Run Some Stairs on the Rimrocks
A few weeks ago I wrote to you about the Swords Park Trail. It is a great place to go for a jog or a bike ride with some magnificent views. The next time you are up there, there is one more thing to watch out for. For many years there has been a set of stairs that were carved into the rimrocks. They lead from the sandy slope up to the top of the rims. They are quite hard to locate, even when you are staring right at them. Because of their obscurity, many people have walked by them without knowing they are there.
Back in 1910 the Chamber of Commerce carved this particular set of stairs into the side of the rocks. At this point in Billings’ history North 27th Street didn’t connect to Airport Road, and the only way to get up there was to go around edge of the cliffs (near modern day Main Street). Since this was further than most people wanted to travel, the Chamber had the stairs carved to promote tourism and sightseeing. Throughout the years a total of 5 sets of stairs have been carved into the cliffs, but one remains in better shape than the rest.
I first “discovered” this particular set of stairs in high school. One evening during the summer our youth group was having a rappelling night, and instead of shuttling the students back to the top of the rims we walked up the stairs. The guard rail is long gone, and the bottom steps have eroded and crumbled to nearly nothing, but the stairs are still a very useful way to get from the base of the rimrocks to the top.
To get to the stairs you can take one of two approaches. Park at one of the many parking areas along the highway and walk Swords Park Trail until you find the location of the stairs. This may prove a little more difficult to do since from the top they are even harder to find than from the bottom. The other approach is to park at the bottom and hike the trail that basically leads right to the base of the stairs.
Now even though the stairs exist, the rimrocks are still steep. There is no longer a guard rail to hold onto (although you could have someone rig you a rope to the posts that still exist). Even with a rope, if you do not have good balance, or have an overwhelming fear of heights, you might want to skip this adventure.
If you do decide to go, make sure you climb the stairs when it is dry out. Although the sandstone is rough, it still gets slippery in the snow and wet. The regular precautions for hiking the rims in the summertime apply: bring water, watch out for snakes, don’t throw down any rocks, and wear sunscreen. Be safe around the cliffs and just have some fun. Below you can see a picture showing where these stairs are, and if you check out the Gazette website you can read more interesting facts about our unique rimrocks.
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