The 6 Best Places to See Fall Colors
In Montana, vibrant colors aren’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of fall. And to be honest, we kind of like it that way. Around here, autumn brings a mixed palette of reds, yellows and oranges that paint the hillsides and valleys, while also adding some rich colors to our charming communities. Combine those colors with crisp mountain air, warm sunny days and lots of room for adventure, and you have the perfect fall getaway.
To make the most of your fall travel to Kalispell and northwest Montana, we’ve compiled the six best places to soak in the colors of autumn in and around our mountain town.
- Kalispell’s Historic Eastside. Located just east of downtown, Kalispell’s Eastside neighborhood is lined with mature trees with leaves that turn beautiful colors of yellow and gold. Get off the main drag and cruise along this neighborhood’s streets and avenues. While you’re there, be sure to take a peek at the historic homes as well.
- Glacier National Park. While each season is beautiful in Glacier National Park, fall is one of the most stunning times to see the Crown of the Continent. With colorful foliage set against snow-capped mountain peaks and fewer visitors, fall is ideal for simply viewing the foliage or taking a hike to see the yellow colors of both aspen and western larch (also known as tamarack trees). Must-see areas include the Going-to-the-Sun Road and the North Fork. U.S. Highway 2, which serves as the southern border of the park, is also a great scenic drive for an up-close view of Montana in autumn.
- Jewel Basin. Kalispell’s backyard wilderness, the Jewel Basin, sits at the northern end of the Swan Mountains and is a short drive away. For a pleasant morning, plan to make your way to Strawberry Lake, a 2.8-mile-long hike that gains 1,500 feet in elevation. Be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife (and carry bear spray) as you hike in the Jewel.
- Flathead Lake. One of the prettiest drives in the Flathead Valley is a loop tour around Flathead Lake on Highway 35 and U.S. Highway 93. From Kalispell, travel south to Bigfork and continue south along the east edge of Flathead Lake. Once you arrive in Polson, complete your loop tour and return to Kalispell on the west side of the lake.
- Seeley-Swan Valley. The Flathead Valley’s neighbor to the south and east, the Seeley-Swan Valley is known for its mountain meadows, dense forests and countless lakes. Grab a to-go lunch from Montana Coffee Traders or Wheat Montana in Kalispell and head off to explore this valley and see the yellow needles of the western larch/tamarack trees.
- Lone Pine State Park. Perched above Kalispell, Lone Pine State Park is minutes from downtown and offers bird’s-eye views of the Flathead Valley below, as well as Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park. The state park encompasses 270 acres and has 7.5 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and even horseback riding.
Need more inspiration for day trips this fall? Check out all sorts of ideas here.