Southwest Montana hasn’t lit up most people’s radar for fabulous fall foliage yet, but that day is just around the corner. With riverbanks lined with aspen and cottonwood all around this little corner of the Big Sky, the autumnal displays throughout the Missouri Headwaters region are out of this world. Check out these spots in the heart of Three Forks and beyond for fall colors to get you in the spirit of changing seasons.
Missouri Headwaters State Park
This state park is number one for fall foliage, full stop. If you go nowhere else on this list, make sure to check out Missouri Headwaters. Those riverbanks we mentioned? Headwaters has three rivers in one park (Missouri, Jefferson and Madison—the Gallatin joins up a little farther downriver). That means there are even more deciduous trees to drop their leaves, but not before they put on an orange and yellow color show to wow. Climb to the top of Fort Rock, a short and well-maintained hike, to see the valley stretching out in vivid colors below your feet.
Headwaters to Madison Buffalo Jump
A scenic drive from Headwaters will take your car tires back along Trident Road toward the freeway. But instead of hopping on I-90, take Madison Road east to trace a route along the Madison River and south to Madison Buffalo Jump. You’ll churn up the gravel road meandering your way through fields and past farmhouses, all with a little fall color along the way beside the river. At the Buffalo Jump, a short hike will take you up to stellar views across the valley. And nothing says fall like snow-capped Tobacco Root Mountains!
Three Forks Ponds
You don’t have to head far to get a taste of autumnal ambiance. The Three Forks Ponds in the heart of town show off a little every autumn, with cottonwoods and other leaf-dropping trees circling them. Paved bike paths weave around the water, continuing on into marshes that are lined with red-barked brush that strikes a vivid hue against the crisp blue sky of an autumn day.
Drouillard Fishing Access
Yet another point of access for some killer riverbank color, Drouillard Fishing Access is right outside of Three Forks on Highway 2, a prime point to relish the pigments of fall. Stretch your legs and wander the town paved bike path that starts here, or get into some waders and hit the river with a few flies to see what’s biting.
Highway 287 South to Norris
Another fall drive is well worth it for the mountain views. As you head south on Highway 287, the road will take you past the turnoff for Harrison Lake, where you could catch a glimpse of the white-peaked Madison range. As you continue, the Tobacco Roots will trace along the side of the road to your right. But the best part of course is the splashes of yellow and vivid orange as you cross rivers and traipse through the valley. No, alright, the very best part is that when you reach the end of your route, Norris Hot Springs awaits, with steaming water that feels so good against the fresh and chilly air, paired with microbrews and organic eats.
If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at some of our other related articles:
- Why You Should Visit The Headwaters In The Fall
- The 4 Best Historic Hotels Of Montana
- Day Tripping To Ennis, Montana
- Soak It All Up At Norris Hot Springs