Autumn finds the valley awash in gold and crimson, a blanket as vibrant as it is fleeting. Recent rains have washed many trees of their colorful coats, but palette pockets remain. Pack your car (and knapsack) and spend the day chasing the colorful flora of fall. Don’t forget your bear spray and appetites.
Come fall, the Snake River Canyon is aflame with maple trees flashing fire-engine red. Venture out midmorning and take your time, stopping for a hike up Game Creek or Munger Mountain. Back behind the wheel, keep your eyes peeled, particularly on slopes where maples cluster. At Alpine, toast your adventure with a mini donut (or two or dozen) and cup of Caffe Ibis coffee from Delish Donuts. A brand-new family-owned business, Delish specializes in fresh-out-of-the-fryer donuts in both creative and classic flavors, from cinnamon sugar to blueberry maple bacon. Wending your way back northward, marvel at the Snake’s rugged route. At the Hoback Junction roundabout, detour east on 191. Your destination: Dinner at Camp Creek Inn. Under new management, Camp Creek boasts a new menu, new deck and new woodstove oven, which enables pizza guru Cassidy to flex her creativity and craft pies unique to each person. Amble home with all your senses satiated.
In Grand Teton National Park, the southern trailheads cling to their colors well into fall. Pack a picnic and meander along the 7.7-mile stretch of Moose-Wilson Road, pulling off when you spot Aspens aglow. Granite Canyon or the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve are good bets for still finding fall foliage. If Granite beckons, hike about 2 miles in and perch your picnic atop the boulder bordering Granite Creek. If instead you choose the Laurance Rockefeller loop, find a patch of beach for lingering over lunch. In both places, be chatty and bring bear spray; in early September, numerous black bears were feasting on hawthorn berries along the Moose-Wilson Road, forcing park officials to temporary close the wooded stretch. Trails remain peppered with telltale signs of bear banquets so be aware. Cap your picnic with a stop at Dornan’s and its scenic bar; with one of the best cellars in the valley, you could even time your visit with a wine tasting or dinner. Special event or no, sunset at Dornan’s is a truly singular sensation as you take in the panorama with a glass of Pinot Noir.
No matter the direction you choose, autumn is the perfect time to set out on a colorful roadside adventure.