5 of the best scenic views in Southwest Montana

Snow falls on the foothills, only to dissipate by midday. In the river-bottoms the leaves of the cottonwoods are rustling into yellow, as if capturing sunshine on the branches. At higher elevations, the changing leaves of the aspens are gilding the mountainsides. Fall is upon us and winter fast approaches.

It is the time when birds fly south, hunters gather, skiers dream of snow, and bloggers pull out their thesauruses and compete for the most over-the-top “changing seasons” descriptions they can think of. There’s an incredible beauty in the fall and, because this is Southwest Montana, you don’t have to go very far to find it. Last week we recommended some great fall drives to enjoy the changing colors. This week we’re sending off on smaller excursions to some of the most scenic vistas on those road trips. Pack a picnic, a thermos, and dress and layers, and headed out to these scenic viewpoints just out of town.

Rock Creek, Philipsburg

Photo by Eric Bunting | Rock Creek near Philipsburg, MT

About twenty minutes due west of Philipsburg, the junction of MT348 and MT102 isn’t necessarily somewhere you’d end up unless you were looking for it. But it is one of the quickest ways to get to Rock Creek. This long, backcountry waterway is wildly popular with anglers and if there’s no mud, the winding Forest Service road up to Clinton makes for an excellent drive. For a shorter jaunt, the area around the Kyle Bohrnsen Bridge has the best views of the Sapphire mountains, and plenty of access to the creek side.

Sculpture in the Wild, Lincoln

Photo by Eric Bunting | Sculpture in the Wild | Lincoln, MT

If you like art with your nature, there are few better places to head than the Sculpture in the Wild installation on the edge of Lincoln. The 26 acre forested park is an ideal place for a picnic and a wander through the crisp, piney fall air. The remarkable sculptures are strange and unique, yet somehow timeless, as if they’ve always been there. The best part? (or at least a nice perk) the Sculpture in the Wild is literally the outskirts of Lincoln, so you can get your lunch to-go from one of Lincoln’s eateries and be wandering through the woods in only a few minutes.

Beaverhead Rock, Dillon and Twin Bridges

Beaverhead Rock near Dillon, Montana

Beaverhead Rock is one of the classic landmarks of Southwest Montana. It’s striking shape is best viewed from across the river, which is ideal because (as fans of the blog will know) there are few things more beautiful that a Southwest Montana river valley. And a Southwest MT river valley in full autumn glory? That’s the dream. At just 20 minutes from Dillon and less than 15 from Twin Bridges, Beaverhead Rock is a double whammy, and, let’s be honest, there’s a good chance your scenic view trip just turned into a road trip (with excellent breweries and diners at both ends).

Mount Helena, Helena

Photo by Andy Austin | Mount Helena

This one involves the most walking, because you’re starting at the bottom of a hill and ending at the top. But since the trailhead for Mount Helena is just off Last Chance Gulch, let’s be honest, you’re starting and ending this little excursion with ice cream (it’s the right thing to do, otherwise you’d have to choose between the Parrot and Big Dipper). It’s an easy hike to the top, and from there you’re rewarded with superb views over the Helena Valley.

Big Hole Battlefield, Wisdom

Big Hole National Battlefield near Wisdom, MT

There are a number trails and beautiful vistas throughout the Big Hole Battlefield National Monument. The somber history of the site is heightened by its scenic beauty. Only a few minutes drive from Wisdom, the Monument is well worth a visit and a wander, and is a not-to-miss stop on any road trip in the area.