to Montana but on the endangered species list. The landscape is a blend of mixed-grass prairie and wetlands, which host waterfowl and shorebirds. The refuge is a natural destination for bird watchers, and it also provides opportunities for hikers. RV camping near Nez Perce NHP puts all of this and so much more right at your doorstep.
Acton Recreation Area has a distinct and interesting landscape that includes upland sandstone bluffs, weathered shale, badlands, and stands of ponderosa pine. The area is a popular year-round recreational area, and it is also an important archeological area, containing the remains of wooden Native American dwellings. You can come here to hike and observe the plant and wildlife; mountain biking is allowed, as is RV camping and horseback riding. Hunting is permitted in season.
There are several RV parks in Billings, and you'll find more options further out. One possibility is the Yellowstone River Campground. It's a short distance from many local attractions such as Little Big Horn National Park. There are exhibits of old farming machinery around the campground as a makeshift museum demonstrating the area's past. For your relaxation, there are a swimming pool and hot tub on-site, as well as a general store and gift shop.
Billings KOA is a family-friendly RV campground that is open seasonally from early April until late October. It's a cultivated campground with a swimming pool and hot tub, miniature golf, bicycle rentals, a snack bar and restaurant, and more. It's close to many local attractions, but you are welcome to join in the campground's social activities while you're here. You'll also have access to an on-site laundromat, a camp store, and a fenced area for dogs.
When you're ready to begin experiencing the culture of Montana, begin by heading to Roundup, a small town that started as a center for cattle herds. Today the town is still the destination for cattle drives, but it has evolved beyond that as well. The city has a museum tracing its history and an Old West souvenir shop with vintage signs in the backroom. Roundup has a long list of cafes and family diners serving up simple but delicious food; there is a drive-in restaurant if you're in the mood for some nostalgia.
Hardin is a mid-size town with a county historical museum, an urban park, and a reservoir. The reservoir is quite scenic, and you can go there if you're hoping to swim or do some fishing. The museum consists of approximately two dozen historic buildings, two of which are used to store antique tractors and farm equipment, and vintage cars and trucks. The museum complex has a gift shop, galleries, and a visitor center. Hardin's restaurant scene is a balance of chain-style restaurants and locally-owned venues; most of the establishments offer traditional American-style food, including pizza and burgers.