Being hopeful that the Government Shutdown ends any day now, I thought I would provide some helpful alternative photo locations for those who have been shut out and stranded on their Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks vacations. And to all the locals who had plans to visit as well. October in Montana is probably one of the best (IMO) times to visit both Yellowstone & Glacier, but this year so far we are out of luck.
Here are some top fall locations to consider:
The Yaak & Ross Creek Cedars
Located in extreme northwest Montana, this area is not only phenomenal in fall, but has some of the most unique and remote forested country in Montana. Check out Ross Creek Cedars for amazing photography in the old growth cedar groves and nearby lakes & rivers for some scenic landscapes. Up north in the Yaak, awesome colors and views are to be found. Best route here is to take Hwy 2 west from Kalispell. You can take Hwy 56 south off of Hwy 2 to Ross Creek Cedars or continue on past the town of Troy and then head north into the Yaak. Either way, it’s some sweet country.
Head south from Kalispell on Hwy 83 into Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley. Golden Larch or Tamaracks as the locals call them line the valley and many different lakes give way to some of the best fall photography in the area. Stop in the town of Seeley Lake for a great hike to a local waterfall nearby or checkout the handful of lakes down the road for some amazing fall photo ops.
Big Hole River
You can’t go wrong here, the Big Hole is just plain awesome in the fall. Fantastic colors line the banks and there’s a ton of wildlife out this time of year. Take I-15 to Hwy 43. The Big Hole River follows Hwy 43 through the towns of Wise River and Wisdom. You can finish up at the the Big Hole Battlefield just a few minutes out of Wisdom for a popular historic destination.
Just north of Yellowstone, the Paradise Valley offers awesome landscapes and wildlife, with spectacular views of the Absaroka & Gallatin mountain ranges. Hang out south, just north of the the town of Gardiner for some excellent wildlife photography, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and elk. Just off I-90, Hwy 89 runs from Livingston to Gardiner, just on the border of the park.
Whether the shutdown ends tomorrow or continues on bleakly, these are still some of the best spots to visit outside the parks. Of course there are many other fantastic locations around the state, these are just a handful of my favorites nearby. Have fun out there!