Best Places in Montana to Visit in October

If you’re seeking a chance to immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of nature in October, then Montana won’t disappoint you.

With its world-renowned national parks like Glacier and Yellowstone, Montana offers an abundance of opportunities for wildlife viewing, scenic drives, and outdoor adventures.

October, the shoulder season between the summer season tourist rush and the onset of winter, is an ideal time to visit.

The autumn months offer a splendid display of colors, with snowcapped peaks and pumpkin patches blending harmoniously into the landscape.

I’ll guide you to the perfect places for wildlife encounters, introduce you to the activities you can do in the national parks, walk you through the places where you can fish, and share the most stunning hiking trails.

So, pack your hiking boots, grab your bear spray, and let’s uncover the secrets of Montana in October.

Montana in October: Reasons to Visit

Yellow trees in Montana

Montana in October is an absolute bucket list for travel enthusiasts. Let me tell you why this is the perfect time to embark on an adventure in the Big Sky Country.

First and foremost, affordability is a key factor. October brings the joy of affordable ticket prices, making it easier on your wallet to plan an amazing trip to Montana.

Plus, the weather is just right – not too hot, not too cold. With moderate temperatures and pleasant autumnal breezes, you can enjoy exploring the stunning landscapes.

Another reason to visit Montana in October is the accessibility of the roads. The shoulder season means fewer tourists and less traffic, which results in smoother journeys and easier navigation.

You can take advantage of the empty roads and plan an epic road trip, stopping wherever your wandering spirit takes you.

Experience the local towns and their rich culture, their delicious seasonal treats, and witness their traditional October celebrations.

Visiting Montana in October is a great opportunity to create lasting memories with its breathtaking landscapes and the welcoming spirit of autumn.

Montana in October: Weather Conditions

A fence with trees and mountains in the background in Montana

Weather conditions in Montana in October are simply delightful.

The moderate temperatures and pleasant autumnal breezes create the perfect atmosphere for exploring stunning landscapes.

However, if you’re exploring the great outdoors, it’s essential to remain well-prepared, given the potential for fluctuating weather conditions during October.

Average Temperatures During October

The sun is shining over a river in autumn in Montana

October in Montana brings a mix of crisp autumn air and vibrant colors of fall foliage. 

While temperatures can vary across the state, let’s explore the range of temperatures in some well-known cities and towns.

CityAverage TemperatureWarmest TemperatureColdest Temperature
Billings48.0°F (8.9°C)82.5°F (28.1°C)5.7°F (-14.6°C)
Livingston49.8°F (9.9°C)79.0°F (26.1°C)-4.3°F (-20.2°C)
Miles City49.9°F (9.9°C)80.0°F (26.7°C)-2.2°F (-19°C)
Missoula City46.2°F (7.9°C)76.9°F (24.9°C)11.1°F (-11.6°C)
Bozeman45.1°F (7.3°C)78.4°F (25.8°C)9.1°F (-12.7°C)
Helena43.5°F (6.4°C)77.1°F (25.1°C)3.4°F (-15.8°C)
West Yellowstone39.4°F (4.1°C)70.0°F (21.1°C)5.5°F (-14.7°C)

In October, the various locations in Montana offer distinct temperature experiences.

West Yellowstone, near Yellowstone National Park, tends to be the coolest among them all. Helena follows as the next coolest destination.

Meanwhile, Billings, Livingston, and Miles City enjoy comparatively warmer temperatures, making them the coziest places to visit in October.

Each of these locations provides its own unique charm, making Montana an ideal destination for exploring the beauty of the season.

Montana in October: Things To Do

A town in Montana with vibrant fall foliage.

As the peak season’s crowds disperse and the tranquil beauty of this untamed land takes center stage, there’s no shortage of breathtaking activities to indulge in.

From exploring the iconic Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park to embarking on scenic drives through the Beartooth Highway, there’s something for every outdoor adventurer.

Below are some things that you can do when visiting Montana in October.

1. Tour Yellowstone National Park

Aspen trees in Yellowstone National Park

Touring Yellowstone National Park in October is a must-experience.

The decrease in crowds instantly creates a sense of tranquility and allows for a more immersive journey through this exceptional landscape.

As you explore the park, you’ll be greeted by vibrant fall foliage, painting the surroundings with hues of red, orange, and gold.

It’s a photographer’s dream, with the warm lighting casting a magical glow over everything you capture.

And speaking of photos, the wildlife sightings in Yellowstone National Park in October are nothing short of amazing. Bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, and even bears are out and about, either migrating or preparing for winter.

With fewer visitors, you have a much better chance of spotting these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Yellowstone National Park also offers 2 popular walking trails that showcase its geothermal features and stunning vistas.

The Upper Geyser Basin trail takes you through a captivating landscape of geysers and hot springs, with Old Faithful as the highlight.

The Old Faithful Observation Point Loop on the other hand provides an elevated view of Old Faithful eruptions against a backdrop of natural beauty.

Both are beautiful trails that offer a unique experience but be prepared for changing weather conditions during this time of year.

2. Explore Glacier National Park

A picturesque landscape in Montana featuring a river with vibrant yellow trees and mountains.

Visiting Glacier National Park in October is a great time to avoid the summer crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience.

In October, Glacier National Park’s fall colors and warm lighting provide an ideal setting for photographers to capture the park’s glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, and wildflowers.

One of the popular nearby hikes in Glacier National Park is the Hidden Lake Trail. This trail offers stunning views of the park’s mountains and lakes.

However, it’s important to note that the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed in October due to snow.

But fear not, the closure doesn’t limit your hiking options. Hikers should not miss the opportunity to embark on a highline trail hike at Logan Pass, located at the peak of Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Highline trail provides a thrilling adventure with amazing views of the pristine wilderness below.

October is considered a shoulder season in Glacier National Park, which means that you’ll find lower ticket prices and less crowded trails.

It’s the perfect time to immerse yourself in the stunning beauty of the park and take advantage of the quieter, more serene atmosphere.

3. Take a Scenic Drive on Beartooth Highway

A view from the top of a mountain in Montana during October.

As an avid road tripper, I can confidently say that taking a scenic drive on Beartooth Highway is an absolute must-do when visiting Montana in October.

The 68-mile Beartooth Highway, straddling the border of Montana and Wyoming, is hands down one of the most stunning roads in the entire United States.

Imagine cruising along this picturesque highway, with snow-capped peaks towering above you, glacial lakes shimmering in the distance, and vibrant autumn colors painting the landscape.

Beartooth Highway is especially popular during the fall season when the wildlife comes out to play and the foliage puts on a spectacular show.

So not only will you be treated to jaw-dropping vistas, but you might also spot some of Montana’s iconic wildlife, like grizzly and black bears, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep.

Make sure to take advantage of the various stops along the way, like the Top of the World Store, Beartooth Pass Overlook, and Vista Point Observation Site.4

These spots offer perfect opportunities to soak in the stunning views, stretch your legs, and of course, capture some envy-inducing photos.

It’s the perfect way to experience Montana’s natural beauty while driving and chilling in your car. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

4. Visit Lake McDonald

A scenic lake nestled in the midst of towering trees, complemented by majestic mountains presenting a picturesque view of Montana in October.

Nestled in the heart of the majestic Rocky Mountains, Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park is a natural freshwater lake that beckoned me with promises of tranquility and gorgeous vistas.

With Montana’s autumn break in full swing, the landscape around Lake McDonald is alive with vibrant autumn colors.

The trees appear to be ablaze with fiery reds, oranges, and yellows, creating a kaleidoscope of hues that mirror the beauty of the surrounding mountains.

To fully experience the natural beauty of the area, visitors can opt to rent a boat from Glacier Park Boat Co., which provides an array of water vessels, including paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and motorboats.

Enthusiasts can enjoy gliding across the clear waters of this alpine lake, reveling in the serene and tranquil ambiance of this peaceful oasis.

For those who prefer a more leisurely adventure, Flathead Outdoors provides kayak rentals for two people, allowing you to bask in the beauty of this amazing lake in comfort and ease.

With rental prices starting at just $32 per hour, it’s an affordable way to experience the magic of this enchanting place.

Fishing enthusiasts will also find delight in Lake McDonald. The lake is home to a variety of fish species, including cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and lake trout. 

Lake McDonald is a perfect escape from the bustling world, where you can lose yourself in the beauty of nature and find peace in the simplicity of the present moment.

5. Tour the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

A wolf is peacefully sleeping in the grass in Montana.

Touring the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is a fun experience that truly connects you with nature and wildlife.

Located in West Yellowstone, Montana, this non-profit wildlife park offers the perfect opportunity to observe and learn about magnificent wild animals in a safe and controlled environment.

Upon entering the visitor center, tourists are immediately captivated by the majestic grizzly bears and gray wolves residing in their naturalistic habitats.

It’s an incredible opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures up close and witness their behaviors and interactions.

The center’s commitment to animal welfare is apparent in the careful design of each habitat, creating an environment that closely mimics the animals’ natural surroundings, ensuring their comfort and enrichment.

The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center provides a range of family-friendly programs and activities, allowing visitors of all ages to learn about these remarkable animals and how to coexist with them.

From engaging activities like Keeper Kids and Bird-of-Prey demonstrations to informative sessions on safety in bear country and living with bears, there is something for everyone to enjoy and learn.

Visiting the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is not only an opportunity to observe wildlife but also an opportunity to contribute to their conservation efforts.

As an accredited not-for-profit wildlife park, every visitor plays a part in supporting the center’s mission and ensuring the well-being of these beautiful creatures.

Whether you are a wildlife enthusiast or looking for a family-friendly attraction, the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is a must-visit destination.

6. Take a Hike at the Bighorn National Forest

A view from the top of a cliff overlooking a valley in Montana in October.

Embarking on an adventure at Bighorn National Forest reveals an awe-inspiring landscape with towering trees and vibrant foliage, creating a perfect backdrop for hiking.

The forest offers a range of hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore the wilderness at their own pace.

The Bighorn National Forest boasts an array of hiking trails for all skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, there’s a trail for you.

From the challenging Medicine Wheel Trail to the peaceful Shell Falls Trail, each path offers a unique and fun experience.

And with the convenience of adjacent trails, it’s easy to explore even more of the forest’s natural wonders.

Hikers exploring Bighorn National Forest often have the opportunity to encounter a rich variety of amazing wildlife. The forest is home to majestic elk, graceful deer, and, for the fortunate, the elusive black bears.

Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy fishing in Bighorn National Forest, which boasts numerous lakes like Mirror Lake and Lost Twin Lake teeming with trout, providing a tranquil setting for fishing.

7. Fly Fish at Madison River

A man is fly fishing in a river with mountains in the background in Montana.

The Madison River is renowned among avid fly fishermen as a blue ribbon trout stream, making it one of Montana’s premier fly fishing destinations.

This iconic river is especially popular for fly fishing in the month of October.

What sets the Madison River apart is its crystal clear water, providing an ideal setting to spot fish and take in the beautiful scenery of fall.

Madison River is home to a large population of brown and rainbow trout, making it a paradise for fly fishing enthusiasts.

October is no ordinary month for the Madison River; it’s “trophy trout season.” Brown trout become more aggressive as they begin to spawn, making it the ideal time to try your luck at catching some sizable trout.

But the excitement doesn’t end there. October on the Madison River also brings famous fall caddis and Baetis hatches, creating perfect conditions for dry fly fishing.

An abundance of these aquatic insects attracts hungry trout to the surface, providing thrilling opportunities to test your skills and land that trophy catch of a lifetime.

Montana in October: Best Places to Stay

A street lined with trees in Montana in October

When it comes to finding the best places to stay in Montana in October, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

From the vibrant town of Bozeman to the enchanting communities in Whitefish, you’ll find the perfect spot to rest your head after a day of exploring the stunning autumn landscapes and taking in the vibrant colors of the season.

1. Stay in Bozeman

Aerial view of Bozeman, Montana

When staying in Bozeman, Montana, you’ll find yourself immersed in a vibrant town full of charm and captivating attractions.

Here are places that you can visit during your stay in Bozeman:

  • Bozeman’s Historic Downtown Area – The historic downtown area is a beautiful adornment to the city, with a number of retail shops, galleries, pubs, and restaurants lining the streets.
  • The Museum of the Rockies – This museum is a world-class museum in Bozeman that explores cultural and natural history, and astronomy.
  • The Bridger Mountains – The Bridger Mountains are located near Bozeman and offer scenic hiking and mountain biking trails.

Bozeman offers diverse lodging options, from luxury hotels like the Kimpton Armory Hotel to affordable short-term rentals around the town, ensuring visitors can find accommodations that match their preferences and budget.

No matter your reason for visiting Bozeman, staying in this captivating town will undoubtedly create memories that will last a lifetime.

2. Stay in Helena

Helena, Montana

Staying in Helena during October is a delightful experience that immerses you in the vibrant atmosphere of the state capital.

With its lively energy and bustling streets, Helena offers a unique blend of city vibes and small-town charm.

One of the highlights of Helena is its vibrant art scene. The city is home to numerous galleries and museums, showcasing the works of talented local and regional artists.

From contemporary masterpieces to traditional crafts, you’ll find a diverse range of artistic expressions to admire and appreciate.

Helena’s historic downtown area is a beautiful adornment to the city, with a number of retail shops, galleries, pubs, and restaurants lining the streets.

During your stay in October in Helena, I highly recommend the Best Western Premier Helena Great Northern Hotel.

This hotel is a fantastic choice due to its prime location in the heart of downtown Helena. With easy access to the city’s attractions and activities, you’ll be able to make the most of your time in Helena.

Spend your October in Helena, where the lively atmosphere and vibrant art scene will captivate your senses.

3. Stay in Missoula

Missoula, Montana

Missoula, located in Western Montana is a lively college town with a youthful vibe that offers a variety of attractions and activities, and you won’t be disappointed.

During October, Missoula truly comes alive with an array of entertainment options, from live music to theater performances to exciting sports events.

Looking for some autumn-themed fun in October? Make your way to the Missoula Maze, where you can get lost in a cornfield maze, visit a petting zoo, and choose the perfect pumpkin from their patch.

Missoula is located near several outdoor attractions, including the Clark Fork River, which offers opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and rafting.

Visitors can also explore the nearby Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, which offers hiking and mountain biking trails.

When it comes to accommodations, I personally recommend the AC Hotel by Marriott Missoula Downtown.

With its prime location near the University of Montana and artisan dining options, this hotel is the ideal base for your stay in Missoula.

Missoula is a hidden gem with its college town atmosphere, thriving arts scene, and a plethora of outdoor adventures to embark on.

4. Stay in Whitefish

Whitefish, Montana

Whitefish is located in North-western Montana during the autumn months and experience the charm and beauty of this incredible mountain town.

With its breathtaking views and a myriad of outdoor adventures, Whitefish is the perfect spot for an unforgettable October getaway.

Downtown Whitefish is a bustling hub with a vibrant atmosphere. The village center is also a must-visit, offering a delightful mix of charming boutiques and eateries that will satisfy all your cravings.

For outdoor adventurers, Whitefish Mountain Resort is a dream come true. With its snowcapped peaks and scenic drives, this ski resort offers a range of activities to suit every preference.

Whether you’re skiing or snowboarding down the slopes or hiking through the stunning fall foliage, the resort provides the perfect setting for adrenaline-fueled fun and relaxation.

When it comes to accommodations, my recommendation is the Lodge at Whitefish Lake. This top-notch hotel boasts a prime location near downtown and the resort, ensuring easy access to all the attractions.

With amenities such as shuttle service, boat rentals, award-winning dining, and a luxurious day spa, you’ll be pampered and well taken care of during your stay.

Your October in Whitefish experience wouldn’t be complete without attending the Great Northwest Oktoberfest.

The Great Northwest Oktoberfest is a celebration of all things autumn, with live music, traditional German cuisine, and beer gardens galore. It’s the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the local festivities and create lasting memories.

Don’t miss the opportunity to make Whitefish your ultimate destination to stay during your October vacation.

Montana in October Final Thoughts

A small cabin nestled in the midst of a field of yellow trees in Montana

Visiting Montana in October is a truly incredible experience. The state offers a myriad of highlights and attractions during this time, making it the perfect month to explore.

With fewer crowds and moderate weather conditions, it’s an excellent opportunity to embark on a vacation trip and discover the beauty of this stunning state during October.

One of the major draws of October in Montana is its vibrant fall foliage. The landscape transforms into a kaleidoscope of colors, providing a stunning panorama for outdoor activities.

Touring Yellowstone National Park or Glacier National Park to witness nature’s awe-inspiring display firsthand is a must-experience.

Exploring Beartooth Highway on a scenic drive is another must-do for any avid road tripper visiting Montana in October.

The view of snow-capped peaks, glacial lakes, and vibrant autumn colors along the way will leave you in awe.

Fly fishing at the Madison River is also a popular activity during this season, offering a peaceful and serene escape.

If you are searching for a place to stay for your October trip, then Montana also offers a wide range of accommodations in various towns such as Bozeman, Helena, Missoula, and Whitefish.

Besides the range of accommodations, Montana specifically in Whitefish, hosts autumn festivities such as the Great Northwest Oktoberfest.

Experience the Great Northwest Oktoberfest, featuring live music, authentic German food, and vibrant beer gardens.

The charm and beauty of Montana in October cannot be overstated. The stunning fall colors, affordable prices, pleasant weather, and the abundance of activities all make it the ideal month to visit.

Montana in October FAQs

1. Does It Snow in October in Yellowstone?

October is part of the fall season and according to the National Park Service, snow is common in the spring and fall, with regular accumulations of 12 inches (30.5 cm) in a 24-hour period.

2. What to Wear in Montana in October?

Montana in October can be chilly. Visitors should pack for a variety of temperatures and conditions, as the weather can change quickly

Layers, including long-sleeve shirts, flannels, and sweaters, and a medium-weight jacket are essential during fall.

It’s important to note that Montana’s style is casual, and visitors should pack comfortable, casual clothes and shoes.

Visitors should also pack for the activities they plan to do, such as hiking or fishing, and bring a daypack with adjustable shoulder straps and a hip belt or strap to help carry the load.

3. When Can You See Fall Colors in Montana?

Fall colors in Montana can be seen from mid-September to late October, depending on the location and elevation.

The peak time for fall colors in Montana is usually around the first week of October.

Visitors can expect to see a variety of colors, including bright red, orange, and yellow hues.

4. Is October Too Late for Glacier National Park?

Visiting Glacier National Park in October is not too late, but visitors should be aware of the park’s operating hours and seasonal changes.

While some services are closed in October, visitors can still enjoy the park’s beautiful trails, wildlife, and changing foliage.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is generally closed for the season by the 3rd weekend of October, regardless of the weather. It is always best to plan your day trips in the early days of the Month.

5. What Is the Cheapest Time to Go to Montana

Here are some of the cheapest times to visit Montana:

  • Late January
  • April to June
  • September to November
  • October to November

Visitors should be aware that the cheapest time to visit Montana may also mean limited services and activities, as well as unpredictable weather conditions.

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Written by:

Chris Hall
Hi, I'm Chris Hall, co-founder of Growing up among Montana's breathtaking landscapes ignited my passion for travel. While I've journeyed to many corners of the world, the allure of Montana's wild beauty always draws me back. To me, travel is about understanding the soul of a place, and Montana has a special place in my heart. It's where endless adventures meet raw nature.

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