Autumn in Yellowstone country is a special time. The crowds diminish, and nature takes center stage, with animals winding down into hibernation, leaves changing color, and the landscape softening to winter as the first snows powder the mountain peaks. But the views aren’t all locked within park boundaries—the surrounding region has a whole lot to offer as well. Here are some areas to visit for the best fall views near Yellowstone National Park.
North of the Gardiner entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Paradise Valley lives up to its name regardless of the season. But in autumn, the trees along the Yellowstone River change color, the air snaps with clarity, and you can sense the shifting seasons as you drive through the valley. Fall foliage in Montana isn’t just about treetops and crunchy leaves. You can see it in the hillsides, yellow fields of grass and hay, red-leaved shrubs, and snowy north-facing slopes. Paradise Valley scenery will get you in the mood for the cinnamon and cozy firesides of fall.
From Bozeman, views of the Bridger Range signal the change of seasons like nowhere else. The first snowfall is a dusting of powdered sugar, melted off by midday. After the first mountain snowstorm, the white cap lingers on the mountaintops for longer, until the picture-perfect scene looks like something out of a Christmas card. This is the iconic picture of Bozeman, and the Bridgers look more natural with a snowy blanket.
Not far from Livingston, see the headwaters of the Missouri River as the aspen and cottonwoods change color along the riverbanks. The Bridgers form a striking backdrop to the view, especially when seen through crisp fall air. Follow in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps as you walk the trails at the Headwaters. This is the place for moose sightings, birding, and Big Sky views from the bluff.
Outside of Bozeman’s city center, the roads wind up into the mountains to Hyalite Reservoir, Southwest Montana’s take on the aesthetic of Glacier National Park. Before ice climbers come in for the winter season, you can detect the switch of summer into fall among the mountains and waterfalls at Hyalite. It’s the perfect spot to spend a sunny day by the reservoir, or see the snow on the ground the morning after the first snowstorm—with winter tires on your vehicle and an experienced snow driver behind the wheel, of course.
Head south from Bozeman toward Big Sky, and the highway will wind you through rocky cliffs along the river as you head into the mountains. River corridors are the place to see foliage, since the deciduous trees that shed their leaves hang close to the water’s edge. This scenic drive can connect your route from West Yellowstone back to Gardiner if you feel like looping back outside the park boundary, taking you through Bozeman on a striking autumnal tour.
Whether you are coming for an adventure, or just passing through, we have eight properties in Gardiner, Bozeman, and Bigfork to help you feel at home while you are on the road. Click here to book now.
For more fall fun and travel inspiration, check out the rest of the Highline Adventures’ blog here.