Montana might not have the fame of the East Coast’s fall foliage, but its secret of fiery autumnal colors makes a visit to Big Sky Country even more special.
Western larch (also known as tamaracks) turn vivid yellows and drop their needles in the fall. One of only 20 species of deciduous conifers, this paradoxical tree has needles like an evergreen but decides to put on a color show for fall anyway. You can also find quaking aspen groves, a cooperative body of clones living tightly knit together. When their leaves turn golden in the fall, the whole rhizomatic system switches color together, showing where the clones cluster. Western larch pepper mountainsides with fall festivity, while aspen and cottonwoods line riverbanks. But if you’re unsure where to check out first, drive a few of these scenic routes.
The North Fork of the Flathead River runs along the western boundary of Glacier National Park, so you get mountain views into the park while traversing the national forest's edge. This route is best known for taking you up to Polebridge, where the off-grid mercantile serves up famed huckleberry bear claws until the early autumn. On this drive, western larch drape the mountainsides, and the aspens flank the river for the best of both foliage views.
With the end of the permit season in Glacier, the fall color show is on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Keep an eye out for road restrictions, but with the weather.
Between Bozeman and the Flathead Valley, one of the most scenic routes you can take will draw you through the Seeley-Swan Valley. And in autumn, the larch season swings fully for scenic beauty. Whole mountainsides turn golden on either side of Highway 83 in October.
When you think of rivers in the United States, the Missouri River comes to mind as an icon. But long before it flows through the state that gives it its name, the Missouri begins in Montana. And with it comes that riverbank color that hits harder than pumpkin spice lattes for the cozy factor. Take a ride to Missouri Headwaters State Park in Three Forks, Montana. As you might guess, the three forks of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin merge here to bring us the Missouri. And the aspen and cottonwoods show off their flourishes for fall.
A drive through Yellowstone at this time of year features more than just rustling yellow aspen along river corridors, with golden grasses waving when wind breezes by. You also get a prime opportunity to spot wildlife as they prepare for winter, hoarding their last seeds and scarfing berries. This is the time to explore the country’s first national park when crowds take off, and the colors pop.
When your road trip wandering takes you to Montana in pursuit of fall colors, find a spot to make your evenings cozy. Highline Adventures properties bring the best of sustainability and amenities, extending the adventure season into autumn. Book now to get your spot and enjoy the fall colors in Montana.