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Huckleberries: Fun Facts About the Unofficial State Fruit of Montana

A handful of ripe huckleberries

Montana is home to majestic mountains, big skies, and everything huckleberry. While they look a bit like a large, dark-colored blueberry, huckleberries are a different fruit with a distinct taste. They are also much more expensive than blueberries. Find out why with these fun facts about huckleberries.

NOTE:  Like many plants growing across the 3.8 million miles of land that make up the contiguous United States, there are different species of huckleberries. Because western huckleberries (found in genus Vaccinium) are considered “true huckleberries” (according to researchers at the University of Idaho), that’s the type of huckleberry featured in this article. But that doesn’t make eastern huckleberry species — like the black huckleberry and box huckleberry — any less delicious!


What's Your Favorite Way to Enjoy Huckleberries?

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1. Western Huckleberries Are Native To The Northwest



Related Article:  The Best Huckleberry Dishes in Montana (Plus Recipes to Try at Home)

2. Where Do Huckleberries Grow?

Huckleberry plants grow wild in mountainous areas. Find them along mountain slopes, in forests, and around lake basins between 2,000 and 11,000 feet above sea level. Huckleberries ripen in mid- to late-summer and typically reach their peak in August.

One of the best places to pick fresh huckleberries is near Glacier National Park. August is typically huckleberry season, and you can find tips on where to find them around Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Related Article:  5 Things to do in Whitefish, Montana, in the Summer

3. You'll Find the Word Huckleberry in Several Popular Phrases

What Does "I’m Your Huckleberry" Mean?

In slang, “I’m Your Huckleberry” means you’re the right person for the job. In the huckleberry’s case, it’s the right fruit to flavor huckleberry pie, huckleberry jam, huckleberry vodka, and a long, long list of other tasty treats.

There is some debate about the phrase uttered by Val Kilmer’s character, Doc Holliday, at the end of the movie, Tombstone. Most people believe that Doc says, “I’m your huckleberry.” However, others believe that he says “I’m your huckle bearer” with a southern accent. Back in the late 19th century, coffin bearers were known as huckle bearers. What do you think?

What Does "I'll Be Your Huckleberry" Mean?

Another common huckleberry phrase is “I’ll be your huckleberry.” It means they will unconditionally do a job or request for you. 

Friend: I need someone to go hiking with me this afternoon.

Me: I’ll be your huckleberry!

What is a Huckleberry Friend?

The term “huckleberry friend” appeared in the song “Moon River” sung by Audrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Some believe it’s a reference to the deep, long-term friendship Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn have in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. 

4. Huckleberries Are An Official State Fruit (Just Not In Montana)

While huckleberries are the official state fruit of Idaho, I’m convinced they are the unofficial state fruit of Montana. In fact, if you visit a grocery store, souvenir shop, or just about any other retail outlet and don’t see something huckleberry for sale in Montana, it’s probably not a reputable joint.

Related Article: All About Big Sky Country

A wide variety of huckleberry products are for sale in Montana.

5. Fresh Huckleberries Are Hard to Find

Where can you find huckleberries? Fresh huckleberries can be difficult to find, even in Montana. Your best bet for finding fresh huckleberries for sale is a farmer’s market, roadside stand, or specialty store. Even then, most whole fresh huckleberries for sale are frozen due to their short shelf life.

6. How To Pick Your Own Huckleberries (Hint:  Very Carefully)

You can also pick your own huckleberries. (Huckleberry season is usually in August.) But before you do, you need to be sure you’ve properly identified huckleberries and not another, potentially poisonous, berry. You should also avoid picking around dawn and dusk. Black bears and grizzly bears love huckleberries, and they love to snack on the delicious berries as the sun rises and sets.

Related Article:  Be Bear Aware with These Tips to Avoid (and Survive) a Bear Encounter

One of the reasons bears love huckleberries is because the high sugar content helps them store fat for winter. And if you eat an entire huckleberry pie in one sitting, there’s a chance it might have the same effect on you… 

Sage Advice:  The best huckleberry ice cream in Montana is at Sweet Peaks. There are currently locations in Bozeman, Kalispell, Missoula, and Whitefish, Montana. And in the neighboring state of Washington, you can also find huckleberry ice cream at Sweet Peaks in Spokane.

Sweet Peaks has the best huckleberry ice cream!
The huckleberry ice cream at Sweet Peaks is one of my favorite ways to eat Montana huckleberries.

Sage Advice:  From practical pot holders and oven mitts to adorable onesies and pajamas, I love the huckleberry themed items offered by LazyOne!


7. Huckleberries Are An Untamed Berry

While researchers and farmers keep trying to domesticate the delicious huckleberry, huckleberries do not like to be tamed. Nearly all huckleberries grow in the wild, mostly in National Parks.

Related Article:  How to Visit Yellowstone Without Making Headlines

Handful of Huckleberries

8. Huckleberries Are Pricey, Precious, Purple Berries

Because huckleberries resist cultivation, they must be gathered by hand in the wild where pickers compete with bears, coyotes, deer, and birds for the precious berries. And when you can’t scale production, and have to battle a bear for berries, the price goes up. A lot.

In Montana, it’s not uncommon to find huckleberries for sale at a price of $65 per pound. When purchasing huckleberries online, expect to pay at least $10 to $20 more per pound.

9. The Best Huckleberry Pie

As stated in fun fact #8, huckleberries can be quite expensive. So in order to keep huckleberry products affordable, many restaurants and retailers mix huckleberries with other fruits. While you can find huckleberry pie made exclusively with huckleberries, many restaurants will cut the huckleberries with blueberries. Why? Because huckleberries taste a bit like blueberries, but with a very distinct and unique flavor. You will also find huckleberry-peach and huckleberry-plum pies.

Sage Advice:  The best huckleberry pie in Montana is at the Glacier Highland Restaurant just outside the entrance to Glacier National Park. What makes it the best huckleberry pie in Montana? It’s simple. They don’t cut their huckleberry pie with any other fruit!

When buying processed huckleberry items — like huckleberry jam, huckleberry syrup, huckleberry barbecue sauce, and more — be sure to read the ingredients to see if any other berries are included. And don’t be surprised if a 42-ounce jar of huckleberry pie filling is more than $30!

Huckleberry Pie at Glacier Highlands Restaurant
One of the reasons the huckleberry pie at Glacier Highlands is the best in Montana is because the filling is only made with Montana huckleberries and not mixed with any other fruits.

Everything You Need To Know To Enjoy Montana Huckleberries

Although huckleberry season is typically in late summer, you can enjoy a wide variety of huckleberry product in Montana year-round. Here’s all of the practical information you need about this popular berry in Montana.

What is a huckleberry?

Huckleberries look like a dark-colored blueberry, but they are a different berry with a unique taste.

Where do huckleberries grow?

Huckleberries grow wild in the northwestern part of the United States and western Canada, from Wyoming to Alaska. Look for them along the side of mountains, in wooded areas, and rimming lake basins.

What states do huckleberries grow in?

You can find wild huckleberries in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. While Canada has provinces (and not states) you can also find huckleberries along the stretch of the North American Coast that connects Washington to Alaska.

When is huckleberry season in Montana?

The best time to pick fresh berries in Montana is between mid-August and mid-September. However, frozen berries and delicious products made from huckleberries are available year-round in Montana.

When are huckleberries ripe?

Huckleberries ripen on bushes in Montana and surrounding states at the end of summer. From Wyoming to Montana, Idaho to Oregon, and Washington to Alaska, huckleberry season typically runs from the middle of August until the middle of September.

Is a huckleberry a fruit?

Yes! While these pricey purple berries packed with antioxidants are popular berries in Montana, they’re actually the state fruit of Idaho, Montana’s neighbor to the west.

What do huckleberries taste like?

While a huckleberry tastes a bit like a blueberry, it’s less sweet and has its own unique taste.

What does a huckleberry look like?

Huckleberries look like large blueberries.

What can you do with fresh huckleberries?

If you’re searching for what to do with fresh huckleberries, you’ll be glad to know that huckleberries can be enjoyed in a variety of delicious ways. You can use fresh wild huckleberries to:

  • bake a pie or cobbler,
  • churn homemade huckleberry ice cream, or
  • make huckleberry jam or huckleberry jelly.

Here are the best huckleberry dishes in Montana (including several huckleberry recipes that use either fresh or frozen huckleberries).

Where can I buy huckleberries?

If you are in a huckleberry-producing state, you will typically find fresh huckleberries for sale in the late summer at  But even then it’s often best to purchase frozen huckleberries.

If you aren’t in a huckleberry-producing state, or if you’re visiting the American Northwest outside of huckleberry season, you’ll find frozen huckleberries for sale here. But remember, these popular berries are pricey and often cost more than $20.00 per pound when shipped to you.

Have You Tried Huckleberries?

What’s your favorite way to enjoy this delicious fruit? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Looking for more information to plan your Montana vacation? Check out my free Montana travel guide to help you plan your trip to Montana including the best time to visit Montana, what to see and do in Montana, the best places to stay in Montana, where to eat in Montana, and more!

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Thank you for sharing!

47 thoughts on “Huckleberries: Fun Facts About the Unofficial State Fruit of Montana”

  1. I grew up in North Idaho and lived in Mullan. Huckleberries are part of my culture. In Mullan there was a colorful local character that we called Huckleberry Kelley. His hair and beard was long and white. He always had the first huckleberries and sold them from a street corner stand. With all of my child-like heart I believed he was Santa Claus, and selling huckleberries was his summer job. The Victor, ID Emporium is the best place for a huckleberry milkshake, by the way. Don

    1. That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing, and I’ll have to get a huckleberry milkshake the next time I’m in that part of the world!

      1. I’m from Michigan. My grandmother use to take me huckleberry picking. Always a marshy location. She’d make the best pie with them.

        1. Name a pie that’s more delicious than huckleberry? Go on, I’ll wait… 🙂
          And I bet your grandmother’s recipe was extra delish!

  2. Great article! Growing up we would visit Montana in the summers, and anything to do with huckleberries was always a highlight of our trip.

  3. I tried my first huckleberry product when we visited Yellowstone. It was huckleberry ice cream and I loved it. These fun facts make me love them even more! Of course, I came home with huckleberry jam and syrup!

  4. I have spent a many summers picking mountain huckleberries. I will travel to different states just to try huckleberry what ever. I have even bought cookbooks just because I want to try huckleberries in a new way.

  5. So, I had never heard of a Huckleberry except with Huckleberry Hound and of course the famous Doc Holiday Quote from Tombstone (though I think you may be on to something with the huckle bearer thing!)
    This is all of course until I met and now married a girl from Wyoming!! Now in my New Orleans Home, I have 8 jars of Huckleberry Jam, some sort of Huckleberry Margarita mix, Huckleberry taffy candy bags, and at one time I had huckleberry chocolate! I am surrounded by this sugary fruit cause my wife LOVES it.
    It makes sense that bears like it too now cause everytime I go to try one of her huckleberry candies she roars like a bear and attempts to maul me to preserve her treats!

  6. I was somewhat surprised about the range of the huckleberry, only in the northwest and Alaska? I grew up picking and eating them in south Alabama. My grandmother made jam and pies and wine from them. we had a patch in the woods on her land that was almost 2 full acres. All the grandkids were involved in picking when it was time.

    1. That sounds like so much fun! I believe the huckleberries found in the Southeastern US are a different type than mountain huckleberries. I’ll update this article and make that more clear. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!

    2. Southeastern huckleberry are not the same as northwest huckleberries. I have eaten both and definitely like the northwestern huckleberries the best. They are a delicacy!

  7. I just went this morning-Idaho panhandle. Only a few are ever bigger than a blueberry around here. I wish they were, it would sure make the bucket fill up faster. But we pick them and eat them at any size.

    1. I have picked them in Northern California; Humboldt County to be exact. They are a little smaller than a blue berry and they ripen about the same time as Deer Season. My Dad and my Uncles would go hunting in the mountains above Garberville and if they would let me go…….. I would pick Huckleberries.

  8. I didn’t realize that huckleberries were native to the northwest. That helps explain why those huckleberry pies from Idaho are so famous.

  9. Very cool read! Of course, it reminded me of Huckleberry Finn, as this is one of the books that made me fall in love with reading, at age 8. But to find out about these awesome fruits, and making me drool by only thinking of a icecream….this was not a good idea for my figure, to say the least. But well, we only live once so, let all the icecream come to me 🙂

  10. I can’t believe they’re NOT the state fruit of Montana!! I love eating huckleberry anything whenever I go to Glacier. I don’t think I could ever get tired of huckleberry ice cream! And I love that they can’t be tamed – just like the rest of Montana, it seems!

  11. Yum! I love when a vacation place has a signature food – it makes for easy souvenir buying! When I visited Glacier National park, everyone got something huckleberry-themed – BBQ sauce, syrup, lemonade. So many possibilities!

    1. I hope you stopped in at Glacier Highlands and had a slice of their amazing huckleberry pie! (If not, put that at the top of your list for your next trip to Glacier!)

  12. Marianne Evenhuis

    I’m a huckleberry freak living in Whitefish…I love ’em! Fun to read facts about them here – thanks! Not to be a nit-picker (haha), but I’m pretty sure your photos of hucks in-the-wild for facts #2 and #7 aren’t actually huckleberries. They have a little crown on them and rarely grow in big batches like that. Maybe they’re a different type then I’m used to seeing? Who knows? Happy picking!

  13. Makes sense. I was hoping that I didn’t miss out on a special huckleberry picking spot lol. I’ve never had the chance to pick them myself but I definitely look forward to it one day!

  14. I recently stumbled across your blog, Great read! Every time I travel to Montana I bring back a jar of Huckleberry Jam for the wife, if not I’ll be in trouble when I get home! I noticed the article says its from July 11, 2018 but you updated it on August 12, 2019. What prompted you to update the article? Did I miss anything good from the original posting?

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Huckleberry jam is the best! We have a jar of huckleberry pie filling that we’re making into a German kuchen next weekend. Can’t wait! P.S. I update articles from time to time. If it’s a material update — like I’ve added a recommendation or a restaurant has closed — I’ll add a note at the top with details. Otherwise, it’s usually something small, like a new pin for Pinterest or a more recently published article that’s relevant that I want to incorporate.

  15. You got me so excited about huckleberries that I devoured the huckleberry candy I found in Colorado. Still haven’t had the real thing though. One day…

  16. Kristina Biniahan

    What a fun read. I’m from Australia and I dont think I’ve ever seen huckleberries. If I did, I wouldn’t have noticed. Gonna keep a look out. Maybe try some huckleberry pie ???

    1. Huckleberry ice cream may be one of my favorite ways to enjoy huckleberries. (Well, after a huckleberry latte to jump start my day.) And now you’ve got me wondering how Mark Twain (who grew up in the Midwest) named his character after a Western state berry (going to Google right now!)

  17. Love this post! I wish I could pick my own huckleberries and make a pie like the one on the picture. For a pie like this, I would happily mess up my manicure 😉

  18. You know, now that you mention it, I’m not sure I’ve ever had fresh huckleberries. They truly must be hard to find! But this post makes them look and sound delicious so I guess I’d better head to Montana!

      1. Melody A Lozeau

        I live in Missoula Mt and our family has a favorite place we like to calle”Secret Mountain” where we pick every year. It’s July 6 and we just went up to check on them and they are ripe and ready to pick!!! Earliest I’ve seen ever! Ran into a little red griz headed down the hill!
        By the way… my favorite way to enjoy Montana’s gold is straight up in a bowl with cream

        1. All of that sounds heavenly, from picking fresh huckleberries to seeing a grizzly (albeit I hope at a safe distance) to enjoying a bowlful of berries topped with fresh cream. There is nothing in the world quite like Montana in the summer. Love it! <3

  19. Kristin In Motion

    Ugh yummm I would like to try some of that huckleberry pie!! Fascinating post! I dont think Ive ever tried one before!

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