Best time to visit Glacier National Park, MT

Fall Colors in Glacier National Park, MT

Autumn paints Glacier Country in golden hues

Best time: mid-September–late October

Fall Colors
Fall Colors
Fall Colors
Fall Colors
Fall Colors
Big Prairie in Glacier National Park

Fall is one of the best times to visit Glacier National Park. Crowds get thinner, wildlife is easier to spot, and beautiful fall foliage blankets the valleys and hills. Glacier National Park boasts a particularly rich fall color palette due to quite a wide variety of tree species. Aspens and cottonwoods paint the landscapes in bright yellow and warm orange. Western larch is especially impressive with its amber-colored needles. Birch adds even more golden tones. Rocky Mountain maple contributes with some red to complete the picture. Fall weather in Glacier National Park is perfect for such activities as hiking, kayaking, boating, and cycling.

Best time for fall colors in Glacier National Park

The beautiful transformation in Glacier National Park starts in September when aspens turn yellow. The fall first arrives at the western part of the park, where spectacular foliage displays can be already viewed in mid-September. The eastern part of the park gets golden and bronze tones by the end of September. Some of the brightest fall displays can be viewed at higher elevations, where western larch trees are especially abundant. They grow on all mountains on the west side of the park. Western larch (Larix occidentalis) begins changing only in mid-October, dropping its needles by the end of the month. At this time you can capture changing trees with the stunning snow-capped peaks in the background. Generally, the best time for leaf peeping in Glacier National Park runs from mid-September to late October. Also, keep in mind that some trails and park facilities close in late September, so plan your trip accordingly.

West Glacier

The west side of Glacier National Park is famous for its old-growth forests with plenty of evergreens, which make the yellow highlights of the deciduous trees even brighter. Visit the shores of Lake McDonald for the fieriest display or head to Essex for some river views. Take a scenic rafting trip along the Middle Fork of Flathead River. The waters are calmer in the fall, so it's a perfect occasion for a leisurely float.

North Fork

North Fork of the Flathead River boasts many aspens that show off golden hues quite early in the season. At higher elevations, larch trees turn yellow in mid-October. Bowman Lake is perhaps the most scenic destination in the area. The long and narrow lake is surrounded by a lush forest, which looks simply stunning in the fall. Unpaved North Fork Road suits well for fall foliage viewing biking trips.

East Glacier

Two Medicine Valley and St. Mary are the best leaf-peeping destinations in the eastern part of the park. Take a scenic hike to Lower Two Medicine Lake to photograph some beautiful reflections. This area is part of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and has been considered sacred for centuries.

Scenic Drives

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Fifty-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road traversing the Continental Divide is a must-see in the fall. Mind that only portions of this road will remain open from mid-October. The best time to take a drive is during the last two weeks of September. The west side of the road up to Logan Pass is especially scenic due to panoramic views of the valley. The Loop stuns with aspens bursting in color. When you finally get to St. Mary on the east side, there are more spectacular trees to see.

Many Glacier Road

Many Glacier Road stretches for 12 miles (19 km) from Highway 89 to beautiful Swiftcurrent Lake. The road is lined up with trees and looks amazing in the autumn. Further north, you can take a ride on the Chief Mountain International Highway to view stunning yellow aspens.

Highway 2 and Highway 49

Travel on Highway 2 from West Glacier to East Glacier and further to Browning going through beautiful forested terrain. From East Glacier, you can also take Looking Glass Highway or Highway 49 which goes along the southeastern part of the park offering great views of the Two Medicine Valley, Cut Bank Area, and much more. Plenty of aspens and cottonwoods make it a great spot for a drive in late September.

Glacier National Park is still an underrated fall destination, and hence there are much fewer cars and people here during the fall foliage season than in more popular leaf-peeping destinations. So don't wait too long to plan your fall adventure. The views of the Glacier Country wrapped in golden hues will surely blow your mind!

Practical info

When is it recommended to visit Glacier National Park for leaf peeping?

The fall foliage season in Glacier National Park spans from mid-September to late October, making it the best time to witness maple, aspen, cottonwood, birch, and western larch trees in all their colorful glory. For leaf peeping in particular, the ideal time to plan your trip is during the last two weeks of September, coinciding with the aspen's vibrant display. It's advisable to be prepared for weather changes during this time and to check the forecast before going. Show more

What are the prime locations to see fall foliage in Glacier National Park?

For stunning fall colors, West Glacier and North Fork are the best locations to visit in Glacier National Park. The area's old-growth forests make the yellow hues of the trees stand out. Check out Lake McDonald and Essex to see spectacular golden highlights, while North Fork offers a chance to witness the brilliant fall colors of many aspens. Bowman Lake is a great spot to experience the park's breathtaking scenery and snap some unique pictures. Show more

Which tree species are responsible for the fall foliage spectrum in Glacier National Park?

Glacier National Park is home to a diverse variety of trees that contribute to the stunning fall color display. Western larch is especially captivating as its amber needles add to the yellow, orange and golden shades on offer. Aspen and cottonwood are responsible for bright yellows and warm oranges, while birch imparts more golden tones to the landscape. Rocky Mountain maple adds traces of red to complete the dazzling scene. Show more

Which park facilities and hiking trails are normally closed during late-September in Glacier National Park?

Several trails and park facilities close during late-September in Glacier National Park. Planning your itinerary is crucial during this time. The Going-to-the-Sun road, the park's most memorable drive, is normally open until mid-October, except for the Logan Pass section, which typically closes in late September. Inclement fall weather may affect the St. Mary to Logan Pass section, so it's best to double-check the weather forecast well in advance. Show more

What are the most picturesque routes to admire fall foliage in Glacier National Park?

For an unrivalled fall foliage experience, drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The western section up to Logan Pass offers panoramic views of the valley, while the Loop's aspens showcase a beautiful color spectrum. The Chief Mountain International Highway and Many Glacier Road feature numerous aspens in their full glory. Highway 2, from West Glacier to East Glacier, and beyond to Browning, provides a scenic drive through wooded areas. Highway 49 will capture the best southeastern views of the park and the Two Medicine Valley. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen