Six Spectacular Fall Adventures in the Madison and Gallatin Ranges

Gallatin Forest Partnership

Later this fall, the Custer Gallatin National Forest will release its final forest plan. To inspire us for the road ahead, we wanted to take the chance to remember just why the Madison and Gallatin ranges are so special, and why the Gallatin Forest Partnership’s proposal is so important for their future. 

In honor of autumn, we’ve compiled a handful of our favorite fall places and activities across our section of the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Some are in the GFP area and some are outside. All are reminders of just how special this place is.  

Buffalo Horn Pass

On the east side of the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area, the trail to Buffalo Horn Pass passes through meadows and golden aspen groves filled with petrified wood. Eventually, the trail rises to Ramshorn Peak, where you can see views of Yellowstone to the south and the rest of the WSA to the north. Come fall, the bright foliage in the lower elevation meadows contrasts beautifully with the evergreens. The GFP proposal would permanently protect the WSA after decades of uncertainty surrounding its future. 

West Pine/North Dry Creek

One of the best mountain bike trails in the Gallatin Range, the West Pine/North Dry loop is a gorgeous ride that climbs to a ridgeline with big views of Paradise Valley and the northern Gallatins. The long descent is more than worth the climb. The GFP proposal calls for a new trail from the bottom of North Dry to the trailhead at West Pine, eliminating the need for a shuttle or a road ride to complete the loop. 

Taylor Fork

Getting in fall hikes before the snow flies is a must, and there’s nowhere better than in the Taylor Fork south of Big Sky. Fall is a great time to hike up towards Tumbledown Basin, where you can get a great taste of the Madison Range’s unique geology and enjoy a small alpine lake. The big creek crossing is also at its annual low this time of year, making for an easier hike than during early summer. 

Porcupine Creek

Come autumn, the larger valleys in the Gallatin Range are a great place to catch fall colors. Head up the multi-use Porcupine Creek Trail (horses, mountain bikes, dirtbikes, and foot traffic are welcome) for golden aspens and plenty of wildlife – just remember to bring your bear spray.

Cowboy Heaven

On the northwestern side of the Madison Range near Ennis, Cowboy Heaven is some of the range’s best horse country. A ride into this part of the GFP proposal area takes you through open meadows and deep conifer stands, and you’ll see firsthand just why this area is such an important habitat for the animals who thrive in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  

South Cottonwood

One of Bozeman’s best-loved trails, South Cottonwood is a gorgeous bike or hike outing through old growth forest along South Cottonwood Creek in the northern Gallatin Range. It connects to trails that lead into the heart of the range, making it perfect for a short outing or a long adventure. The GFP proposal safeguards the headwaters of South Cottonwood Creek, Bozeman Creek, and Hyalite to help ensure a steady supply of cold, clear water for our families and communities. 

Have other favorite Gallatin or Madison range adventures you want to share? Let us know at