Don’t Miss Visiting One of Montana’s Most Historic Sites: Pompeys Pillar
Our family often drives between Billings and Treasure County in Southeast Montana, which means we have passed Pompeys Pillar countless times. Sadly, most visitors to Montana stay on the Interstate and drive right by this historic gem on their travels to and from western Montana.
Since Pompeys Pillar is practically in our backyard, we know that not only is it of historical significance, but Pompeys Pillar also has one of the best views in Southeast Montana.
Pompeys Pillar Quick Tips
Address: 3039 Hwy 312, Pompeys Pillar, MT
Cost: $7 for vehicles with six people or under; $12 for vehicles with 12 to 25 people
Opening Hours: 9 am to 4 pm during the summer. Check before arriving for opening hours during off-peak months.
What to Bring:
- Bug Spray > This stick one is easy to stick in a daypack.
- Sturdy Shoes
- Water Bottle > This is an easy-to-pack one!
- Camera > Don’t forget an extra charged battery!
Where is Pompeys Pillar?
Pompeys Pillar is located right off I-94 about halfway between Billings and Custer. The Yellowstone River flows directly behind the landmark. You’ll get off the highway at Exit 23 and then just follow the signs to the parking lot.
What is Pompeys Pillar?
Pompeys Pillar is a 200-foot tall rock made out of sandstone. It’s impressive to behold, but the geological makeup and size of the rock aren’t why it’s so famous. It’s what’s on it: the signature of Captain William Clark.
Sounds Cool, Tell Me More About Pompeys Pillar!
Captain Clark is one half of the Lewis and Clark duo, the explorers who forged their way through Montana and other parts of the west in the early 1800s after President Thomas Jefferson sent them on an expedition to discover the land the US had just acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1806, Lewis and Clark traveled right through this area and Clark carved his name into the side of Pompeys Pillar. It is the only known place marked by Lewis and Clark during their expedition.
You can still see the signature today. It is covered by a protective clear box since sadly the rock has been extensively graffitied over the years (which is illegal and punishable by law — so don’t do it!).
Also amidst the signature and the many other markings on the side of the rock, you can still see carvings of animals made by native tribes in the area centuries ago.
Are There Exhibits at Pompeys Pillar?
Yes! If you’re interested in learning more about native culture and history while in Montana and during your day trip to Pompeys Pillar, don’t miss a walk through the visitor center and exhibits.
The large and engaging exhibits are great for kids and adults alike. They are interactive and informative and will teach you about the land surrounding you and the people who have called it home. The exhibit on Sacajawea is especially interesting and tells you a lot you probably didn’t know about the American Indian woman who helped guide Lewis and Clark through the wilderness.
I recommend walking through the exhibit first and then heading to the top of Pompeys Pillar so you have a better understanding of the history of the land you’re looking at.
The top of Pompeys Pillar is where you’ll see Clark’s signature; just be warned, it’s a lot of steps!
(I walked the stairs to the top while 6-months pregnant so it’s not too strenuous, but it can be hard on your knees and is tiring.)
It’s worth the journey though to see the signature and think about how you’re standing in the footsteps of history. The view is pretty spectacular from the top as well, especially if you’re there on a clear, sunny day.
What Else is There to Do Around Pompeys Pillar?
If you’re looking for more to do around Pompeys Pillar, walk down by the river. Just remember your bug spray in the summer — and keep a lookout for rattlesnakes.
Pompeys Pillar is also an hour north of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument if you want to add more national historic sites to your day.
In addition, there’s lots of fun to be had back in Billings, Montana’s largest city, including the Billings Brew Trail. You can read about all our recommendations for the top things to do in Billings here.