Autumn fishing, kayaking and hiking in gorgeous NW Montana.
As the days shorten and nights cool a new season is upon us. And locals know that autumn in Northwest Montana is one of the best seasons to get on the trail and on the water. Whether you like to cast a fly, navigate the rapids, hike or run the trails, this is the season to do it all under the canopy of Rocky Mountain peaks and stunning fall foliage.
Fly-fishing this season offers some of the best fishing of the year. Less an hour’s drive northwest of Kalispell, the Middle Fork of the Flathead River wraps along the southern border of Glacier National Park. This a wild freestone river with high canyons, classes 2 – 4 whitewater and lots of native westslope cutthroat and rainbow trout that love to eat dry flies. Come September the rapids have died down to class 2 and floating and fishing the river will allow you to experience much of this beautiful river and catch and release along the way. Shallower sections are ideal for wading this time of year as well.
The Middle Fork flows into the Flathead River just west of Glacier National Park and northwest of Kalispell. From there the river flows south into Flathead Lake and then flows out from the southern end of the lake. The upper half of the Flathead River offers rainbow and cutthroat trout fishing. Below Kerr Dam, officially known as the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’, northern pike fishing is excellent with largemouth bass, brown trout and some rainbows thrown in the mix as well. Several local outfitters offer guided trips on both rivers.
If you prefer to paddle the waters, kayaking and paddle boarding the rivers and lakes around Northwest Montana offer a great vantage point to enjoy the shorelines’ autumn hues. Great Northern Resort offers guided inflatable kayak excursions along the whitewater as well as calmer sections of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Or rent a paddle board and spend a leisurely afternoon on one of Flathead Lake’s many bays.
With hundreds of miles of accessible trails in the wilderness of Northwest Montana, the options to hit the trail and revel in the vistas and views of the turning tamaracks, larch, cottonwoods and aspen are endless. Just minutes from downtown Kalispell, Lone Pine State Park offers 7.5 miles of hiking trails and panoramic vistas of the city and Flathead Valley below. The 700 miles of trails in Glacier take you deep into some of the most glorious mountain wilderness in the country. Fall is a wonderful time of year to enjoy the park with fewer visitors, more wildlife sightings and, of course, gorgeous fall colors. And only a half-hour drive from Kalispell, the Jewel Basin offers 35 miles of hiking trails and expansive views of the Flathead Valley to the west and Hungry Horse Reservoir and Great Bear Wilderness to the east.
Between the heights of summer and the snow blankets of winter, the fall air here is crisp and clear and your recreation options wide open.