Autumn in Yellowstone Country Montana

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Photo by Jean Modesette

There’s always plenty of room to breathe in Montana, but in the fall there’s even a little more. Autumn in Yellowstone Country Montana is pure gold. The raw, wild beauty of the park spills over for miles beyond park boundaries. Head north and you’ll find it—autumn’s shoulder-season pricing, cooler temps, possible flurries, hunting season, fall festivals and flavors, fishing, late-season hiking and crisp-mountain-air biking.

Hillsides are aflame with yellow tamaracks, and rivers are lined with the oranges and golds of quaking aspen and cottonwood trees. Brown trout are biting. Elk are bugling. Birds are migrating overhead. The crowds dissipate, and the evening light filtered through golden hues is something altogether extraordinary.

We’re wide open for adventure all year here, but this is the season to savor a scenic drive, cast a fly rod in the blue-ribbon waters of the Yellowstone River and drink a pumpkin ale at an Oktoberfest or craft brewery in a friendly mountain town. It’s the time to experience Montana in full color.

And the best way to get here? Take the scenic route (though you’ll be hard-pressed to find a road or a trail in Montana that isn’t just that). The Beartooth Highway has been called “the most scenic drive in America,” and it’s open through mid-October (depending on what the weather has in mind). This 68-mile stunner connects the wildly enjoyable towns of Cooke City and Red Lodge. It’s the highest-elevation highway in the Rockies. Ribbon your way through two rugged mountain ranges—The Absaroka and Beartooth—with numerous scenic pullouts and views of almost two dozen peaks towering over 12,000 feet into the great big blue. Explore unrivaled views, wide-open high-alpine plateaus, glacial lakes, waterfalls and wildlife.

Later in the season—or any time of year, quite frankly—explore paradise. Paradise Valley, Montana, that is. It’s the Yellowstone you haven’t seen yet, and it’s the kind of place that stays with you long after you leave. Boldly go, in a Yellowstone Country autumn.