Montana Outdoors

November 3, 2013

Celebration of the Western Larch (Larix Occidentalis)

One of the grand trees of the Northwest, the Western Larch, is now showing its fall colors. I cannot help but celebrate.

Here are some photos taken in the past few days. The first eight were taken at Weeksville Creek just off the Clark Fork of the Columbia (elevation about 2450 feet) on November second, the next four at Mc Cully Ridge in the Fishtrap Creek drainage (elevation about 3300 feet) on October 31, and the last six today as I hiked up the Baldy Mountain trail (elevation, 6000 to 6500 feet). It was a little cold and snowy on the trail.

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch


Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch

Western Larch


  1. Beautiful! It’s been a fantastic year for larch, and it’s incredible that they’re still at their peak over here.

    Comment by aarontheisen — November 3, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

    • They are just starting to lose their needles now. On the way down from the trail head today it was raining golden needles and in places the road was solid gold. And of course there were those needles that found their way down the back of my shirt!

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 12:01 am

  2. What a grand finish! Breathtaking!

    Comment by jomegat — November 4, 2013 @ 12:22 am

  3. I love the last shots particularly – it’s magical what a sprinkling of snow can do! Your larches seem to grow much thinner and taller than ours, but the ones here are European larch. I love it when they start turning – it often transforms a whole woodland.

    Comment by Jo Woolf — November 4, 2013 @ 2:11 am

    • Yes, I love to see the forest when the Larch are yellow. I will post some photos of the trail from which the last photos were taken. It looks just as cold as it was up there!

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:24 pm

  4. Wow what a lovely tree in the landscape, and it’s so easy to assess the density of the trees (if you wanted to) in a big landscape at that time of year – my ecological monitoring brain at work there I’m afraid. Wonderful :)

    Comment by Mike Howe — November 4, 2013 @ 2:26 am

    • Mike, you would have a great time looking over these forests from the vantage of the peaks. It makes the whole forest more visible and what you see from the trails is so interesting.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

  5. Beautiful landscape photos! I’m glad these trees are protected in so many areas-they are pretty special.

    Comment by New Hampshire Gardener — November 4, 2013 @ 5:37 am

    • That’s one of the many reason why I love the roadless areas and the wilderness areas. Larch is very popular too for re-forestation in burned areas or areas that have been destroyed by logging.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

  6. gorgeous country … what a playground you have there … that last image especially speaks to me.

    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — November 4, 2013 @ 6:46 am

    • I like the last image too and scenes like that keep drawing be back to the peaks. I have been on the tops of most of those in the distance too. Once you have been up there you just have to keep going back.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

  7. Just amazing!! Thanks for sharing such glory and beauty. This Texan appreciates your romps and photos. romp on!

    Comment by Elizabeth — November 4, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    • I’m glad that you enjoy the scenes, Elizabeth! Hiking through that kind of country is what I love most and I’m very pleased to know that others enjoy seeing it too. I wish you could have felt the bite of the wind and the feel of the snow, just for a few moments.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

  8. Wow, I love how they stand out amidst the evergreens. And the snow is always a pretty sight.

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — November 4, 2013 @ 9:21 am

    • There will be many snow scenes from now on. I love to see it too. That day I quit shooting pictures because my fingers had about all of the cold they could stand.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

  9. Wow, that color in the broad landscapes!

    Comment by Sue — November 4, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

    • When the Larch turn color they completely change the looks of the forest, especially when seen from a high vantage point. It gives a perspective not seen in other seasons.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

  10. Beautiful. We noticed the larches on our way home last week. They add a dash of colour between the evergreens just as deciduous trees do this time of year. They look impressive set off by the dark green of the rest of the forest. Love the snow pictures!

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — November 4, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

    • The Larch seem to have a pretty successful survival strategy too. Once they get very big, they are nearly impervious to the fires, and I don’t believe they have very many disease problems either. It’s also comforting to see them the same every fall and watch them celebrate spring with their bright new needles.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

      • They certainly add a splash of colour to the forests.

        Comment by wordsfromanneli — November 4, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

        • They do!
          I’m glad that you completed your trip safely! Today some of the roads were a bit dicey and there were quite a few accidents.

          Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

          • I think we got out just in time. The snow was just a day’s drive behind us. But I’m looking forward to next year’s visit.

            Comment by wordsfromanneli — November 5, 2013 @ 9:18 am

            • We haven’t had snow on the roads in this area, but Lookout Pass has and there have been slick roads in the Missoula area. I was on a high road today in the forest and it was very icy and slick. Your timing was very good!

              Comment by montucky — November 5, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

  11. I always love looking at your sweeping landscapes…there is nothing more beautiful.

    Comment by Charlie@Seattle Trekker — November 4, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    • Thank you Charlie! I’m thankful that here it is possible to climb up to the peaks and see the whole of the land. It gives such a different and more complete perspective on so many things.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

  12. Beautiful pictures. But I always have to laugh at the word ‘larch’ due to the silly Monty Python slide show about the ‘larch’.

    Comment by Lynn Millar — November 4, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

    • It’s a strange word for sure. The old timers here never called them that, they used “Tamarack” instead, which is a close relative.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

  13. love seeing the western version of our Tamarack (American Larch). Especially the long shots of mountains covered in them. Thank you.

    Comment by Andrée Reno Sanborn — November 4, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

    • I’m glad that you enjoy seeing them, Andrée. There are few sights that I enjoy more than large expanses of forest when the Larch are in color!

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

  14. Usually I can find a photograph or two – or six – that really stand out to me, but this group as a whole is special. The larch are such beautiful trees, and I love the way they combine with the deep greens around them. It reminds me of conifers and aspens in Utah. I did laugh at the needles down your shirt. I’ll be telling the tale of another sort of natural needle that rained down (and up and all around) on me during my trip. Experience is such a good teacher!

    Comment by shoreacres — November 4, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

    • Larch have always been very special to me and I can’t help but celebrate them when they are in full color. They are magnificent trees!

      I will look forward to seeing more stories and photos from your trip!

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

  15. They’re a beautiful tree, singly and in a forest. It’s a shame to cover that pretty golden color with white stuff, though :)

    Comment by Candace — November 4, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

    • The Larch are shedding their needles very rapidly now. There will be periods of white on gold and gold on white. I do love to walk on the golden needles when they cover a trail. The Larch are in color only briefly, but the brevity serves to heighten the anticipation for the following fall.

      Comment by montucky — November 4, 2013 @ 9:55 pm

  16. That’s a lot of larch!

    Comment by Watching Seasons — November 11, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

    • Now they have shed most of their needles. The ground is yellow and gold under the trees.

      Comment by montucky — November 11, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

  17. I’ve only experienced the Larch here, visiting your blog, Terry. You’ve mentioned that they have needles…so they’re like pines? Conifers, but not evergreen? They sure are pretty trees and add remarkable color to your landscapes.

    Comment by seekraz — November 13, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

    • They are deciduous conifers. Their needles are small like those of firs. Most have already shed their needles here already.

      Comment by montucky — November 13, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

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