Autumn is upon us and winter is coming. Does this mean it’s time to get indoors, wrap up tight and stoke up the fireplace? Well not exactly because with the right attitude and gear to keep you warm and dry, autumn can be the best season of all to get outdoors!
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Maybe I’m biased because I’m an autumn child (29th September if you’re thinking of sending a card) but to me, autumn (or fall to our friends across the pond) is perhaps the most beautiful season of them all. The days are bright, crisp and clear, the weather is perfect for wearing your favourite jacket and of course the explosion of red & gold as the trees enter their twilight is truly majestic. On autumn days I love nothing more than to eat a hearty breakfast and then step out into the woods, walking and watching as the October breezes tease leaves from high atop the trees, inviting them to dance in the wind as they descend to their final resting place upon the forest floor.
One place that really shines in autumn is the state of Montana. The state is perfect for hiking, camping and numerous outdoors activities. With winter just around the corner, head to Montana this autumn!
In case you need any more convincing to visit Montana, check out our guide of things to do in Montana this fall as well as this stirring video!
Activities in Montana
Go For a Drive
In the United States, the car is king and the entire country seems to have been founded upon the concept of the great road trip! Montana in the fall may be one of the most spectacular and enjoyable drives of your life. A few favourites are Bitterroot Valley, the Seeley-Swan Valley and Highway 200. You can even stop into a roadside diner for some coffee, pancakes and apple pie! Renting a car in the US is affordable and easy as long as you have a clean drivers license.
Get on Your Bike (either mountain or road…)!
If sitting in a heated car is not enough of an adventure for you then there are two-wheeled options available. Personally, I love cycling and make sure I hire a bike for a day or two everyplace I visit. There truly is no better way to experience Montana this fall then by mountain biking the the Helena, Big Sky or Missoula routes feeling the fresh breeze on your back as the wheels turn over the blanket of golden leaves. If you’re into road cycling then there are the Bitterroot Trail, Heritage Trail in Billings. Bicycles and helmets can be sourced from a number of outlets or you can try the burgeoning public bike share movement. I usually put an ad up on Couchsurfing to see if anybody has a bike to lend me (cyclists of the world do tend to look out for one another).
Canoe Through Clear Waters
Montana has some pristine freshwater lakes and rivers which will be shimmering red as they reflect the fall foliage. Whilst the waters of Montana may be too cold to swim during the autumn season, you can still get onto them by boat. Guided motor boat tours are available but our recommendation is to try the clearwater canoe trail near Seeley Lake which is at its most picturesque and quiet in autumn. It’s also a pretty easy trail to navigate so you don’t need to have much or any prior canoeing experience.
Camp Beneath The Clear Skies
A lot of people consider camping to be a purely summer activity but they are so wrong! Autumn means that popular campsites quieten down and the clear skies make for some of the best star gazing of the year. Thanks to the wonders of modern camping technology, autumn camping needn’t mean shivering on your back during the frigid nights as intelligent thermal base layers & sleeping bags ensure you stay toasty warm and may even break a sweat!
Some great camping spots are the Ellison Ranch Camp and Big Sky. If you decide to light a campfire (and are permitted by the camping ground) do be extra careful as any dry, fallen leaves can easily catch fire.
Hike The Glacier National Park
The Glacier National Park is jam packed with hikes that are at their best during the autumn season such as the Hidden Lake. The road through the park is usually open all the way through October (subject to snowfall) meaning that autumn is the perfect time to explore without the summer crowds. This is what the great American adventure experience is all about. Bring a good pair of boots and your camera.
Stay in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone was America’s first national park and perhaps remains its most famous. With a guided tour of the park you can see wildlife (maybe even Yogi bear) gushing geysers and stay at one of the eco lodges in the park.
Discover The State’s History
Montana’s place in American history looms large as the state was the scene of a number of decisive and sometimes tragic battles as the settlers fought against the Native Americans. The most famous battle is perhaps Little Bighorn. The Conrad Mansion also offers a valuable insight into how life was in Colonial times and the grounds are at their most striking during the autumn season!
And Now a Word on Safety…
Being outdoors during autumn is very rewarding and perfectly safe but you do need to take some steps to protect yourself against the elements. Firstly, we always recommend a good wind and rain proof jacket ( REI, Cabelas, Sportsman Warehouse have great ranges). Good hiking shoes or boots are also a must; they will protect you from blisters and provide enough underfoot grip to stop you from slipping on wet leaves! If you want more advice then check out our full camping equipment guide here!