The incredible fall weather in Montana has us itching to get on the road. While in some years we get an early frost and miss out on the fall colors, that is not the case for 2020! Bright oranges, reds, and yellows dot the hillsides, begging to be explored. Cooler temperatures mean the perfect weather for cozy clothing and a nice warm drink – the perfect addition to any Southwest Montana road trip! If you are looking to get out and enjoy some incredible fall colors, or simply a beautiful drive, we have mapped 3 road trips that promise to delight!
The times listed on each map for the 3 fall itineraries are only drive times and do not include any stops along the way – while this is an option, we highly recommend stretching your legs and enjoying Montana’s great outdoors and wide open spaces!
1. A Day Trip from Helena, Montana
On this day trip, you will cross MacDonald Pass before winding your way through stunning farm land along Highway 141. When you hit Highway 200, you’ll find yourself meandering alongside the Blackfoot River (perfect for fishing, if you are looking to cast a line) before you hit the charming small town of Lincoln. There are countless campgrounds, fishing access sites, and hiking trails just off of Highway 200 that provide some of the best recreation in Montana. As you continue on toward Helena, you’ll be met with incredible views along Flesher Pass.
2. Exploring Montana’s Pintler Mountains
While much of Southwest Montana was made famous during the Gold Rush, the Deer Lodge area drew homesteaders to the region. While in Deer Lodge, visit Grant-Kohrs ranch – a tribute to the cattlemen of the American West, and the Old Montana Prison Complex – home to multiple museums (including the Montana Auto Museum). That perfect fall road trip is just around the corner, with a trip through Anaconda. Stop for a round of golf at Old Works, a pint of craft beer, or a delicious cup of coffee! Continue down Montana Highway 1 toward Philipsburg where you will pass Georgetown Lake and be met with incredible fall colors. A stop in Philipsburg won’t disappoint – try your hand at gem mining, swing by the candy shop, or grab a pint and a bite to eat! Continue down Highway 1 until you hit the small town of Drummond and stop for a burger!
3. Beaverhead and the Pioneer Scenic Byway
This loop will take most of the day, but there is so much to explore in the area! Start your day off right with a delicious breakfast in Butte and then hit the road to see some of the most pronounced fall colors in Southwest Montana. As you turn down Highway 43, you’ll find yourself beside the Big Hole River which offers incredible recreation and even a couple of picnic areas. Once you make it to Wise River, turn south down the Pioneer Scenic Byway – a 49 mile stretch that will wind you through mountains. Along the road you will find hiking and fishing access as well as a ghost town (Coolidge) and crystal park – the perfect place to try your hand at rockhounding. There are two hot springs (Elkhorn and Jackson) along this route if you are looking for lodging to break up the drive. The Big Hole National Battlefield is an incredible addition to the itinerary offering a self-guided walking tour and visitor center (open Saturday & Sunday). Take the turn off for MT-539 if you are looking for some new road on the way back to Butte and stop in Anaconda for a bite to eat!
We are always looking for new road trips! What is your favorite Southwest Montana Road Trip and what is the best season to drive it?
If you choose to travel through Southwest Montana, make sure you are up-to-date on the latest travel information for the State!