Summer is slipping away, and the crisp, fresh season is calling. Some say that Yellowstone National Park has two seasons: super-crazy busy and slack. If you’re pumped from a full summer of hiking, consider heading to Yellowstone for a fall escape full of wildlife, hillsides of fiery red and eye-popping orange, and that ever-important trail time. Take a full 36 hours for the trip and maximize your adventure by making Bozeman, Montana, your base camp.
For quirky and cool accommodations, The Lark Hotel is right downtown within walking distance to perfect evening food refuel stations after your day of crushing it. Embrace the season with cool craft cheers on The Lark Hotel’s patio, which is warmed by the open fire. Now feel that goodness set in. From here you can easily hit the nearby Community Food Co-op to load up on goodies for your upcoming adventures, explore some great new spots to dine, and find fresh roasted coffee on-site from Treeline Coffee Roasters. After a little relaxation and preparation, you'll be ready to blaze your own trail exploring some of these great stops in America’s favorite (and first) national park.
- Warm up with a walk. Entering through West Yellowstone, take a pleasant drive along the famed fly fishing waters of the Madison River and take the right turn at Madison Junction. Heading south along the Firehole River and stop at one of the trailheads along the way such as Midway Geyser Basin Trailhead, which is a less traveled option into one of the hot spots.
- Paddle play. Learn about a really big body of water, Yellowstone Lake. Take a sea kayak tour with a guide to get the added history and geology lesson, or rent your own canoe and explore.
- One big fountain of joy. No visit to Yellowstone is complete without stopping in to see nature’s hourly performance, more commonly known as the famed Old Faithful geyser. It does not disappoint.
- Where the buffalo roam. A great place to catch up with these amazing great plains beasts is between Fishing Bridge and Canyon Junction. There will be a variety of pullouts along the way. Keep your eyes peeled in order to view these powerful animals from a safe distance.
- Big splash. Be ready to be amazed: the upper and lower falls of the Yellowstone River will, as the saying goes, take your breath away. Just don’t be standing too close to the edge; it is a long way down, especially from the famed Artist Point lookout, or Uncle Tom’s Point.
- Refresh at the end of the day. Lastly, stop at the Lava Creek Trail parking lot for a quick walk up Boiling River, where the hot spring heated waters will soothe your muscles from all the hikes and driving.
- Extra credit. Best chance to see wolves and possibly bear? Try the Lamar Valley area and watch for avid pods of photographers with very long lenses in pullouts along the way. They most likely have an eye on the wildlife.
- Pack up. Locally made in Bozeman, you’ll find the pack manufacturer, Mystery Ranch, making some of the finest daypacks. Get properly fitted for walking enjoyment.
- Fuel up. Why not try Good To Go, makers of some of the best trail food options? Easy to make, just add hot water. BibimBap is delightful.
- Don’t forget poles, which make hiking much easier. Try the MSR Dynalock trail backcountry poles: They are easy to adjust, lightweight, and they provide the support you need to take the weight off your joints.
Be prepared to travel safe, as road conditions can change quickly with possible snow. Once you are on the trail, make sure you have – and know how to use – your bear spray. Be sure to heed all signage and safety messaging provided by Yellowstone National Park.