Top 5 Autumn Activities in Jackson Hole
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.”
— John Muir
In between the bustle of summer and before ski season sets in is the restorative space of Ahhhh-tumn in Jackson Hole. It is that time of year when there are fewer crowds, the lush green leaves of aspen and cottonwood transform into vivid hues of yellow and gold, and the wild animals animate in annual fall rituals in preparation for winter ahead. Fall brings with it many special activities that are unique
to the season. Here are a handful of our favorites.
1. ELK BUGLING & WILDLIFE WATCHING
The peel of an elk bugle echoing across the landscape is a true marker that autumn has arrived. There is music in the air (and a bit of dramatic posturing) when bull elk begin to gather together a breeding harem. The regal bulls adorned with their massive antlers call out in a distinctive high pitch bugle, piercing the quiet of early mornings and late evening hours. Pause to listen and wait. Soon, a herd of female elk will dash and dart in a fast and furious fashion as a bull corrals them, and then defends his claim. As other bulls rush in, heads bowed low with their armored horns in full display and prepared for a fight, they thrash their heads to establish dominance. This ritual goes on for weeks in the fall and provides a spectacularly wild, live-action scene that rivals the Nature Channel. For the best viewing experience, park at the Taggart Lake Trailhead in Grand Teton National Park, bring along an evening picnic, and sit quietly while watching and waiting. Watch also for grizzly and black bears which are active in the landscape foraging for fall berries and nutrient-rich roots to bulk up before going into their dens for the winter. The Moose-Wilson Road in the park is a well-known area for bear and moose watching, but keep your eyes watchful throughout the valley. Moose are usually found in sagebrush flats and near the Gros Ventre River, and you can often spot migrating elk crossing the open sagebrush near Blacktail Butte on the Gros Ventre Road.
2. FALL COLORS
Though the wildflowers have faded, the brilliant yellow leaves of the cottonwood and aspens more than make up for their disappearance. Fireweed blossoms transform into feathery white seed stalks, and ferns turn a burnished-red hue while the remnants of tall summer grasses wave golden in the wind. The changing foliage in autumn is breathtaking, and a beautiful location to take it all in is the Oxbow Bend Turnout in Grand Teton National Park. The crescent-shaped oxbow meanders away from the active flow of the Snake River and affords a pastoral scene which attracts an abundance of wildlife. Nestled below Mount Moran, it is a photographer’s favorite as the mountain is reflected in the still water on calm days. Often in autumn, migrating Canada geese fly high overhead in their distinctive arrow pattern while it is also common to see an eagle fishing the river. Moose, river otters, and coyotes also frequent this area. Bring along binoculars and keep a watch out for everything from a bear to the common merganser here. Coupled with the dramatic backdrop of Mount Moran and autumn’s muted hues, this scene is a classic in the fall.
The weather during autumn is just right for hiking — not too hot and not too cold. A pair of mid-weight hiking pants and a couple of layers ready for shedding when the sun warms the trails are your best bets for a half-day trek through the stunning mountain terrain around Jackson Hole. Some say it is better to start out bold and brave the cold, but layers really negate a gutsy start on the trail. Conditions vary in the fall when snow can accumulate on valley and mountain trails as early as September, so layers are the key. Prime hiking locations that showcase the beauty of autumn are the trails that follow the rivers and streams where cottonwoods thrive. In Grand Teton National Park, a favorite valley trail is the Taggart-Bradley Lake Loop that is a moderate 5.6 mile, round-trip trail that visits two pristine mountain lakes surrounded by glacial moraines resting beneath the granite jettison of the Grand Teton peak. One of the best parts of autumn hiking is that there are few to no pesky mosquitos.
4. LATE FALL BIKING
The Teton Park Road from Taggart Lake Trailhead to Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park closes to motorized vehicles on November 1, but remains open to biking as well as walking, running, and inline skating until the snow is deep enough to prevent such activities. The full length of this stretch of paved road is 14 miles one way or 28 miles round trip and travels through the valley’s pine forests and sagebrush-covered hills. With the Teton Range bordering one side of the road, this scenery on this route is unsurpassed.
5. FLY FISHING
Productive fall fishing opportunities abound in the many streams and rivers around Jackson Hole. In autumn, the water is low and clear, so using the right fly and a good technique is paramount. Though the fishing can be challenging and anglers work hard in the fall, the allure of fly casting remains magnetic, especially so in the attractive waters of Flat Creek. It is open for a short window from August 1 to October 31, offering blue-ribbon opportunities for catching and releasing the savviest cutthroats. In the fall, some of the larger fish that populate the streams all summer move into the Snake River and are among the more challenging to catch. Meanwhile, a day of fishing in Grand Teton National Park affords beautiful mountain views, cool waters, and most likely, a catch or two. A handful of rivers and streams in Grand Teton National Park are open year-round which are the Snake River, Polecat Creek, Buffalo Fork River, Pacific Creek and Gros Ventre River. In addition, lakes within Grand Teton National Park are open to fishing year-round except Jackson Lake, which is closed to fishing October 1 through October 31. A Wyoming fishing license is required and may be purchased from Wyoming Game and Fish licensed sellers or online at sgfd.wyo.gov.
Let Us Plan Your
There is so much to do in Jackson Hole. Rush downriver in a kayak. Ride horseback through a sea of golden grass. Cast a line into water clear as the sky, while the fish flash by like stars. There’s hiking, biking, snowmobiling, and of course, skiing. The Clear Creek Group affiliates with the best service providers in the area, people as passionate as we are about providing great experiences. We can arrange anything imaginable, from backcountry pack trips and heli-skiing to the selection of a personal chef.