Discover Montana's Golden Season
Soak in the stunning sights of Montana on these fall hikes
Montana is a place you have to see to believe and autumn in the Treasure State is no exception. With fewer crowds in the fall, it’s almost like you have the place to yourself. Combined with the crisp autumn air, pleasant daytime temperatures and the changing colors of fall, it’s no surprise that this time of year is perfect for experiencing the Big Sky state. One of the best ways to discover Montana is on foot. With over 15,000 miles of trails ready to be explored, Montana is a hiker’s paradise. Discover the unspoiled beauty this state has to offer and bask in the red and gold hues around every bend.
With vibrant foliage, fall is the perfect season to explore one of Montana’s state parks.Sluice Boxes State Park, located just outside of Great Falls, leads hikers through the soaring cliffs of Belt Creek Canyon while showcasing autumn foliage against the light rock of the cliffs.
Montana’s first and best-known state park, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park west of Bozeman, offers incredible views above and below ground. While the expansive limestone caverns are a favorite, you won’t want to miss the above-ground opportunities to exploretrails that offer something for the leisure to avid hiker. The nearby historic Jefferson River offers fishing with incredible views of limestone bluffs dotted with green pine and gold aspen forests as a backdrop. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic and the scenery during your hike.
Wild Horse Island State Park in the fall offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy jaw-dropping landscapes and abundant wildlife viewing while hiking. This 2,100 acre island park is surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, and is only accessible by water.
Imagine standing in the towering presence of ancient Western Red Cedars – some of which are 12 feet in diameter and 175 feet tall. The Ross Creek Cedar Grove Scenic Area, located in the Kootenai National Forest just outside of Libby, offers a self-guided interpretive nature trail through a unique forest ecosystem. The hike is short but you’ll find it hard to leave the area and its peaceful, cathedral atmosphere; where the immense 1,000 year-old cedar trees make you feel like you’re in the presence of giants.
Known for its rugged mountains and sub-alpine tundra plateaus, Custer Gallatin National Forest Beartooth District near Red Lodge is home to stunning scenery and fantastic trails like the Stillwater River Trail #24. This day hike follows the Stillwater River, ascending through fragrant pine and aspen trees to reach a breathtaking view of Sioux Charley Lake.
As the busy summer season for Yellowstone National Park winds down, fall is a great time to visit the park and hike routes like Elephant Back Mountain Trail. This uphill loop climbs to a stunning overlook, and is the perfect spot to enjoy panoramic views of Yellowstone Lake. The beautiful yellow and red hues of surrounding deciduous trees create an incredible contrast against the dark green conifers.
Photography and Wildlife Viewing
Don’t forget a camera! Not only is hiking rejuvenating and relaxing, but it’s the perfect way to capture the experience with photography. Autumn is an active season for Montanawildlife and an ideal time to catch sight of elk, bighorn sheep, deer, bears, eagles, and more.