While I was visiting Billings, I was looking for day trips and founds some great places to go , like Pictograph State Park and Pompey’s Pillar, but I stumbled across an event so unusual, so small town, so cool, that I just had to go. That was the Montana Bale Trail.
As I had a rental car, I took a day and headed off to Hobson first thing in the morning. Hobson is about a two hour drive from Billings, and the day was still cool. The roads are mostly flat, but the scenery was interesting along the way.
I stopped in a few “one horse” towns as I drove up. Towns with names such as: Comanche, Shawgut, and Judith Gap. There weren’t many buildings, and the streets looks windswept and somewhat desserted. I felt like I was in an old western movie.
I did stop for gas at the intersection of Route 3 and Route 12, in Lavina where I met a couple from Iowa at the pump. Just like me, they’d been traveling around the state discovering how varied and interesting Montana was. I was half sorry I couldn’t entice them to go to Hobson with me, but alas they turned right when I turned left.
Arriving in Hobson, the first thing you notice is the big grain elevators along the railroad tracks and a well-designed iron relief sign. As most of the other towns I’d driven through, there wasn’t much there to entice anyone to stop but I was on a mission, to find these whimsical hay sculptures.
What is the Montana Bale Trail?
According to the official website, the bale trail started in 1990 between two farming neighbors. It immediately started gaining in popularity and by 2003 was named Montana’s Tourism Event of the Year. These are pretty big accolades.
Today, the Hobson School runs the program, and various classes as well as individuals enter into a hay bale sculpting contest. The results are surprising, stunning, and most of all funny.
The sculptures are installed on a 20 mile swath of land between the town of Hobson on routes 239 and 541.
What is There to Do?
Held every year the first Sunday after Labor Day, the whole town of Hobson gets into it. There is a fair at the school, a pancake breakfast, and a Rod and Gun Club Dinner and dance. You can easily spend the entire day in this small hamlet.
First you probably want to stay in Hobson for the whole weekend. Maybe stay in the very western city of Lewistown, only 30 miles away. There you’ll find restaurants and hotels, and a walkable downtown area.
On Saturday, take a picnic and explore Ackley Lake State Park or see the Beargulch Pictographs before driving out to the Utica Community Hall for the BBQ dinner, dance, and auction.
After a good night’s sleep, head to the Mason’s pancake breakfast starting at 7:30 before picking up your map to start of the Montana Bale Trail. For the next few hours, follow along the route and get your giggle on as you see how the sculptors interpreted the current theme. It’s a lot of fun.
How to Get to Hobson
There are a few roads to get to Hobson from Billings. I decided to take one way up, which was route 3, to route 12, to route 191. Then I wanted a change of scenery on my way back to Billings, so I drove through Lewistown, then down route 87, a scenic byway.