Yellowstone Country takes on a whole new meaning in the fall. The pace slows down, trees turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red, and the locals take full advantage of this beautiful season before the snow flies. If you’re planning to visit, here are some of our favorites to add to your itinerary.
Photo, Merv Coleman
Fall is the ultimate time of year for wildlife watching, when the animals are most active. The elk rut (mating season) begins, which is a spectacular display of nature. Male elk can hold a herd of over 30 females, battling other males who threaten their territory. Their bugle, used to get the attention of the females is both eerie and thrilling. If you haven’t heard it, it’s something to behold.
Bear are busy preparing for the winter and will feed on nuts and berries, often coming to lower elevations making it more likely for you to see them.
Winters are severe so you’ll find hundreds of bison migrating to lower elevations. Look for them in the Lamar Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful.
Hayden Valley is also a great way to view the raptor migration where thousands of raptors move through the Yellowstone River Corridor.
For information on recent sitings, stop at the visitor information centers in West Yellowstone, Gardiner or Cooke City.
Bridger Raptor Festival
Speaking of raptors, the Bridger Raptor Festival, centers around the largest known eagle migration in the United States. The event is held each year in early October at Bridger Bowl Ski Area in the Gallatin National Forest. In addition to viewing the raptors, there are nature walks, kids activities and educational and entertaining programs for all ages.
Photo, Craig Hergert
This is a perfect time of year for scenic drives; we recommend two in particular.
Beartooth Highway: Charles Kuralt once referred to the Beartooth Highway as “The most beautiful drive in America.” This 68 mile span is one of the highest and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation. The highway closes mid-October, weather depending, so plan to go early.
Paradise Valley: Aptly named, driving through Paradise Valley is breathtaking. The valley is surrounded by the Absaroka Range on the east and the Gallatin Range on the west. The cottonwood trees line the Yellowstone River, and when the leaves turn, they are in sharp contrast to the green pine, snowcapped mountains and blue skies.
Photo, Pat Clayton
Fat Brown Trout
For the fly-fishers out there, fall is the best time to catch these trophy-size fish. The water levels drop and cool and the browns get more aggressive as they prepare to spawn in November and early December. Bring huge streamers, egg patterns and winter clothes, it could be sunny one minute and snowing the next!
Photo, Notarius Photography
Rocky Creek Farms, a farm offering seasonal crops to pick, farm animals, pumpkin patch, apple pressing, and of course, a corn maze! Stop by Friday or Saturday nights in October to visit the Haunted Swamp.
Manhattan, MT is home to the Montana Corn Maze, an intricate maze cut into 2.5 acres of corn. Hidden in the stalks are clues to a mystery, enticing you to the depths of the maze.
The Bozeman Maze, in Bozeman, MT is made from hay bales, is another great place to take the family. In addition to the maze, you’ll find hay rides, concessions and kids activities, including a bungie jump trampoline.
For the beer connoisseurs out there, you’ll enjoy visting one of the 15 breweries in Yellowstone Country, with more on the way! Try the Harvestfest Lager from Bozeman Brewing, the Octoberfest Amber from Lone Peak Brewery in Big Sky or the Octoberfest Lager from Red Lodge Ales. If cider is your preference, stop in to the Lockhorn Cider House in Bozeman and enjoy the seasons hard apple ciders.