If you don’t have time to go to Yellowstone National Park this Memorial Day weekend, a closer, but enchanting trip up the Stillwater Valley might be a good alternative and one where you still can savor wildlife, from sandhill cranes to elk, and an eruption of wildflowers.
Spring in the Stillwater Valley is busting out.
The big bright yellow arrowhead balsam root flowers, usually infiltrated with purple lupine, brighten the hillsides in fields throughout the valley. Apple blossoms are abuzz with bees. Lilacs—purple and white—that were blooming in Billings weeks ago are just now showing their colors.
It’s a good time to visit the area around Absarokee, Fishtail and Nye. Rivers and streams are whistling with water from mountain melt.
A scenic foray might include Absarokee to Nye via the West Rosebud and Fiddler Creek byways, with a side drive up South Fiddler Creek where fields are loaded with flowers framed by the Beartooth Mountains.
Spring snows and subsequent rains have rendered the valley lush and green.
Sheep with lambs and cows with calves graze in pastures along the roads.
Ingersoll Road from Roscoe to West Rosebud may reveal elk grazing in nearby fields.
A fox may scamper from a fence line to a tree line.
Bluebirds flit along fence lines, almost like dancers to the meadowlark melodies.
It’s one of the best times of the year to enjoy a backroads getaway only an hour from Billings.
Editor’s note: There’s always a comfy bed in a cozy room at Stillwater Lodge, which the Burkharts own, where you can sleep in the shadows of the Beartooths.