In Western Montana’s Glacier Country, spring isn’t just another season—it’s wildflower season. As the weather warms up, the landscape bursts into bloom. From the mountains to the meadows, the sight of these vibrant wildflowers adds a pop of color to an already incredible landscape, making it a magical time for outdoor activities like hiking, biking and road-tripping. Wildflower enthusiasts, visitors and locals alike can’t resist exploring the region during this colorful time of year.

In the spring, hikers can admire a wide variety of trailside wildflowers.


Come May, these famous yellow flowers transform Western Montana’s hillsides. Arrowleaf balsamroot are part of the sunflower family and grow in clumps 2 to 3-feet tall. Some American Indian tribes once relied on these plants for food and medicinal purposes, but today they’re mostly eaten by wildlife. You’ll see them in low-elevation grasslands, on open slopes and ridges, and in open ponderosa pine woodlands. If you’re at the CSKT Bison Range in May, you can’t miss the overlapping hillsides awash in these delightful yellow clusters. 

Arrowleaf balsamroot brightens Missoula’s north hills. Photo: Megan Johnson


A Montana wildflower treasure, beargrass grows impressively high at 5 to 8 feet. Beargrass can be found throughout Western Montana, but it’s especially prolific in Glacier National Park. These dense, white clusters blanket the subalpine landscapes of the park and draw visitors hoping for a glimpse. You’ll find beargrass blooms in late May in the lower country and into August in the high country. Though beargrass is a perennial, mass blooms occur every five to 10 years, when the climate is just right.

Bold and unmistakeable, beargrass adds pizzaz to any photo op. Photo: Donnie Sexton


Montana’s state flower! The bitterroot is a lovely, low-growing pink bloom you’ll find in the foothills—like Missoula’s North Hills—during the spring and summer months. For some American Indians, the roots were considered a vital part of their diets. Lewis and Clark were so smitten by this flower they wrote about it in their journals. The Bitterroot Mountains, valley and river are all named for these tiny stemless, leafless, sometimes elusive treasures.

It’s always a treat to spot Montana’s state flower, the bitterroot. Photo: Visit Montana


A favorite among bees and delicious in jam and tea, fireweed is a striking pinkish-purple 4 to 9-foot cone-like shoot against the stunning Montana backdrop. They flourish in avalanche sites and burn areas, where they’re usually the first plant to emerge after a wildland fire—hence the name. From June through September, you’ll find fireweed in open meadows, along stream banks and in open forested areas.

Fireweed marks a burn area in Bob Marshall Wilderness. Photo: Nicholas Parker


In late spring and early summer, the mountain meadows of Western Montana come alive with the vibrant lemon-yellow blossoms of the glacier lily. This cheerful flower—a favorite food of grizzly bears and black bears—is often found at the edge of receding snow banks, signifying spring’s arrival. Meriwether Lewis even mentioned this species in his journal in the spring of 1806, suggesting its significance as a natural indicator of winter’s end. The Blackfeet Indians included glacier lily corms in their diet and dried the bulbs for trade between tribes.

Glacier lilies bloom in Glacier National Park with Bird Woman Falls in the background. Photo: Visit Montana


Indian Paintbrush, or prairie fire, has a vibrant paintbrush-like appearance and rich scarlet hues that pop against the landscape. Glacier National Park boasts three red and four yellow species of paintbrush, which grow between 4 and 16 inches high. You’ll find them in July and August in Montana’s alpine and subalpine meadows and mountain slopes, but they begin to bloom in April in lower elevations, like the banks of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River.

Indian paintbrush arrives before snowmelt in the Cabinet Mountains. Photo: Brian Chorski


When you spot a yellowbell, you know spring is on its way. In fact, yellowbells can often be found peeking out of light snow. These are one of the season’s first blooms. Don’t miss the distinct reddish-purple ring around the base of the yellow flower. These bashful bells keep their heads down in grasslands and dry sagebrush prairies as well as ponderosa pine forests, blooming through early May.

One sign of spring—the delicate, drooping heads of yellowbells. Photo: Terry Glase

Please note: We ask that all our visitors and residents Recreate Responsibly by being mindful of the following: know before you go; plan ahead; play it safe; leave no trace; tread lightly; and help build an inclusive outdoors.

May 6, 2024

Related: American Indian, Bison Range, Glacier National Park, Missoula, Montana, Outdoor Fun, Spring Fun, Summer Fun, Vacation


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