Fall in the Tetons

Aspens turned golden in the fall with purple Teton mountains in the distance.

NPS Photo/J. Tobiason

 

The arrival of autumn breathes new life into Grand Teton National Park. As the heat of summer slowly gives way to the cooler months of fall, changes may be seen across the park. The bright green leaves of the aspens become vibrant yellow; the sun, once bright until late in the evening, sinks below the horizon earlier each day; cool breezes and frequent rain showers wash away the haze of summer.

For many animals, fall is the time to migrate to their winter grounds. Bison, pronghorn move east, and elk begin moving south. Grand Teton is a corridor for many of these animals, and they follow the same path their ancestors took thousands of years before.

Pronghorn gather in large groups to head for their winter grounds near Pinedale, WY. For nearly 7,000 years, members of the Teton herd have headed to the Pinedale area where they join one of the largest gatherings of pronghorn on earth. The 150-mile migration is the second longest land migration in the Western Hemisphere.

Members of the ungulate family – such as elk, deer, and moose – find their mates during the fall months. Listen for elk bugles in the park—a key sign of fall. Bull elk will gather harems of cow elk, then challenge other males to establish dominance. These challenges include bugling and sparring. Younger bulls will often back off from larger males, but similarly sized bulls will often confront each other. Males use these battles to show their strength, and the bulls often sustain injuries, but rarely fatal ones, during the struggle. The strongest male wins and thus earns the right to mate.

As snow blows in and fall shifts into winter, elk will continue their migration south to the National Elk Refuge, where they will make their winter home. Bison also join in on fall migration. While summers are spent in the eastern sagebrush plains of the park, the coming of fall sees bison head south to lower elevations. Less snow makes it easier to reach the grasses that are their main food source. Bison are experts at using their large heads to plow snow off the ground to reach the grass below.

While you travel through Grand Teton, look out for the various animals also making their journey through the park. Fall is a time for movement and change, but will soon ease into the quiet of winter. Take in all the changes around you and breathe in the new energy that comes with the arrival of fall.

 

On This Page Navigation

 
A trail through the woods

Fall HIkes

Explore the best hikes for fall color.

Visitors photograph a moose in a pond.

Wildlife Viewing

Learn more about the wildlife in Grand Teton.

two pumpkins on a rock wall in front of mountains

Carve a Pumpkin

Use our templates to carve your own Grand Teton pumpkin!

Mountains against a blue sky

Operating Hours and Seasons

Learn the hours and seasons for facilities in the park.

Clouds rise off of mountains.

Weather

Learn what weather to expect when you visit Grand Teton.

 

Fall Activities

Hiking

Fall is an excellent time to hike in Grand Teton. Trails remain open throughout the park, although accessibility can change due to shifts in weather.
Visit our fall hiking page to learn more about trails in the park.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife is often very active during Fall. Deer species begin their annual rut (breeding season) during this time. Male elk actively bugle to signal their dominance and attract females, an eerie sound that pierces early evenings. You may even witness a sparring match between two dominant male elk - an incredible sight to behold. The bull moose in the park are also actively searching for females and may spar for dominance too. Bears are searching for berries and any other food source they can find, as they only have a few short weeks left to gain the additional fat they will need to survive hibernation. Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat can be an exciting experience. Remember that animals in the park are wild and may react defensively to your presence. Always stay at least 25yds away from elk, moose, and bison, and 100yds away from wolf and bear.
Visit our wildlife viewing page.

Scenic Drives

Driving around Grand Teton offers a prime oportinity to look for wildlife and soak in the always spectacular views of the Teton Range. Pullouts throughout the park provide opportunities to stop. Roads in the park remain open until November 1, however temporary closures may be put in place due to inclement weather.
Visit our road conditions to see what's open and our driving page to discover scenic drives in the park.
Practice caution when driving through the park. Follow the posted speed limit and look out for pedestrians, bikers, wildlife, and other drivers.

Safety in the Backcountry

Fall temperatures can change quickly, fluctuating between cold nights and warm days. Temperatures often drop below freezing at night, and snow storms are common at higher elevations. When headed into the backcountry, hikers and climbers should prepare for changing weather and sudden storms. Hikers and climbers are reminded that your safety is your responsibility. You must rely on your own good judgment, adequate preparation and constant awareness. Backcountry users should be in good physical condition and stick to routes that are within your ability and comfort levels. Traveling alone can be especially dangerous; always give friends or family a detailed itinerary and stick to that plan. Permits are required for all overnight backcountry trips and can be purchased at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.

 
building with lots of windows

NPS/J. Bonney

Fall Visitor Centers

Park visitor centers and ranger stations begin to close in September and re-open in March-May. Please see the operating hours page for more information on visitor center seasons of operation.

Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center

Open April through October, hours may vary
Visitor information, backcountry permits, gift store

Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center - CLOSED FOR THE SEASON

Open May through September, hours may vary
Visitor information

Jenny Lake Visitor Center - CLOSED FOR THE SEASON

Open May through September, hours may vary
Visitor information, gift store

Colter Bay Visitor Center

Open May to October, hours may vary
Visitor information, backcountry permits, gift store

Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center

Open year round, hours may vary
Visitor information, gift store

Fall Lodging

Campgrounds and lodges begin closing in September and remain closed for the winter season. Visit our operating hours page to see what's open.
 

Regulations

  • Harassing wildlife is prohibited. Winter conditions stress all animals. Approaching too closely increases stress and may reduce their chance of surviving the harsh winter weather. Retrace your steps or detour to avoid disturbing wildlife.
  • Pets are restricted to plowed roadways and turnouts. Pets must be leashed at all times (6' max).
  • Please use the Mutt Mitts provided at the trailheads to properly dispose of your pet's waste.
  • Overnight backcountry campers must obtain a free camping permit. Permits are available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.
 
an elk runs across a field

Elk Management Reduction Program

Congress included a provision for managing the elk population through a special annual elk reduction program.

Orange leaves in front of white mountains.

Qualified Volunteer Program

Non-Native Mountain Goat Qualified Volunteer Program

 

Last updated: September 16, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 170
Moose, WY 83012

Phone:

(307) 739-3399

Contact Us