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Cyclist on Rims

A cyclist rides along the Swords Park bike path on top of the Billings Rimrocks.

Swords Park, a 60-acre strip between the Billings Rimrocks and Highway 3, provides a great walking, biking, jogging, scooter and rollerblading route. Along the wide asphalt trail, trekkers can take in the views of the city, Yellowstone Valley and the Beartooth and Pryor Mountains.

There are several access points to the trail. Starting from the west, park along the top of the Rims about one-quarter of a mile west of the airport roundabout. The paved trail runs east through a tunnel under North 27th Street to another parking area where visitors can access the trail.

The next access point is about 1.25 miles east. This parking area includes a vault toilet and covered picnic area. From here, the trail parallels Chief Black Otter Trail 1.2 miles to a fourth parking area. The last section of the trail joins the old road (which is closed to vehicles in this section) and winds farther down from the Rims to a parking lot next to the old Boothill Cemetery.

The entire trail is about 3.5 miles long with much of it fairly level until it drops about 200 feet on the east end. Benches dot the trail providing comfortable rest stops along the way. Bikers can do the whole route back and forth while walkers tend to enjoy shorter sections.

Here’s a bit of history to enhance your trip: the Rims are comprised of 85 million-year-old sandstone deposited when there was a vast inland sea covering Montana. One theory is that the sandstone is the remains of a barrier island.

American Indians reportedly used the eastern part of what is now the park — known as Skeleton Cliff — as a burial ground, followed by Euro-Americans who built the Boothill Cemetery that served the town of Coulson, which pre-dated Billings. Chief Black Otter was a name reportedly created by Billings city officials in the 1940s to increase interest in the route.

Near the apex of the Rims is a monument to frontier guide Yellowstone Kelly, who is interred at the site.

The park was named in 1931 in honor of George Swords, who had donated land to create the park a decade earlier.

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