By: Morgan Belveal
For more than 100 years, Roundup has stood proud as an agricultural town at the base of the Bull Mountains just 45 miles north of Billings. As Roundup evolves, this small town has become the perfect home base for your family’s next rural adventure. Today, Roundup is where you go to turn your attention away from screens and toward the big skies. You can see wildlife that you have never seen before and study geologic formations millions of years in the making. Unlike any other place in the world, Roundup is where you can have conversations with cowboys and coal miners that remember homesteading this land with their parents. Roundup is the small town with a big heart, and this is how you can come to appreciate its charm if you only have a weekend.
Dig in (literally) and hunt for Montana’s famous rocks and fossils
Roundup is surrounded by rock formations that attract beginner and expert rock hunters. Walking along narrow paths on public land scanning the ground with every step and hoping to find one of the area’s true gems is a perfect way to appreciate the nature that surrounds the town.
Rockhounds in the hills, rivers, and valleys, around Roundup have been lucky enough to find Yogo sapphires, Montana agates and fossils of invertebrates and vertebrates that once walked the planet.
Pack a picnic and a rock hunting kit and you can hop from public land to public land searching for the treasure that is right beneath your toes.
Important note: Vertebrate fossils may only be collected on private property with landowner permission. They may not be collected on public land. Invertebrate fossils such as shells, ammonites, and baculites may be collected on public land.
Go for a morning bird watching stroll along the Musselshell River
The Musselshell River winds its way through Roundup bringing with it an impressive collection of year-round and migrating bird species. Even better, you can watch them all from Roundup’s mile-long RiverWalk. The gravel trail follows the path of the river and provides a beautiful and easy way to take in the fresh air and find the next bird on your life list.
From wrens and robins to woodpeckers and waterfowl, you will be surrounded by birds and their songs on this walk. You are also likely to see Montana's state bird, the Western meadowlark, with its beautiful and discerning song or maybe even a convocation of bald eagles nested in the trees.
Tip: For the diehard birders among us, the nearby Lake Mason Wildlife Refuge provides a great opportunity to see more than 50 species of birds including several species of plovers and the far end of the refuge is connected to protected sage grouse mating grounds – an incredible sight to see in the spring.
Stargaze under blankets in the bed of a pickup
One of the greatest reasons to visit Roundup is to get away from the buzz of the city. Without anything to block your view, you have a 360-degree view of the “Big Sky” our state is famous for. While the sunsets and fluffy blue clouds are great, aerial views near Roundup are even more majestic at night. For stargazers, it is not uncommon to see the Milky Way, a meteor shower or even the northern lights. Grab a blanket, drive out to Snowy Mountain Road (12 miles north of town), park on the side of the dirt road, cuddle up under a blanket and watch the galaxy come to life in front of your eyes.
Meet the locals at Roundup’s favorite watering holes
The restaurants and bars in Roundup are the opposite of a tourist trap. On any given night, you are likely to sit at the bar next to a cowboy, a coal miner, a long-distance trucker and an EMT. Introduce yourself and take some time to share your story. These old cowboys have some great tales to share.
With four bars on Main Street, Roundup is the perfect setting for a micro bar-crawl as you make start with a beer and a round of pool at the Arcade, listen to some live music at the Maverick, test your luck on the slots at the Keg and finally make your way to the Grand Bar & Grille for a burger and a local Montana beer.
Before you know it, the weekend will be finished, and you haven’t even scratched the surface. You will still have our incredible small-town museum, Market on Main, the free city pool and the massive Fourth of July party to enjoy on your summer trip to Roundup.
Morgan Belveal is a Montana native and owner of the Big Sky Motel in Roundup, MT - a four-generation Main Street business. With a background in Child Development, he has worked his way around the world from Philadelphia to the Philippines and he is proud to be living in Southeast Montana once again.