7 Best Things to Do in Montana During Fall

Mark Barnett
Last Updated: January 26th, 2024

If you’re looking for a serene way to experience Montana, visiting during fall is the perfect way to enjoy the peaceful landscape and scenery! 

Fall in Montana promises all the attractions of Montana painted in glorious fall colors.

Spending quality time experiencing the wonders of the change in seasons is what fall in Montana is all about, so this list will go over the activities you can do to get the most out of a visit to Montana during fall. 

If you prefer to appreciate Mother Nature from a distance, there are also a plethora of activities and attractions that you can do without going into the wilderness that will still allow ample opportunity to take in the spectacular fall colors in Montana.

Fall in Montana provides the perfect temperatures to explore the outdoors without overheating.

Mornings are within the range of 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit, with a high of around 50 later in the afternoons. The climate is dry, providing the perfect inviting atmosphere to go out and about! 

In this article, we’ll dive into some of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of fall in Montana such as camping, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. 

All of the activities I’ll list here are chosen especially to enhance your experience visiting Montana in the fall season, no matter your particular preference. There will be something for everyone; let’s take a look!

Fall Activities in Montana

These activities are all hand-picked specifically for the fall season in Montana. If you want to visit Montana this fall, be sure to check out these places!

Hiking in Glacier National Park

glacier national park
Image: Loco Steve

At a Glance

  • Price: Free! Vehicle reservations are required though if you’re driving
  • Recommended for: all-round outdoor experience!
  • More info: Visit the National Park Website for information about conditions and closures
  • Tips: Bring binoculars for wildlife spotting!

This is perhaps Montana’s best-kept secret: Glacier National Park is at its best in the fall! 

Fall is off-season for the national park, so as the crowds clear and the wildlife comes out. 

Grizzly bears, elk, moose, deer, and other wildlife are more active around this time as they prepare for the winter ahead. 

You can also sometimes even see snow on the higher peak (weather-depending), so be sure to pack warmer if you’re planning on hiking up to the snowline! 

Even if there were no animals in the national park, the forest would be enough to recommend it in fall; there are a wide variety of trees that are all in their most beautiful colors in Autumn! 

Maples, black cottonwoods, aspens, and western larches all grow wild in the National Park and their changing colors in fall make it a must-visit. 

If you’re not into hiking, never fear: Glacier National Park has world-renowned scenic highways that are stunning for a sunset drive, which also showcases the lovely leaves as they change color for fall. 

Fishing in Yellowstone River

yellowstone river

At a Glance:

  • Price: Free!
  • Recommended for: keen fishermen
  • Tips: If you can brave it, fishing is a great way to spend bad weather days!

Fishing in the fall is another well-kept local secret! 

In October and November, bigger and more aggressive brown trout come out of their lairs after most fishermen have moved on. 

Fall in Montana provides a great opportunity to snag a brown trout, as they are more reckless right before spawning.

During fall, most fish tend to prefer smaller streams and tributaries, so it’s best to find a spot where a lot of creeks enter the river or where the river enters a lake. It’s best to go on cloudier days if you want to find bigger fish! 

Dry fly fishing has the most success in the Yellowstone river for catching trout. 

Keep in mind, however, that some brown trout will have already started to spawn.

As such, if you see fish that have moved onto lighter patches of gravel it’s best to leave them and move on to the next spot to ensure a good population of trout for the future. 

Wildlife Watching in National Bison Range

national bison range
Image: NatureLifePhoto

At a Glance:

  • Price: starts at $20 per vehicle
  • Recommended for: wildlife enthusiasts!
  • More info: Check out the website for updates 
  • Tips: Dusk and Dawn are the times when wildlife here is most active. 

This wildlife reserve is truly impressive, spanning over 18,000 acres of terrain and hosting about 350 head of bison! 

These aren’t the only animals you’ll see on the reserve, though; as it also provides a home for elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, coyote, and bears.

If you want to guarantee an experience viewing, or even getting up close with wild bison, this is the place for you. 

There are three drives that you can go on in the National Bison Range. The Red Sleep Mountain Drive closes in early October til mid-May. But the other two drives are open year-round! 

If you’re not into driving yourself and would rather let someone else do the driving so you can enjoy the wildlife, you can also pay for guided tours around the reserve. 

Keep in mind that the front gate is open from 6:30 am and closes at 8:30 pm! 

Horseback Riding in Bob Marshall Wilderness

bob marshall wilderness complex

At a Glance:

  • Price: 5-day trips start at around $2,000 depending on the provider
  • Recommended for: a life-changing horseback experience!
  • More info: Check out websites such as Seven Lazy P or Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters for more information and bookings
  • Tips: Best to plan well in advance!

If you’re keen on horseback riding or just want to get out into the gorgeous Montana wildlife without going on foot, there are ample opportunities for horseback riding through the wilderness of Montana! 

The Bob Marshall Wilderness is 1.5 million acres of terrain that has no roads, so horseback riding is the best way to get into the wilderness for a break from busy city life. 

This option provides that truly serene, calm experience of getting out into nature and getting back in touch with nature without having to go on foot; horseback riding is a great way to enjoy the wilderness a little differently. 

You can go on a pack trip, which can last from 5-9 days with tents and cots included. 

It’s best to book your horseback adventure in advance with a wilderness outfitter such as Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters

Their horses are all incredibly well-trained and looked after, so even people with no experience on horseback can enjoy the benefits of a horseback trip in Montana! 

Fall Festivals

festival first start

At a Glance:

  • Price: Free!
  • Recommended for: foodies and families
  • More info: Check out this list to find a festival that suits your fancy!

Some of the best ways to experience the culture in a place you’re visiting revolve around experiencing seasonal celebrations and festivals – and they can truly be lots of fun!

Harvest is a great celebration that has been the cornerstone of American culture and formed a lot of our societies and values. 

So, experiencing the celebration of fall in the form of a fall festival promises to be a great experience.

Fall festivals in Montana truly celebrate the roots of Montana’s heritage in the harvest, highlighting the important skills and produce crucial to the survival and flourishing of culture in the area. 

You’ll encounter things like costume contests, beer, apple cider making, live music, log sawing, art and film, and other quaint attractions.

Some festivals also do a corn maze – and of course, there is ample food and drink to enjoy!

Montana Folk Festival

montana folk festival
Image: Dark Sevier

At a Glance:

  • Price: Free!
  • Recommended for: Music enthusiasts
  • More info: Check out the website here for dates and lineup.

The Montana Folk Festival is a music festival that is totally free!

The timing of the festival can range from year to year and is sometimes held in summer, so keep that in mind; it may not be on during fall every year. 

This festival began in 1934 and has been running ever since as a celebration of local tradition, culture, and art. 

It showcases 20+ local musicians and bands, as well as numerous artists and members of the community who contribute to this festival. 

This outdoor music festival is one of the biggest in the Northwest, hosting multiple musicians and bands on its six stages! 

As well as the numerous open-air stages and tents, there are dedicated themed festival areas. These themes include a family area, a festival marketplace, and a festival food court. 

There is also a huge range of traditional arts and crafts available by local artists at the marketplace, so you can enjoy live music while browsing the local handicrafts. 

The food and drinks available are all local, representing the food that is culturally significant to First Nation people in the area as well as American festival classics. 

If you’re there for a specific musical act, there are also opportunities to purchase signed recorded work on CDs at the CD stands. 

Visiting the Museum of the Rockies

museum of the rockies

At a Glance:

  • Price: Adult admission is $20
  • Recommended for: culture and history buffs!
  • More info: Check the website here

For a perfect cozy fall day exploring the cultural and historical artifacts of Montana, check out the Museum of the Rockies! 

There’s a huge range of things available to see and do at the museum; it’s a world-class museum with the distinction of being a Smithsonian Affiliate, so it’ swell worth the visit. 

There are plenty of fossils here, and even a planetarium you can visit for a small extra fee. 

The exhibitions cover cultural history, mythical creatures, fossils, human biology as well as specific Montana wildlife exhibits, so there is something to pique the interest of the whole family and keep everyone occupied for a few hours! 

On average, one visit takes about four hours – so it’s recommended to come prepared for a long visit and to bring a water bottle!

There is plenty to keep kids entertained, so this is a great learning opportunity if you’re traveling with children. 

The Museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm and is the perfect activity to spend a more wintry day with the family indoors. 

You cannot pre-purchase admission tickets, so be sure to check that the museum is open on the dates you plan on visiting.

The Museum store also offers loads of unique souvenirs to remember your trip to Montana!

Tips for You

Those are some of the best things to do on a trip to Montana in the fall season! There’s something for everyone on this list, so be sure to check out each one before you plan your trip.

As always, there are a few insider tips that are handy to know before you set off on your trip. We’ve listed those in this section to ensure you have the best time on your fall trip to Montana:

  • The best time to visit Montana in the fall is before it gets too cold. So, that means late September to early October is often ideal, especially while it’s still off-peak season. September is especially recommended for days that are still warm and have longer sunlight hours, and you can still avoid crowds anytime from September to November
  • Even though it’s off-peak season in Montana over fall, it’s still important to make reservations in advance if possible! This is especially important for restaurant and accommodation bookings, as you don’t want to show up to your planned dinner and find out there is no availability
  • Many of the festivals and events have specific times when they’re open, so be sure to check that these line up with the dates of your planned visit. There are a variety of seasonal festivals and events during fall, so make sure you’re in Montana at the right time to catch one of the festivals!
  • While the weather isn’t frigid in the fall and is still very temperate, it can get cold at night. As such, don’t forget to pack at least one set of warm clothes to layer in, especially if you plan on being outdoors on a hike or horseback trip.
  • If you do plan on going hiking or on a multi-day horseback trip, these require extensive planning. Be sure to check the website of the outfitter for a list of things to pack, and always check the weather in advance!

About The Author

Mark Barnett

Mark Philip is a writer and lifestyle enthusiast from the Midlands in the U.K. With a background in martial arts and fitness, Mark headed out to Bangkok, Thailand where he now lives and works. Mark has authored e-books, articles, and blogs across a wide range of topics for commercial, educational, factual, lifestyle and leisure-based purposes.

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