Montana isn't really known for spectacular fall colors. New England gets most of the glory, with all of their maples, and oaks and various fruit trees that change to vibrant shades of yellow, gold, red and orange throughout the fall.

For most of the state, if you time things right, you'll find some nice pockets of Aspen changing to yellow in most Montana mountainous areas. Otherwise...

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Here's how Fall colors usually work in Montana:

  • We get two or three weeks of nice fall weather (starting NOW) and most deciduous trees begin changing colors.
  • A heavy, wet snowstorm blows in sometime in the next few weeks and knocks most of the leaves to the ground.
  • Any remaining leaves (now mostly an ugly, dark brown) are knocked off by howling wind and cold rain.

That's it! Fall colors in Montana.

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The big exception is the mighty Western Larch.

This tree is kind of sneaky, because for half the year it looks very much like an evergreen variety. It's not. The Western Larch, or Larix occidentalis, is actually not an evergreen, but deciduous. It's needles change from green to brilliant yellows and orange hues. It's can be found in the northwest corner of Montana and is plentiful in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. It is truly a spectacular tree and can grow quite tall.

Conifers.org notes that you can find the largest (by mass) Western Larch in the US near Seeley Lake. It's been named the Seeley Lake Giant. The tallest Western Larch is located in Washington.

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

How about a quick Fall road trip to the Flathead area?

The first time I saw the Western Larch in all of it's seasonal glory, was on a kids soccer trip on the way home from Kalispell. We took the backroads through Seeley Lake and the trees were absolutely gorgeous. Winter could hit Montana at any point now, so take that fall road trip soon.

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