Fall is the Best Time to Visit ‘Montana’s Basement’
When summer's glory quickly turns to the promise of another cold Montana winter, it can be a real bummer for fall fans like me. The boat is put away too soon, there's no time for that "last chance" motorcycle ride up the Bitterroot on a 70-degree late October day, and the door is slammed shut on the best season in the high country.
But there's one corner of Montana that can be that backup fall destination. And it's in the "basement" of Montana.
We're not talking about the creepy space full of spiders, but the lowest elevation corner of Montana, where you can't even break 2000 feet if you stand on your toes.
Troy, nestled along the Kootenai River, is all of 1,800 feet. That's THREE TIMES less elevation than "taller" towns like Wisdom, where the 6,000-foot elevation of the Big Hole Valley all but guarantees early snow.
Troy is a fall playground
That lower elevation doesn't guarantee it won't get brushed by storms pushing across Northwest Montana from the west. But more often than not, the country around Troy can remain snow-free for a few weeks longer. That means fall colors can last longer, back roads can still be open, and even the river can be used for a late float.
It's a town with a fascinating history that goes far beyond its mining and logging heritage.
Read on for more about fall activities in Troy after we take a look at the beauty in Lincoln County.
Fall is Best Season in Troy, MT
A full fall calendar of fall events
The fall fun starts in September, with the Kootenai Harvest Fest, and the "Clash of the Carvers" chainsaw carving championship in nearby Libby. The Heritage Museum Vintage Sale is always a favorite, with the "Paint it Pink" Fun Run drawing people from all over Lincoln County at the end of the month.
Folf is very popular in this corner of Montana. There's a course right behind the City Museum and Visitor Center as enter Troy from the east on Highway 2, and the Montana State Disc Golf Championship is held on the Kooky Noosa course upriver at Libby Dam, this year on the weekend of September 30th.
MORE INFO: Montana's best disc golf courses
The museum also has a nature trail to enjoy the fall colors, a picnic area, and several Troy-related historical items including a vintage Northern Pacific Railroad caboose.
Insider photog tip
One of my favorite spots is the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge, a classic "pin-connected" truss bridge that crosses to the north bank of the river. From here there are sweeping views back across the river, and if you can get a local to give you a tip, you can wind up the mountain for an amazing view down to Kootenai Falls.
The falls remain a popular spot this time of the year, with the reworked swinging bridge across the river. And speaking of falls, don't miss the side trip to see Yaak Falls, where the usually slow-moving Yaak River starts its steep drop to the Kootenai.
The Yaak is also one of the best spots to enjoy the larch/tamarack colors in Montana, presenting another phase of "Montana basement" adventures.