Prime fall colors in Montana start turning anywhere from late September to mid October and are one of my favorite things to get out and see during this time of year. Here are my three favorite drives for viewing fall foliage:
The Seeley-Swan scenic drive is a 90-mile long corridor along Highway 83 stretching through the Swan Valley from Seeley Lake to Swan Lake. This is lake country. The forest along this road is littered with Tamarack trees that turn bright orange and yellow in the fall. Hundreds of natural lakes, ranging in size from a few acres to several thousands of acres, are squeezed into this narrow, heavily forest valley. To the west, the Mission Mountains rise majestically and to the east the Swan Range walls off this pristine valley, giving travelers here a unique feeling of solitude.
This 68 mile byway winds its way through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming and leads into Yellowstone National Park at its Northeast Entrance. Visitors have the rare opportunity to experience and explore pristine, untouched alpine and montane landscapes, lush forests, and alpine tundra in the space of a few miles. It is one of the highest and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation.
The Beartooth Highway will close for the 2014 travel season October 14, 2014 at 8:00 am. Be sure to have a full tank of gas and check the road conditions and weather before embarking. This road is notorious for stranding unprepared drivers when storms come in quickly. For current conditions and updates go to www.beartoothhighway.com.
Glacier National Park:
Although sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road closed this time of year, currently there are 39 miles of road still open to vehicle travel. Beautiful colors can be found traveling on some of the lower elevation roads, and up the North Fork road just outside the park. Autumn colors arrive in early September with vibrant orange Rocky Mountain maple and crimson huckleberries. Aspen, birch, and cottonwood set lower elevations aglow by late September. Western larch crowns the park’s lake and river corridors with a golden halo in mid- to late October. www.nps.gov/glac
For more information on when the fall colors are peaking check out these websites:
Northern Region Forest Service Updates or 1-800-354-4595
US Forest Service Fall Color Information
feature photo: David Restivo, NPS