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5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall

09.07.18

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5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall

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  • Quaking aspen are famous for the fall colors. Photo credit: Carolyn Fox. - 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Lamar Valley, known for its spectacular herds of bison, comes alive with color in the fall. Photo credit: Diane Renkin.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Yellow and orange hues dominate the Yellowstone landscape in the fall. Photo credit: Diane Renkin.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Fly-fishing the South Fork of the Madison River. Photo credit: Ken Takata.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Fall is the perfect time catch a brown trout from Yellowstone waters. Photo courtesy of West Yellowstone, Montana.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • The bull elk bugle is unique fall sound in Yellowstone. Photo courtesy of West Yellowstone, Montana.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Elk Park in Mammoth Hot Springs is the destination to watch the elk rut. Maintain a safe distance (25 yards) at all times. Photo credit: Neal Herbet.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Bull elk bugle to showcase their fitness during the rut, which typically occurs during September and October. Photo credit: Joe Crebbin.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • The boardwalks around Old Faithful are less crowded in the fall. Photo courtesy of West Yellowstone, Montana. - 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Bighorn sheep among early fall snow. Photo credit: Peggy Olliff.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Adult eagles usually stay in the park year round. Look for them by large lakes and rivers. Photo credit: Chris Daniel.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Bear sightings become more frequent along the roadside in the fall, especially in October. Photo credit: Carolyn Fox.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • In the fall, grizzlies enter a period called hyperphagia, a time marked by increased feeding and weight gain. Photo credit: Jim Peaco.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Curious pronghorns in Lamar Valley. Photo credit: Neal Herbert.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Like Yellowstone's elk, pronghorn also begin their mating season in the fall. Catch pronghorn bucks vying for attention from females. - 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • First snows in the park do not often linger at lower elevations.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Snow that does have the chance to linger is an excellent canvas for tracking wildlife.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
  • Expect snow at higher elevations by the time November rolls around.- 5 Reasons to Visit West Yellowstone, Montana this Fall
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Fall is a magical time to visit West Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park. The autumn season offers visitors tranquil and oftentimes intimate nature experiences that can be tougher to find during peak summer months. Fall brings a crispness to the air and colder temps to be sure, but it also brings lighter crowds, an active wildlife season and a chance to see the park under a dusting of dazzling snow. Whether your interests are in taking in spectacular fall foliage, wildlife viewing, hiking, or the many blue ribbon trout streams around West Yellowstone– you are bound to have a memorable autumn adventure here. Here are five reasons to experience West Yellowstone this season, your gateway to fall in Yellowstone National Park.

1. Lighter crowds

The transition from summer to fall is noted in part by strikingly less crowds and road traffic, which equates to an all-around easier Yellowstone experience. From camping availability to your own private wildlife viewing sessions, take advantage of the light crowds and enjoy the best of West Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park with elbow room to spare.

2. Fall foliage

Expect golds, bright oranges, and fiery reds to begin showing above 7,000 feet in mid- to late-September among the park's many aspen groves. By October, fall colors usually start to appear below 7,000 feet and are viewable from the road. In the park, Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs are your go-to spots for easily finding picturesque fall foliage. 

3. Incredible wildlife viewing

The cooler temperatures of autumn signal not just changes in the flora but changes in wildlife behavior, too. Black and grizzly bears become more active, often appearing in roadside meadows preparing for their winter hibernation. The elk rut becomes a large spectacle in and around Mammoth Hot Springs, where intimidating bull elk can be seen among their harem of cow elk. Pronghorn antelope also exhibiting mating behavior; find bucks defending their claim to a doe, especially in open grassland. In November, bighorn sheep begin their rut, and Yellowstone’s iconic bison are more visible than ever along, or actually on, the roads.  

4. Fly-fishing abounds

Even the fishing becomes gold-hued in West Yellowstone in the fall as big browns run up from big lakes to spawn in Yellowstone’s rivers and streams. Barn’s Hole and Baker’s Hole on the Madison River hold giant brown trout from Hebgen Lake, and West Yellowstone angler Bob Jacklin’s 10-pound “fish of a lifetime” (which can be viewed in the West Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park visitor center) was caught on a stretch of the Madison between Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake just 25 minutes from downtown West Yellowstone. The South Fork of the Madison River is even closer to town, and catching golden-sided Hebgen monsters in the smaller sections of this stream is simply thrilling. The Lewis River Channel run is as famous for its big browns as it is for the lake trout that follow them. An easy 5-mile hike from the Dogshead Trailhead will get you deep into grizzly country to chase legends in this famous section of water.       

5. First Yellowstone snows

The first snow often takes visitors and locals by surprise, frequently coming early in September (even August) and leaving just as quickly. As September fades into October, snows tend to linger, dusting the sagebrush and lodgepole-filled landscape with white. The shimmer of snow falling takes on an almost magical quality in and around West Yellowstone. Be sure to head out on the park trails, where you’ll catch all of this in blissful silence. Okay, near silence...it’s possible you’ll hear elk bugling in the distance.

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