Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — As summer slips away, crowds of tourists and parades of Winnebagos give way to seas of yellowing aspens and flocks of honking geese. Fall in the West is short and ever-so-sweet. And it is a perfect time to explore this geographically blessed and naturally dynamic part of the world. For travelers looking for a quiet horseback riding experience, a cabin-by-the-lake weekend, or a long, winding drive to take in the subdued colors and raucous wildlife that define this region in the fall, Carter G. Walker, author of Moon Montana & Wyoming, shares 5 tips for enjoying this brief but magical season:
1. Watch the Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park: There is no place better in the country to watch wildlife than inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, the largest intact ecosystem in the Lower 48. Although most visible when snow blankets the ground, they are never more active than in the fall, when the bison and elk do battle over great harems and the bears frantically fatten up for hibernation. Much of the action happens within eyeshot of the park roads, most of which stay open through November 2. Rooms in the park are easier to come by in the fall than during the summer. For visitors that appreciate a real insider’s view, the Yellowstone Association offers a host of fascinating educational tours all season long.
2. Be a Dude for a Weekend: Fall is a great time to explore the region’s dude ranches, as rooms are more available and fewer guests means more options for shorter stays. At Eatons’ Ranch in Wolf, Wyoming, for example, summer guests are required to stay for seven days, but after Labor Day, a weekend getaway is as doable as it is delightful. Think leisurely horseback rides up into the Bighorn Mountains, lazy afternoons fly fishing on Wolf Creek, and sunsets that showcase the region’s purple mountain majesty.
3. Drive Over the Beartooth Highway: Straddling Montana and Wyoming and running 68 miles from Red Lodge into the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park at Cooke City, the Beartooth Highway is a staggeringly beautiful road for a Sunday drive (or any day, for that matter). The road climbs to nearly 11,000 feet in elevation and weaves through prime recreation and wildlife territory. Bring a bike. Pack some boots. Even your skis! The weather determines when the Beartooth Highway closes, but it’s usually sometime in October. If this 3-hour trip isn’t enough, the nearby Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway can pack an additional alpine punch.
4. Soak in Some Hot Springs: The upside of living adjacent to the world’s largest supervolcano (a.k.a. Yellowstone National Park) is that the heat underneath the earth here makes for some outstanding hot springs, most of which are swimmable year-round, and best when the weather is cooler. There are undeveloped options for nature-lovers — the Boiling River by Yellowstone’s northern entrance is extraordinary — and commercial options for visitors who like a little rustic luxury with their hot water. Chico Hot Springs, just north of Yellowstone in Paradise Valley, is a good bet with beautiful water, sumptuous food and plenty of local culture. The entire town of Thermopolis, Wyoming, is built around the natural hot water that flows out of the ground and into developed pools.
5. Take in the Art at Rendezvous Royale or the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival: Two of Wyoming’s best-loved towns shift their attention to art as soon as the air turns crisp. The Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival runs this year from September 3rd to the 14th and boasts more than 50 events — including auctions, gallery and studio tours, the Western Design Conference, art walks, and plenty of parties. On the fourth week in September, Rendezvous Royale in Cody celebrates Western art in all its forms with a fabulous art show and furniture exhibition, a fashion show, a quick draw, and a standing-room-only auction of contemporary works at the renowned Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
For more information on Moon Montana & Wyoming, visit moon.com.
About Moon Travel Guides & Moon.com Moon Travel Guides make independent travel and outdoor exploration fun and accessible. With expert writers delivering a mix of honest insight, first-rate strategic advice, and an essential dose of humor, Moon guidebooks ensure that travelers have an uncommon and entirely satisfying travel experience. Moon not only guides, Moon inspires. Based in Berkeley, California, Moon is published by Avalon Travel, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Visit Moon online at moon.com.