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Montana In The Fall: Places To Visit & The Best Things To Do


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Lindsey Maki



Montana, also known as Big Sky Country, is a state known for its breathtaking landscapes, picturesque mountains, and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. With its vast stretches of untouched wilderness, Montana offers a unique experience, especially during the fall season. The vibrant colors of the changing leaves, mild temperatures, and the crisp air make it the perfect time to explore and immerse yourself in the beauty of this majestic state.


From stunning national parks to charming towns to scenic drives, Montana has something for everyone. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking tranquility, there are plenty of places to visit and things to do in Montana during the fall season.


In this article, we will take you through some of the best places to visit and the top things to do in Montana during the fall. So, grab your camera, put on your walking shoes, and get ready for an unforgettable autumn adventure in the Treasure State.


Glacier National Park

One of Montana’s most iconic destinations, Glacier National Park offers a stunning display of fall colors and astounding natural beauty. The park spans over one million acres and is home to rugged mountains, pristine lakes, and diverse wildlife. In the fall, the park is transformed into a magical wonderland as the foliage turns vibrant shades of gold, orange, and red.


There are several ways to explore Glacier National Park during the fall season. One of the most popular activities is hiking the park’s extensive trail system. With over 700 miles of trails, hikers can choose from easy strolls to challenging treks. The scenic trails take you through dense forests, across alpine meadows, and offer breathtaking views of glacial lakes and towering peaks. Some of the must-visit trails include the Hidden Lake Trail, Highline Trail, and Grinnell Glacier Trail.


If you prefer a more leisurely experience, you can take a drive along the park’s famous 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road. This scenic route offers panoramic views of glaciers, cascading waterfalls, and the stunning autumn scenery. Along the way, be sure to stop at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and enjoy the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.


For wildlife enthusiasts, fall is the perfect time to spot animals such as elk, deer, mountain goats, and even grizzly bears as they prepare for the winter months. The park is also known for its abundant bird population, including bald eagles, hawks, and owls. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for these majestic creatures.


Additionally, Glacier National Park offers various other activities such as boat tours on the crystal-clear lakes, fishing in the pristine waters, and camping under the starry night sky. Remember to check the park’s visitor center for information on guided tours and ranger-led programs, which provide valuable insights into the park’s history, geology, and ecology.


So, whether you’re an adventurer seeking a thrilling hike, a nature lover yearning for breathtaking views, or a wildlife enthusiast eager to spot Montana’s diverse fauna, Glacier National Park in the fall is a must-visit destination that will leave you in awe of its natural splendor.


Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park, is a true marvel and a must-visit destination in Montana during the fall season. With its remarkable geothermal features, including geysers, hot springs, and bubbling mud pots, as well as its diverse wildlife and stunning landscapes, Yellowstone offers an unforgettable experience for visitors.


During the fall, Yellowstone National Park showcases a unique beauty as the foliage transforms into brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. The park’s vast expanses of forests and meadows provide the perfect backdrop for experiencing nature’s autumn palette.


One of the most iconic attractions in the park is the Old Faithful geyser. Witnessing the eruption of this legendary geyser against the backdrop of fall colors is a sight to behold. It is recommended to check the predicted eruption times, which are available at the visitor centers, to plan your visit accordingly.


Yellowstone is also renowned for its abundant wildlife. In the fall, animals such as elk, bison, and wolves are more active as they prepare for the upcoming winter. Wildlife enthusiasts will have the opportunity to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Be sure to bring your camera and binoculars for a chance to capture incredible wildlife moments.


Exploring the park’s extensive trail system is another popular activity during the fall season. With over 900 miles of hiking trails, you can immerse yourself in the beauty of Yellowstone’s wilderness and discover hidden waterfalls, serene lakes, and panoramic vistas. The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone are must-see highlights.


For a leisurely and scenic drive, the Grand Loop Road takes visitors through the park’s main attractions, including Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, and the Mammoth Hot Springs. The road offers breathtaking views of the fall foliage, and there are numerous pull-offs where you can stop and take in the sights.


If you’re interested in learning more about the park’s geology, history, and natural wonders, be sure to visit the visitor centers and attend ranger-led programs. These educational opportunities provide valuable insights and enrich your overall Yellowstone experience.


With its unique geological features, diverse wildlife, and stunning landscapes, Yellowstone National Park in the fall offers an extraordinary experience that will leave you with cherished memories and a deep appreciation for Montana’s natural wonders.


Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway is a scenic drive that takes you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Montana. This 68-mile stretch of road stretches from Red Lodge to Cooke City and offers unparalleled views of towering mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and cascading waterfalls.


During the fall season, the Beartooth Highway transforms into a kaleidoscope of colors as the aspen and cottonwood trees change their leaves. The vibrant hues of oranges, yellows, and reds create a stunning contrast against the rugged mountain backdrop, providing a picturesque landscape that is perfect for photographers and nature enthusiasts.


The drive along the Beartooth Highway is an unforgettable experience, with numerous scenic overlooks and pull-offs that allow you to stop and soak in the awe-inspiring vistas. One of the highlights of the drive is the Beartooth Pass, which reaches an elevation of over 10,000 feet. From this vantage point, you can witness panoramic views of snow-capped peaks and deep valleys.


There are several hiking opportunities along the Beartooth Highway, allowing you to further immerse yourself in the beauty of the surrounding nature. Trails such as the Lake Fork Trail and the Island Lake Trail offer stunning scenery and a chance to explore the wilderness up close.


As you drive along the Beartooth Highway, you may also encounter wildlife such as bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and even elusive black bears. Keep your camera handy and your eyes peeled, as you never know what majestic creatures you might spot.


While the Beartooth Highway is a popular destination during the summer months, visiting during the fall season offers a quieter and more peaceful experience. The lack of crowds allows you to fully appreciate the natural beauty and serenity of this scenic drive.


Overall, the Beartooth Highway is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the stunning fall colors and immerse themselves in the beauty of Montana’s landscapes. Whether you choose to drive, hike, or simply stop and admire the views, this scenic highway will leave you in awe of its natural splendor.


Flathead Lake

Located in the northwestern part of Montana, Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western United States. With its crystal-clear blue waters, scenic surroundings, and abundant recreational opportunities, Flathead Lake is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.


In the fall, Flathead Lake showcases a mesmerizing display of colors as the leaves on the surrounding trees change into vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. The calm waters of the lake mirror the beauty of the foliage, creating a stunning panorama that is a treat for the eyes.


One of the best ways to experience Flathead Lake during the fall is by taking a boat or kayak out on the water. Enjoy a leisurely cruise, go fishing, or simply relax and take in the picturesque views. The lake is known for its excellent fishing, with species such as trout and whitefish abundant in its waters. Anglers can try their luck from the shoreline or rent a boat to explore the deeper parts of the lake.


If you prefer to keep your feet on solid ground, there are plenty of hiking trails around Flathead Lake that offer scenic vistas and opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. The Wild Horse Island State Park, located on the lake’s eastern shore, is a popular destination for hikers. With its diverse wildlife, including bighorn sheep and mule deer, and its stunning natural beauty, a hike on Wild Horse Island is an unforgettable experience.


For those seeking a more relaxed experience, you can visit one of the charming lakeside towns that dot the shoreline of Flathead Lake. Places like Bigfork and Lakeside offer a unique blend of small-town charm, art galleries, boutique shops, and locally-owned restaurants. Take a stroll along the waterfront, indulge in some delicious Montana cuisine, and immerse yourself in the laid-back atmosphere of these quaint communities.


Flathead Lake is also surrounded by numerous wineries and orchards, which are particularly delightful to visit during the fall season. Take a scenic drive through the countryside, stop at a winery to sample local wines, or visit an orchard to pick fresh apples and enjoy the farm-fresh produce.


With its stunning fall foliage, pristine waters, and an array of recreational activities, Flathead Lake offers a tranquil and picturesque retreat in the heart of Montana. Whether you’re seeking adventure on the water, exploring the surrounding trails, or simply taking in the natural beauty, a visit to Flathead Lake is sure to leave you refreshed and rejuvenated.


Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

Tucked away in the scenic Jefferson River Valley, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is a hidden gem that offers a unique adventure for visitors. Known as the “Jewel of the Big Sky Country,” this state park is home to one of the most extensive limestone cavern systems in the United States, making it a fascinating destination for spelunking enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


During the fall season, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park takes on a special charm as the surrounding trees change their leaves, painting the landscape with hues of gold, orange, and red. The mild temperatures and the tranquil ambiance offer the perfect conditions to explore this underground wonder.


Guided cave tours are available, allowing you to venture deep into the caverns and discover the awe-inspiring formations that have been created over millions of years. Stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and draperies adorn the cave walls, creating a surreal and otherworldly experience. The knowledgeable guides provide fascinating insights into the geology and history of the caverns, making the tour both educational and captivating.


In addition to the cave tours, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park offers several hiking trails that allow you to explore the park’s diverse landscapes. The park is nestled at the base of the Tobacco Root Mountains, providing scenic vistas and opportunities to spot wildlife. The hike to the overlook offers panoramic views of the surrounding valley, and the Castle Rock Loop Trail takes you through enchanting forests and meadows.


If you’re looking for a unique camping experience, the state park offers camping facilities with both tent and RV sites. Fall camping provides a tranquil and serene environment, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy stargazing under the clear night sky.


For those interested in the history of the area, the park showcases exhibits on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Native American tribes that once called this land home. Take a walk through the interpretive center to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the region and gain a deeper appreciation for the land’s significance.


Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in the fall is a hidden paradise waiting to be explored. Whether you’re spelunking through the remarkable caverns, hiking the scenic trails, or camping under the starry night sky, this unique state park offers an unforgettable experience that combines natural wonders with rich history.



Nestled in the heart of western Montana, Missoula is a vibrant city surrounded by breathtaking natural landscapes. Known for its lively arts scene, outdoor recreational opportunities, and friendly atmosphere, Missoula is a must-visit destination during the fall season.


In the autumn, Missoula comes alive with a tapestry of colors as the trees in the surrounding valleys and mountains transform into vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold. The picturesque landscapes provide a stunning backdrop for exploring the city and its surrounding areas.


One of the best ways to experience Missoula in the fall is by taking a stroll along the Clark Fork River. The river winds through the city, offering scenic views and opportunities for fishing, kayaking, or simply enjoying a peaceful picnic by the water. The Riverfront Trail provides a scenic pathway to explore the riverbank and take in the fall foliage.


Missoula is also known for its vibrant downtown area, filled with local boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Take a leisurely walk down Higgins Avenue, the main street of downtown, and explore the unique shops and eateries. Be sure to stop by the Missoula Farmers’ Market to sample local produce, artisan crafts, and delicious food from the region.


For those interested in culture and history, Missoula offers several museums and cultural attractions. The Montana Museum of Art and Culture showcases an impressive collection of Western and contemporary art, while the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula provides insights into the region’s past. Additionally, the University of Montana campus is home to the Montana Natural History Center, where you can learn about the local flora and fauna.


Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of recreational activities in and around Missoula. The surrounding mountains offer opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and even wildlife watching. The Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, just a short drive from downtown, features miles of trails that take you through lush forests and picturesque landscapes.


Missoula is also a hub for fall festivals and events. The Missoula Marathon, held in September, attracts runners from around the world, while the International Wildlife Film Festival showcases captivating wildlife documentaries. The Montana Film Festival and the River City Roots Festival are other popular events that celebrate the arts and local culture.


With its picturesque scenery, vibrant downtown, and a wealth of recreational opportunities, Missoula is an ideal destination for fall exploration. Whether you’re savoring the beauty of the fall foliage, immersing yourself in the arts and culture, or embarking on outdoor adventures, Missoula has something for everyone to enjoy during this magical season.


Bitterroot Valley

Nestled between the Bitterroot Mountains and the Sapphire Mountains, the Bitterroot Valley is a scenic and picturesque region in western Montana. Known for its stunning landscapes, charming towns, and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities, the Bitterroot Valley is a perfect getaway during the fall season.


When autumn arrives, the Bitterroot Valley transforms into a tapestry of vibrant colors as the leaves on the trees change into brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange. The sweeping valleys, flowing rivers, and majestic mountains create a visual spectacle that is truly awe-inspiring.


One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Bitterroot Valley in the fall is by exploring the numerous hiking trails that wind through the region. The Sapphire Mountain Range offers several trails that take you through alpine meadows, dense forests, and stunning viewpoints with panoramic vistas. The Blodgett Canyon Trail and the Trapper Peak Trail are popular choices for adventurous hikers.


The Bitterroot River, which meanders through the valley, is famous for its excellent fly fishing. The fall season brings an abundance of trout, making it an ideal time for fishing enthusiasts to cast their lines and try their luck. The tranquil setting and the breathtaking fall scenery make for an unforgettable fishing experience.


Scenic drives are another great way to experience the beauty of the Bitterroot Valley during the fall. The Bitterroot Valley Scenic Route, also known as Highway 93, takes you along the valley floor, passing through charming towns like Hamilton and Stevensville. Along the way, you can stop at roadside pull-offs and take in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.


The Bitterroot Valley is also rich in history and culture. The Daly Mansion, a beautiful historic mansion in Hamilton, offers guided tours that provide insight into the region’s past. The Ravalli County Museum and Historical Society in Hamilton showcases artifacts and exhibits that showcase the valley’s history and heritage.


During the fall season, the Bitterroot Valley hosts several events and festivals that showcase the local art, music, and culture. The Bitterroot Valley Harvest Fest is a celebration of the region’s agricultural traditions, featuring live music, local crafts, and delicious food. The McIntosh Apple Day Festival in Hamilton is another popular event, where visitors can enjoy apple-themed activities, live entertainment, and community fun.


Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, a peaceful retreat, or a taste of Montana’s history and culture, the Bitterroot Valley offers it all. With its stunning fall foliage, scenic trails, and welcoming communities, this remarkable valley is a must-visit destination for fall exploration in Montana.


Big Sky Resort

As the name suggests, Big Sky Resort is a premier destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure, breathtaking views, and a remarkable fall experience. Located in the picturesque mountains of southwestern Montana, Big Sky Resort offers a wide array of activities and attractions that make it an idyllic getaway during the fall season.


When autumn arrives, the landscapes surrounding Big Sky Resort are transformed into a dazzling display of colors. The rugged peaks and dense forests become awash with vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold, creating a stunning panorama that is a feast for the eyes.


One of the main attractions of Big Sky Resort in the fall is its extensive hiking trail network. With over 40 miles of trails, hikers can explore the surrounding mountains and valleys while being enchanted by the fall foliage. Trails such as Beehive Basin and Ousel Falls offer scenic beauty and stunning vistas throughout the journey.


For those seeking a more thrilling adventure, mountain biking is a popular activity at Big Sky Resort. The resort offers a wide range of trails that cater to different skill levels, allowing riders to navigate through the colorful landscapes and experience the exhilaration of downhill biking amidst nature’s autumn splendor.


In addition to hiking and biking, Big Sky Resort is known for its world-class fly fishing. The Gallatin River, which flows near the resort, offers excellent opportunities to catch trout amid the breathtaking fall scenery. For beginners or those looking to improve their skills, the resort can arrange fishing guides and fly-fishing lessons.


Shedding the summer crowds, Big Sky Resort in the fall offers a tranquil and serene environment, making it an ideal time for relaxation and rejuvenation. The resort’s luxurious accommodations, including cozy lodges and mountain retreats, provide the perfect setting for enjoying the cool crisp air and taking in views of the majestic landscapes.


For a unique and memorable experience, consider taking a scenic chairlift ride at Big Sky Resort. As you ascend to lofty heights, you’ll witness sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding mountains adorned in their fall colors. It’s a great opportunity to capture stunning photographs and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature from a different perspective.


With its spectacular fall foliage, diverse recreational opportunities, and tranquil surroundings, Big Sky Resort beckons outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Whether you’re hiking through the colorful trails, casting a line in pristine waters, or simply savoring the peaceful ambiance, a visit to Big Sky Resort in the fall promises an unforgettable experience amidst Montana’s magnificent landscapes.


Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Steeped in history, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is a solemn and significant site that preserves the memory of one of the most notable conflicts in American history. Located in southeastern Montana, the battlefield commemorates the Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand, which took place in 1876.


In the fall, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument offers visitors a chance to reflect upon the events that unfolded amidst a backdrop of stunning autumn colors. As the leaves on the surrounding trees change into vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange, the park turns into a solemn yet beautiful setting for remembrance.


A visit to the Little Bighorn Battlefield allows you to explore the historic grounds and gain insight into the clash between the United States Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Native American tribes. The park provides self-guided tours, interpretive exhibits, and ranger-led programs that shed light on the battle’s significance and the complex history of the Native American and settler conflicts of the time.


As you walk along the marked trails, you’ll come across markers that denote the positions of the various military units and Native American encampments during the battle. The serene landscape serves as a stark reminder of the fierce encounters and sacrifices made by both sides, giving visitors a deeper appreciation for the historical events that unfolded on those grounds.


In addition to the battlefield, the national monument includes the Indian Memorial, which offers a Native American perspective on the battle and honors the Native warriors who fought in defense of their lands and way of life. The Indian Memorial provides a powerful and thought-provoking narrative that complements the overall understanding of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.


Beyond the historical significance, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument also offers opportunities to appreciate the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside. The fall colors create a picturesque backdrop as you explore the open prairies and rolling hills that stretch out as far as the eye can see.


Visiting the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in the fall provides a unique and poignant experience, allowing you to reflect on the past while immersing yourself in the dazzling fall foliage. It offers a chance to pay homage to the fallen and gain a deeper understanding of the complex history that shaped the region, all within a peaceful and contemplative setting.



Montana in the fall is a treasure trove of natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and captivating experiences. From the majestic peaks of Glacier National Park to the historic battlefields of Little Bighorn, the state offers numerous destinations that showcase the stunning landscapes and vibrant fall colors.


Whether you’re exploring the scenic drives, hiking the trails, or simply taking in the awe-inspiring views, Montana’s fall foliage provides a breathtaking backdrop for your adventures. The changing leaves, with their vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, add an extra layer of enchantment to the already stunning landscapes. The crisp air and mild temperatures create a comfortable atmosphere for outdoor activities, making it an ideal time to explore the state’s natural wonders.


Additionally, Montana’s charming towns and cultural attractions offer an opportunity to delve into the state’s rich history and immerse yourself in the local communities. Whether you’re visiting the art galleries of Missoula, learning about the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the caverns, or discovering the Native American heritage at Little Bighorn Battlefield, there is no shortage of cultural experiences to enrich your journey.


Montana in the fall is a true haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Whether you’re hiking through the picturesque trails, fishing in the pristine waters, or embarking on a scenic drive through the mountains, the state offers an abundance of recreational activities to suit every interest. The peacefulness and tranquility of the fall season allows you to truly connect with nature and appreciate the magnificence of Montana’s landscapes.


In conclusion, a trip to Montana in the fall is a feast for the senses. From the awe-inspiring national parks and scenic highways to the charming towns and cultural attractions, the state offers a diverse range of experiences that showcase the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the region. So, pack your bags, grab your camera, and embark on an unforgettable autumn adventure in the “Treasure State” of Montana.