Take in Autumn’s Crowning Views, Vistas and Panoramas
With Kalispell’s location in northwest Montana, there are endless opportunities to soak up fall colors in every direction. With colorful foliage, sunshine-filled days and crisp evening temperatures, fall was basically made for road trips. If you’re ready to chase fall colors in and around Kalispell, here is a rundown of where to go and what to expect.
Part of the Flathead National Forest, Jewel Basin sits east of Kalispell and offers expansive views of the wilderness and Flathead Valley. With 15,000 acres to explore, Jewel Basin is open to hikers and campers (no horses, bikes or motorized vehicles), making for a relaxing foliage-filled hike. As a reminder, be sure to recreate responsibly and be prepared to encounter wildlife. Always practice Leave No Trace principles and carry bear spray.
Glacier National Park
From Kalispell, it’s a scenic 32-mile-drive to Glacier National Park’s west entrance. Upon arrival, you’ll quickly see why it’s called the Crown of the Continent. In autumn, the blanket of deep green that drapes over the soaring peaks of the park takes on a brilliant new cast, as the tamarack trees turn brilliant shades of gold and yellow. Cottonwood trees along rivers and streams turn golden as well, contrasting with the red shrubs and green pines. Needless to say, the turnouts are especially scenic; be sure to take advantage of them no matter which section of the park you visit, from the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor to Two Medicine.
Lone Pine State Park
When you’re sitting in a café in downtown Kalispell, it’s easy to forget that much of the surrounding Flathead Valley is still home to farms, ranches and orchards. But just a few minutes west of downtown and a short drive into the mountains can put it all back into perspective. Paved roads lead directly to the short trails at Lone Pine State Park where you can look out over the Flathead Valley, while also catching glimpses of the north end of Flathead Lake and the peaks of Glacier National Park.
Kalispell’s Eastside Avenues
For a more urban sense of seasonal beauty, head just a couple blocks east of Main Street. That’s where you’ll find some of the oldest homes in the region, as well as mature maple trees that canopy the neighborhood in rich reds, yellows and greens.
This little urban oasis has everything you’d want out of a city park: ponds full of ducks and geese, playgrounds and a seasonal water park for the kids, as well as open space within two minutes of downtown. With its well-maintained gardens and wide variety of tree species, Woodland Park is a beautiful place to spend a relaxed fall afternoon.
Yellow Bay State Park
As the weather turns cooler, sunsets seem to take on a more profound sense of beautiful melancholy. And you won’t find better sunsets anywhere in the Northern Rockies than the long light across Flathead Lake. For the best of the best, stake out a log (and bring a cozy blanket) on the rocky shore of Yellow Bay State Park, located on the east side of Flathead Lake.
Great Northern Rail Trail
With 22 miles of paved trails, the Great Northern Rail Trail extends from the town of Somers on the north shore of Flathead Lake to Kila. Soak in epic views – including the Swan, Mission, Salish and Whitefish mountains – along the way. Be sure to pump the bike brakes long enough to check out the murals painted on tunnels along the trail system, which includes the Parkline Trail. All, or part, of the route is perfect for walking, running or biking.
Herron Park & Foy’s to Blacktail Trails
A short 10-minute drive from downtown Kalispell will take you to Herron Park and Foy’s to Blacktail Trails. From the trailhead at Herron Park, users can access over 30 miles of trails that extend through timberlands to Blacktail Mountain. The trails are open to mountain bikers, horseback riders, hikers and cross-country skiers. Be sure to become familiar with the rules of the trail (yield to parties traveling uphill; mountain bikers yield to horses and hikers; and hikers yield to horses). Leashed dogs are welcome.
Sitting south of Kalispell is the 90-mile-long Seeley-Swan Valley. Known for western larch (which are often called tamarack trees) and home to an old-growth forest, the Seeley-Swan corridor on Highway 83 is one of the most scenic drives to take in autumn. The road winds between mountain ranges and is dotted with numerous lakes along the way. Be sure to keep your eyes open for deer and elk.