Bozeman sits in the middle of some magnificent mountain ranges: the Bridger Range, Gallatin National Forest, the Absarokas and the Spanish Peaks. Each area is slightly different, but the one common denominator is a splendid mix of trees, creating a fall display of color offset by the deep greens of the coniferous trees.
It’s not hard to find huge patches of orange, yellow and red leaves, and you have the option of hiking or driving through the splendor. Look for aspen, larch, and cottonwood for the golden hues, birch, and maple for red and orange colors, and keep watch for the chokecherries whose leaves turn a deep shade of purple.
It was an unexpected surprised the first time I drove up Hyalite Canyon in the fall. The colors were spectacular, and they lined what seemed every inch of the 8-mile road to the recreation area. (I’m talking east coast kind of color.) Numerous hikes are surrounding the reservoir, and once you get up above the tree line, the clumps of color are like little pockets of gold.
Located just outside of town, Sypes Canyon is perfect for a quick fall hike. The trail winds through tall trees, opening up to an outlook of the Gallatin Valley, with the grassy hillsides giving everything a golden hue. You can continue to Mount Baldy, or stop at the overlook and relax.
US Highway 191 takes you directly through Gallatin Canyon, which follows the infamous Gallatin River. The foliage is gorgeous along the road, but if you hop off the beaten path to places such as Storm Castle or Spanish Creek trails, you’ll get even more of a show.
While the Bridger Mountains are themselves breathtaking, the valley at the base of them is one of our favorite fall drives, meandering through well-established ranches spread over rolling hills. Bonus: In October, Bridger Bowl hosts the Bridger Raptor Fest, which takes place around the largest known migration of golden eagles in the United States.
South Cottonwood Canyon
The name says it all. This trail follows Cottonwood Creek, and you guessed it, is loaded with Cottonwood trees which turn a brilliant gold in the fall. The hike is suitable for all ages and abilities. If you’re looking for a longer adventure, drop a car in Hyalite Canyon and connect at either History Rock or Mount Blackmore trail.
This day drive is not one to be missed in the fall. It takes you through Paradise Valley, just past Livingston, MT. US Highway 89 meanders along the Yellowstone River and the trees lining the river bed are amazing. Take the cut off on East River Road and you’ll be driving through the thick of it.
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park
Continue through Paradise Valley and you’ll reach the North entrance to the park in Gardiner, MT. The Lamar Valley sits on this side of the park and the colors continue throughout the valley. Fall also brings the elk rut - if you haven’t heard an elk bugle, it’s worth the trip.
If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at some of our other related articles:
- 3 Drives To See Amazing Fall Colors in Bozeman
- Getting The Most Out of Your Trip to Bozeman This Fall
- 5 Beautiful Fall Hikes Near Bozeman