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Peep the Fall Foliage at Montana's Chief Mountain

Fall Leaves at Glacier National Park
Fall leaves add color to the landscape of Montana's Glacier National Park. (Image credit: National Park Service)

The fall foliage in Montana's Glacier National Park has arrived, in a preview of what other parts of the country can soon expect.

The National Park Service captured the above photo on Oct. 1. The fall foliage is a brilliant blend of burnt orange and dark green, with Chief Mountain looming in the background.

Parts of northern Montana, near Chief Mountain, have been slightly drier than usual this year. But that could be good news for fall-leaf lovers. Some slightly dry areas of the country might have a better show of colors, due to amped-up red and purple pigments. Regions under moderate or severe drought, however, will see muted colors.

In the Northeast, an area not experiencing significant drought, brilliant fall foliage has been forecast. The opposite has been predicted for the Great Lakes and Midwest.

Fall foliage comes alive as trees prepare for the long slog of winter. To brace for colder weather, trees stock away their chlorophyll ­­— the energy-producing pigment that gives leaves their trademark green color — in their roots, to power them through winter. As the green wanes, oranges and yellows shine through. Fall leaf colors typically peak in October.

Glacier National Park is known to Native Americans as the "Shining Mountains" and the "Backbone of the World." The park preserves more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The park got its name from the stunning glacier-carved terrain and glaciers left over from the ice ages of thousands of years past.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.