BY MEGAN HOFFMAN, MARKETING SPECIALIST
Summer is quickly coming to an end—and as the hot temperatures are traded in for cooler weather, Southeast Montana turns into a sea of color. All across the prairies, badlands, buttes, breaks and hills, the grasses and trees go from green to gold, red, orange, yellow, mauve and more. Look to the river valleys for the golden splendor of massive cottonwoods, but remember that the leaves on prairie grasses change, too. Hitting the road – especially those back country roads, you’ll find yourself immersed in a different landscape from one mile to the next.
Daybreak and dusk are the ideal times for prairie colors, especially as they pertain to photography and wildlife watching. Hop in the car and head down a highway in Southeast Montana for a spectacular show of color on one of these routes.
The prairies offer a unique look at the colors—taking in miles and miles of the countryside all at once. Start on Montana Highway 7 from Wibaux down to Baker and farther south to Ekalaka, cutting across the rolling prairies of Southeast Montana. Be sure to stop at Medicine Rocks State Park for a closer look at the pictographs and petroglyphs from past centuries.
PRAIRIE TOUR 2
The Warrior Trail, or what’s locally known as the “212 Cut-off,” crosses both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations and exemplifies the autumn beauty of Southeast Montana’s prairies. Just east of Ashland, the Custer National Forest surprises visitors with more jagged terrain, dotted with pine trees.
Be sure to check directly with the tribal governments before heading out on this tour to get the most up-to-date information on what is and is not open on the reservations. Be prepared for checkpoints as well, which are designed to keep traffic moving through the area, while keeping residents of the reservation safe.
MUSSELSHELL RIVER TOUR
Follow Montana Highway 12 from Ryegate to Roundup to Melstone, Ingomar and Forsyth. Stop and stretch your legs at the RiverWalk and Heritage Trail in Roundup which follows the Musselshell River. Take in colors of the trees, grasses and bushes that surround the river on the milelong walk. From Forsyth, follow the Yellowstone River tour but don’t forget to stop at a local shop for a bite to eat.
YELLOWSTONE RIVER MIDDLE TOUR
Montana Old Highway 10, which skirts between the Yellowstone River and I-90, features golden cottonwood colors and several stops along the Trail to the Little Bighorn, a series of 19 roadside markers that highlight the U.S.7th Cavalry’s activities leading up to and immediately following the Battle of Little Bighorn. Traveling west from Forsyth, take Old Highway 10, which becomes Montana Highway 311, continue through Hysham (stop for a selfie with the statues at the Yucca Theater) on 311, and veer right when 311 turns to become Myers Road/Highway 311. Cross the Yellowstone River on Myers Bridge – stop on the north side for a brief walk-about at Howrey Island Recreation Area – continue on Myers Road, which becomes Pease Bottom Road to Musselshell Trail Road south to I-90 in Custer. To view Bighorn River Valley colors, backtrack east and take Highway 47 south to Hardin to I-90 or continue up the valley to Fort Smith and the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
The five-mile ridgetop drive from Last Stand Hill to the Reno-Benteen Battlefield at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument reveals the history of the land coupled with all the amazing colors of Southeast Montana. Take in the undulating, fall-flaming prairies with the Wolf and Bighorn Mountain ranges in the distance. For a more enriched experience, continue east on highway 212 and turn south on Montana 314 to the Rosebud Battlefield State Park for even more history and beauty.
As you head out to explore the colors of fall in Southeast Montana, please remember to check with your destination before heading out as not all services are available at this time. Remember to follow all local guidelines as they may be different between towns, counties and reservations, and stay home if you’re sick. Find the latest travel information at SoutheastMontana.com.
The mission of Visit Southeast Montana is to increase tourism to Southeast Montana by increasing awareness of our region, showcasing our cultural heritage, developing memorable experiences and educating our residents about the economic benefits of tourism.
Visit Southeast Montana is managed by the Billings Chamber of Commerce.
SEPTEMBER 2020 – NOVEMBER 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY 15