Visiting Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park in September and October offers you an experience your senses will never forget. The crowds have dispersed, making it easier to fully take in the beauty and variety of activities that exist in this gem of a national park. In fact, USA Today named Grand Teton and Yellowstone National parks as one of the Top 10 Spots for Great Leaf Peeping!
From hiking and biking, to Ranger-led programs and wildlife tours, picnicking under the Tetons, taking photographs of the foliage and maybe hearing an elk bugle, the autumn opportunities abound. We've broken it down to 5 fantastic fall things to do in Grand Teton National Park.
1. Try a Ranger-led Program
The busy summer season in Grand Teton National Park may have wrapped up, but September is still chock-full of free, ranger-led programs and other events.
For instance, Park Rangers in Moose will lead a 2-½ hour hike to Taggart Lake daily at 1:30 p.m. from September 6th through 28th. Over at Jenny Lake, you can take an easy/moderate hike with rangers to Inspiration Point at 8:30 a.m. daily between September 6th and 11th. And from September 12th through 24th, you can join a ranger on another easy-to-moderate morning hike to Moose Ponds on the south shore of Jenny Lake.
Colter Bay ranger programs include an Oxbow Bend wildlife watch and a 30-minute talk on various Teton topics, including geography and the history of the park. Laurence Rockefeller Preserve ranger-led experiences include “Critter Chat” and a guided hike of the preserve.
On September 10th at 7 a.m. at Schwabachers Landing, the Grand Teton Association will sponsor a free professional photographer program with Henry Holdsworth, where he will demonstrate his techniques as he captures the essence of the park. The association will also hold a free local author session with Connie Wieneke, on September 10th, from 9 a.m. to Noon. Connie will help you hone your writing skills. Meet at the flagpole in front of the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center in Moose. Bring a journal, water and chair.
For a full schedule of autumn programs and events, visit nps.gov/grte.
For a relatively small park (485 square miles), Grand Teton National Park is absolutely packed with rewarding hikes for all levels, making it truly a hiker's park!
Shoulder season hiking means less busy trails and a nice crispness in the air, though the daylight hours are shorter and you’ll want to bring along extra layers. From September through early November, the average temperatures range from 45 to 75 degrees with cooler mornings and evenings. Never rule out an early snowstorm in Jackson Hole!
Some easier hikes to consider are Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls, the Phelps Lake Overlook and the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve’s Lake Creek and Woodland Trail Loop. For details on more hikes within the park, see What To Pack For a Hike in the Park, 5 Short Grand Teton National Park Hikes and Top 12 Grand Teton National Park Hikes.
Another way to see the autumn parade of colors in Grand Teton National Park is via bicycle. The 65 miles of Pathways in Teton County include the wildly scenic 20-mile stretch of multi-use trail that rests within the borders of the park.
The roughly 12-mile section of path that begins at Moose Junction and culminates on the shores of Jenny Lake promises neck-craning views of the peaks, jagged glacial canyons and pristine alpine forests that characterize the Grand Teton National Park's ecosystem.
Park passes for cyclists are $12, and bike rentals are available throughout the valley.
• In Jackson: Hoback Sports; 520 West Broadway; 307-733-5335
• In Wilson: Wilson Backcountry Sports; 1230 Ida Drive; 307-733-5228.
• In Moose: Adventure Sports; 10 Moose Lane; 307-733-3307
Rental shops can also attach a bike rack to your car.
4. Take a Wildlife Tour
Spotting wildlife in and around Grand Teton National Park is a special thrill no matter time of year. There’s nothing quite like eyeballing a moose munching on some willows by a river for the very first time. Or watching a bald eagle soar into that wild, blue yonder, or spying a bison as it lumbers across the sage flats. Some of the places where you are nearly guaranteed to spy critters include:
Moose Wilson Road, which skirts the mountains between the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center and the Granite Canyon park entrance. Look for beaver ponds, moose in the willow marshes and bears ransacking the berry bushes.
Kelly Loop and Antelope Flats is a less-traveled road in the eastern section of the park, and is a great place to observe plains species, such as bison and pronghorn amongst the sagebrush.
Oxbow Bend is one of the most scenic Grand Teton National Park vistas and also one of the richest for wildlife, with moose wading in the wetlands, hundreds of species of birds and many other critters dropping by for a drink or graze.
While taking a DIY wildlife tour is all fine and dandy, opting for a guided tour in a large windowed-van with a trained naturalist is even better. Not only will you learn so much more about the wild animals that call this corner of Wyoming home, you’ll also be able to see them in greater detail through high-quality spotting scopes and binoculars.
Wildlife tour companies to consider taking a half- or full-day trip with include: Eco Tour Adventures, Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, Scenic Safaris, Teton Science School's Wildlife Expeditions and Wolf Den Safaris.
5. Lake and River Fun
Autumn may not boast temps in the high 70s/low 80s, but getting out on the lakes in Grand Teton National Park or on the Snake River is still a hot option throughout the month of September.
Picture this: You're on a guided raft trip down the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, the Teton Range on one side—its majestic mountains delightfully dotted with the bright yellows and oranges of aspen stands—and the sage-covered flats and burnt reds and yellows of the willow trees and bushes on the other side. You have your face to the September sun as you float along, breathing in the crisp, clean mountain air. Wildlife of almost every stripe plays alongside the river banks. This setting really puts the word “scenic” in scenic float, and it's an activity that's the stuff of indelible memories.
Fall is also an ideal time to kayak, canoe, or even paddle board on Jenny, String, Leigh or Jackson lakes in the park, too. As with everything else around Jackson Hole in autumn, you won’t be fighting any crowds out there on the water! Any mode of self-propelled, fun water transportation can be rented from Rendezvous River Sports, or Dornan’s Adventure Sports.