Fall is the Perfect Time for Adventuring in Montana

Create your own #MontanaMoment.

Ahh, Fall. It's that time of year in Montana when the crisp chill of mornings reminds you that winter is on its way, but the warmth of the day feels like summer. Popular parks and destinations have more room for you to stretch out, and, at the higher elevations, leaves start to turn bright shades of gold and orange. With the busy season winding down campgrounds are still open, and you start to feel like you have trails to yourself. 

In short, it's the ideal time to visit the land of big skies, soaring mountains and beautiful plains.

Not sure where to go? You really can't go wrong in Montana, but we have a few recommendations...

Adventure by Patrick Rooney

Our adventure-loving souls make it hard to resist any spot called the Crazy Mountains. Enjoy the solitude during this high-elevation hike near the small town of Big Timber. Tackle the 11-mile roundtrip trek in one day, or make it a backpacking trip and allow yourself time to enjoy the delicious views. You'll gain 5,300 feet and peak out at 11,214. This alpine scramble is exposed and challenging, but worth the views if you're up for it.

The mornings will be crisp up at elevation, so be sure to pack your cool-weather gear. 

Adventure by Andy Austin

Badlands in Montana? Oh, yes, and you won't want to miss them. Located in southeastern Montana, near the town of Terry, the Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area is big on adventure, and views. While there are no trails, you can scramble over the bluffs, find a lookout, eat a picnic lunch and simply sit and take in the panoramic views and big sky. If you want to see one of the best shows in town, stick around for sunset. It's worth it.

Adventure by Meredith Baird

Explore a section of the native prairie—and see some of its most famous residents—on a trip to the National Bison Range in Charlo. A quick drive from Missoula, the National Bison Range is home to around 300 bison, whose grazing habits help keep the grassland prairie ecosystem healthy.

The National Bison Range has a few short hikes, but the real experience is driving one of the loop roads, where you have the chance to see bison, antelope, elk, black bears and eagles. Stop by the Visitor Center before you make your way (open June-September) to connect with park rangers, check out the natural history exhibits and find out where the animals are hanging out.

Adventure by Brayden Weeks

Get a birds-eye view of Glacier National Park with a unique flight over the park. Schedule your trip for sunrise or sunset to watch the soft light dance over the mountains, forests and valleys of this beautiful park in northwest Montana. 

When you're soaring above the landscape, keep a keen eye out for fall foliage, which will just be starting to show in late September. One of our favorite trees to watch for in Glacier is the Western Larch—a conifer whose needles turn a bright yellow and orange before dropping for the winter.

Adventure by LJ Dawson

Relaxing and backpacking don't always go hand in hand, but they do on this 16-mile loop that weaves through the forest, climbs to rocky viewpoints and passes by clear alpine lakes. Hike it in two or three days, depending on how many spurs you want to take. Don't miss the side trail up Pintler Pass!

This backpacking loop is popular in the summer, but in the fall, you'll have no trouble finding a quiet, wilderness experience.

Adventure by Josh Osborne

The hike to Apgar Lookout in Glacier National Park is perfect for an early-autumn adventure. Wind your way up switchbacks through a forest recovering from a 2003 wildfire before topping out at a beautiful view of Lake McDonald, Stanton Mountain, Mount Vaught and the Garden Wall.

Apgar Lookout is challenging enough to work out your legs and lungs, but short enough to leave time to explore other sites in Glacier National Park and the surrounding towns.

Adventure by Christina Michniak

Skirt along the border of Montana and Wyoming with a visit to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. The recreation area, which was established in 1966, has 17 miles of trails, the opportunity for paddling on the waters of Bighorn Lake and sweeping cliffs that will take your breath away. For a quick trip to see what the recreation area is all about, check out the panoramic view at Devil's Canyon Overlook.

Adventure by Aaron Selig

Enjoy scenic views over Montana's largest city with a hike in The Rimrocks. The Rimrocks—or The Rims, as they are called locally—are the shoreline remains of an ancient sea that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic. Today, the limestone cliffs are the perfect adventure destination for hiking, climbing, running and mountain biking near Billings.

Adventure by Christie Kay

Crystal-clear water, quiet camping, fishing and hiking await at Wade Lake, just northwest of West Yellowstone. Car camping is a piece of cake at the Wade Lake Campground, but those looking for even more solitude will find it at the backpacking spots right along the lakeshore. If you take this route, be sure to practice Leave No Trace and follow all posted regulations.

No matter where you land, get ready for an authentic taste of Montana: beautiful, wild and full of adventure.

Cover photo by Brendan Lynch

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

The Outbound CollectiveAdmin

Your Home for Adventure and Travel