Take a Stroll on Swords Park Trail
Last year I talked about the bike trails that crisscross their way through Billings. They were developed recently in an effort to make our city more bicycle friendly. But I just talked about the trails in general, and I didn’t go into much detail about any of them. About two months later I talked about the scenic overlook in Billings, and how you could spend a few minutes to a few hours gawking at the views we have available. Well right nearby the overlook is one of the bike trails. It is easy to get to, fun to use, and it isn’t so long that you will need to be in prime physical shape to complete it. Swords Park Trail, also known as Black Otter Trail, is a great place to get some exercise and have some fun.
The trail and the trail system have actually been in place for quite a while. I remember many years ago going up there and walking along the dirt paths that bordered the cliffs. However, it was recently developed into a “multi-use hard surface trail” along with many others around the area. It opened the park up to much more activity, and allows many more people to enjoy the views. This particular segment of the bike trails, as they have come to be called, goes from near the airport and wraps around the end of the Rimrocks near Metra Park, ending near the 6th Avenue Bypass.
If you happen to get up there, the trail is perfect for a morning, afternoon, or evening walk. You can also run, jog, bike, take a stroller, or just go for a good long sit to admire the views. And the views are incredible. You can see the entire valley stretching all the way to the Beartooths. Take in the scenery in the spring to catch the flowering trees, in the fall to see the colors, and the winter to admire a new blanket of snow. There are plenty of benches or rocks to sit on and soak in the view. While getting some exercise might be why most people head up to Swords Park Trail, there is one other item that might pique your interest. It is rumored that somewhere at the east end of the park is a concrete box covering a section of sandstone. Beneath this box, which is in place to shield the section from the elements, Lewis and Clark have carved their signatures. I have seen pictures, but I have never actually found the box. I have only heard of the signatures, and cannot attest to their authenticity.
Like all parks, it is best to only go and play during the daytime. At night it is dangerous as the area is mostly undeveloped. There are many rocks strewn about, cliffs nearby, and while Billings is a safe city, it is best not to risk running into shady characters. During the summer the top of the Rims get hot. The heat brings out the snakes and other creatures. Since this is near the city, they might not be quite as active, but never-the-less, keep an eye out. Also bring a lot of water so you don’t get heat stroke.
To get to the park head up 27th Street and take the roundabout onto Airport Road heading toward Main Street. Immediately on your right will be a small parking area. Don’t worry if you miss it, there are a few others along the way. The final one will be after you head down the hill and turn onto Aaronson Ave. The parking lot is actually the same one you use to visit Boothill Cemetery. There is a map on the PRPL page for the park.
If you head out there you should know what clothes to take. As you saw with today’s “Snowpocalypse” the weather can change quickly, especially in the spring. So be prepared. Visit Swords Park, have some fun, enjoy the views, and get some exercise.
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