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Autumn in Glacier National Park
Even though summer is the most popular time for visitors to explore and enjoy Glacier National Park, fall is also a gorgeous time of year to visit this famous destination. Even though the days are shorter and the nights are colder, the month of September and early October provide a host of reasons for you to consider visiting Glacier National Park during the autumn season.
#1. The Aspens Turn Color
Most of the east side of Glacier National Park is covered in aspens, and during the last week in September and first week of October, the aspen leaves turn bright gold. It’s a spectacular sight… especially around Chief Mountain along the Chief Mountain International Peace Parkway.
#2. The Rut
Elk and moose have there mating season, known as “the rut”, in late September and early October. Watching these great animals “do what they do” is absolutely amazing. You will see bull elk fighting to protect their harems, and you will hear them bugle at each other…. It’s really something special to experience this amazing behavior. And watching a huge bull moose guard over his cow… it’s really a great time of year.
#3. Electric Blue Sky
The sky during the fall season in Glacier National Park turns a vivid “electric blue” that is even more striking when the aspen leaves have turned to their bright gold color. It’s a shade of blue not seen any other time of year…. providing that the regional fires are out by then.
#4. Easier River and Stream Crossings
There are several Glacier Park hikes that require that the hiker ford across a river or stream, and fall is the best time of year to make these crossings because the water level is much lower than spring or summer.
#5. Cooler Temperatures
The day time and night time temperatures begin to really cool down in Glacier National Park, especially after mid-September. These cooler temperatures make hiking very pleasant and really make a campfire feel extra good as the night time temperatures begin to drop dramatically. This time of year you’ll really enjoy your down sleeping bag as well.
#6. Fresh Snow on the Mountain Tops
If you’re lucky, you will get to see a fresh “dusting” of snow on the peaks of Glacier National Park. This fresh snow, with the electric blue sky and the golden aspens, are what dreams are made of when taking scenic photographs.
#7. The Tamaracks (Larch) Turn Yellow
Glacier National Park is home to many Tamarack trees, also known as Larch. Located mainly on the west side of the continental divide, these amazing trees look like evergreens in the spring and summer, but during late September and early October, the needles turn a vivid yellow before they fall off the tree. When the tamarack forests are yellow with a dark green background of the neighboring evergreens, the sight is breathtaking.
#8. Animals Are More Visible
Fall is a great time to see animals in Glacier National Park. They are out more because the days are cooler, and many animals such as pika are busy gathering food for winter, or animals such as bears are trying to really fatten up for their long winter’s nap. They are so busy looking for food that often times they are out all day and quite visible to visitors. Elk and moose are in their mating seasons, and later in the fall (November) the big horn sheep, mule deer and whitetail deer begin their mating seasons. So fall is a wonderful time to view wildlife.
Now of course many of the Glacier National Park Lodging Facilities and Glacier Park Campgrounds begin closing up in September, but keep in mind that many of the campgrounds are still open, even though they won’t have running water. Instead, they turn what is known as “primitive”. So you can still camp, but you won’t have all the conveniences that are provided during the summer season. The lodges are closed up usually by the third week of September, and the Going To The Sun Road typically remains open until mid October, depending on the weather.
But if you are OK with the primitive campgrounds and the lodge closures, you will truly enjoy some magical days in Glacier National Park. Fall is an amazing time of year in Glacier… the colors, the clear skies, the cool nights, the snow capped peaks and the animals all make autumn a very special time, and we highly recommend that you take some time and explore it.