Best time to travel to Montana

Montana Fall Colors

Fairy-tale like landscapes in America's most popular national parks

Montana Fall Colors
Montana Fall Colors
Montana Fall Colors
Montana Fall Colors
Montana Fall Colors
East Glacier Park, Montana

From Glacier National Park in the North to Yellowstone in the South, Montana is a nature lovers' paradise with over a million acres of wilderness, mountains, glaciers, and dense forests. In the fall, the Big Sky Country dresses up in gold and bronze with amazing foliage displays in every corner.

When is the best time to see Montana fall foliage

Fall foliage season arrives in mid-September. At that time you can view beautiful colors in northern parts of the state, in particular, on higher elevations in Glacier National Park. In central Montana, peak fall colors can be viewed from late September to early October. Amazing Western larch (Larix occidentalis) trees with their golden needles begin changing only in mid-October. In Yellowstone National Park, fall colors can be viewed from mid-September on higher elevations to early October in lower areas.

Glacier National Park

The North Fork of the Flathead River boasts many aspens that show off golden hues quite early in the season. Higher elevations are rich with Western larch trees that turn yellow later on. Bowman Lake could be the most scenic destination in the area because of a lush forest, which looks simply stunning in the fall. Visit the shores of Lake McDonald for the fieriest display of colors or head to Essex for some river views. Take a scenic rafting trip along the Middle Fork Flathead River. In East Glacier, visit Two Medicine Valley, particularly the Lower Two Medicine Lake to photograph beautiful fall foliage reflections. Finally, ride the scenic 50-mi Going-to-the-Sun Road, which crosses the park from west to east. The West side of the road up to Logan Pass is especially scenic due to panoramic views of the valley and aspens bursting in color. When you finally get to St. Mary Lake on the east side, there are more spectacular trees to see.

Yellowstone National Park

The northern entrance to the Yellowstone National park can be easily accessed from Gardiner, Montana. Some of the most beautiful fall destinations in northern Yellowstone include Lamar Valley. This remote area is rich in cottonwoods and wildlife. Herds of bison, pronghorn, bald eagles, coyotes, grizzly bears, and deer are frequently seen there in the fall. Custer Gallatin National Forest is a fall foliage paradise that lies along the Yellowstone River. Explore the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness just east of Gardiner or the Gallatin Wilderness to the north and west.

Bitterroot Valley

The Bitterroot Valley, south of Missoula, is a true leaf-peeping heaven with a kaleidoscope of fall colors in every direction. Take a 96 mi (154 km) scenic drive through the region on Highway 93, surrounded by Bitterroot Mountains on one side and Sapphire Mountains on the other. The beautiful Bitterroot River is framed by golden and bronze leaves, especially around Hamilton.

Practical info

When does the fall foliage season start and end in Montana?

Fall foliage season in Montana begins from mid-September to late October. Different parts of the state have their peak foliage at different times. Glacier National Park in northern Montana offers beautiful colors in mid-September, while central Montana's colors are at their peak late September to early October. The golden transformation of the stunning Western larch trees across Montana occurs only in mid-October. Show more

Which locations in Montana have the best fall foliage?

To experience the best fall foliage in Montana, you can visit several locations. Glacier National Park is a good start. Bowan Lake or the Lake McDonald shoreline in the park offer fantastic leaf-peeping opportunities. Lower Two Medicine Lake in East Glacier and Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park are also breathtaking locations for fall foliage photography. The Bitterroot Valley in Montana is indeed a paradise with a kaleidoscope of fall colors in every direction. Show more

What are the most scenic drives to spot fall foliage in Montana?

Montana boasts of many scenic drives, and fall foliage enhances their beauty. If you're looking to admire the colorful scenery, Go-To-The-Sun Road is a popular 50-mile route that crosses Glacier National Park from west to east. Another fantastic option is the 96-mile long highway 93 that offers a scenic drive through the Bitterroot Valley. Additionally, Custer Gallatin National Forest, Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, and the Gallatin Wilderness are other drives worth visiting. Show more

Which hiking trails offer the best fall foliage sights in Montana?

Hiking in Montana provides great vantage points to enjoy the colorful fall foliage. To experience some of the best hiking trails, try the Beaver Ponds Loop trail, the Hidden Lake trail in Glacier National Park, or the Mount Washburn trail, Observation Point Trail, and Bunsen Peak Trail in Yellowstone National Park. The Blodgett Overlook Trail perfectly showcases the stunning fall colors in the Bitterroot Valley. Show more

What kind of wildlife is present in Montana during fall foliage season?

Aside from the breathtaking colors, the fall foliage season in Montana boasts abundant wildlife sightings. The Lamar Valley in northern Yellowstone brims with wildlife species such as bison, bald eagles, pronghorn, deer, coyotes, and grizzly bears. Bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and wolves are common sightings in Glacier National Park. Other wildlife in the region during autumn includes elk, black bears, mountain lions, and mule deer. Nature's awe-inspiring fall foliage coupled with the wildlife's natural habitat is another unforgettable experience during fall in Montana. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen