Miles City Rocks: Painted rocks appearing around town

Star Staff Writer

Something curious is going on with the rocks around Miles City.

Painted rocks have been showing up since July along sidewalks and in local parks, part of a growing movement that’s getting families outside and bringing smiles to the faces of those who spot them. 

Danielle Lupinacci and Lila Mulkey of Miles City were inspired by a movement that’s been taking off in communities all across the country, judging by the multitude of Facebook groups involved in the activity.

The idea is to paint rocks, often with encouraging messages and usually with fun designs, and then hide them in the community for others to find, and often rehide.

The inspiration for the movement comes from The Kindness Rocks Project, founded by Megan Murphy of Cape Cod, Mass., who wanted to leave uplifting messages for people to find, according to

In the same way as Kindness Rocks, many of the messages hidden across Miles City have been incredibly timely for people.

“I remember someone sharing a story about having to put their dog down at the vet,” Lupinacci said. “When they went outside of the vet’s office they found a rock with a paw print painted on it.” 

People will often keep rocks that are particularly meaningful to them, and hide the rest they find for another person to discover, she said

Finding and hiding rocks is only half the fun, with people of all ages and artistic abilities getting involved with the painting process. 

“We’ve seen artists, who hadn’t done much for years, energized to be artistic again,” Lupinacci said.

Rocks are painted in a wide range of styles, with the local group recommending that topics be uplifting and family friendly.

After all, the activity brings families together to paint rocks, as well as hunt and hide them.

“For the kids it’s like a year-long Easter egg hunt,” Mulkey said.

JoAnna Palmer, mother of 8-year-old twins Jaycee and Khloe, said her family has gotten in on the fun of finding painted rocks.

Jaycee and Khloe found their first rock at Wibaux Park, which they then found three more times after it was discovered and re-hidden by others.

Palmer said several times the family has been out driving and one of the girls will yell, “Mom, stop! There’s a rock!” The girls have spotted painted rocks in trees and one in a sign on Main Street.

The activity helps keep the girls off the couch, Palmer said.

“They didn’t watch a ton of TV before, but now they get home and immediately want to go out and hunt for rocks,” she said.

Not only that, she said the twins have gotten their cousins excited about looking for painted rocks too. 


Gaining Momentum

The seemingly instant popularity enjoyed by the Painted Rocks group wasn’t by accident. 

“In the beginning the rocks took over the kitchen. They were in the sink, in the strainer. Everywhere,” Mulkey said. “I counted and I was painting and hiding nearly 300 rocks at a time.”

She would send her brother, Ryan Towe, out with a backpack full of rocks several times a week to hide them. 

“The kids would sit on the merry-go-round and watch me do my circuit around the park  and wait until I left to go find the rocks,” Towe said, who likes painting rocks as much as hiding them. 

“My favorite rock that I’ve made has to be Sonic [the Hedgehog],” said Towe, 13. “It took like seven hours to make because I sketched it first. This was retro Sonic,  too, from the Sega Genesis.” 

Painted rocks aren’t just for kids, either. One promotion targeted adults.

Towe painted a set of rocks of the full cast of the popular cartoon “Family Guy” and hid them around the Trails Inn Bar on Main Street in Miles City. They gave away a copy of the game “Never Have I Ever” to the first person who returned a rock from the contest.

Mulkey mentioned that one of their most popular contests was a raffle for fair tickets. She hid nearly 300 rocks and got about 200 people who returned them as an entry for the three tickets that were given away. 

(Contact Austin Lott at or 406-234-0450.)