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    Best Leaf Peeping and Fall Wildlife Watching in Jackson Hole

    By Visit Jackson Hole
    Driving Through Fall Foliage in Grand Teton National Park. Driving Through Fall Foliage in Grand Teton National Park, Photo: Taylor Glenn.

    Fall in Jackson Hole

    Gorgeous golden, orange, and red leaves set beneath the Tetons and crisp, cool air—what’s not to love about fall in Jackson Hole?

    Leaf-peepers and wildlife enthusiasts alike will love autumn since it’s a perfect time for hiking, scenic drives, photography, and wildlife watching.

    It’s common to see a few tinges of fall color in the high country in late summer, but the peak of fall foliage can vary, though good fall colors can usually be seen at some point between mid-September and early to mid-October. A number of factors determine when the leaves are at their brightest and most vibrant, so for the most up-to-date conditions, check out the live SeeJH webcams from around the region. Bears are active in the fall, so take bear precautions, including bringing bear spray, and know what to do if you encounter a bear.

    Snake River in Fall
    Grand Teton National Park

    One of the best places to enjoy fall colors is in Grand Teton National Park, and Oxbow Bend is a crowd-pleasing favorite for scenic views and photography. Stop for a while, take in the views, snap photos of stunning leaves beneath the towering Tetons, and use your binoculars or spotting scope to scan for wildlife like moose or bears.

    Some of the best places in the park to see fall color is the Snake River Overlook, which has vibrant golden aspen that shimmer in the wind to create a beautiful “quaking” rhythm. Cottonwood Creek is a good spot to peep the bright yellow leaves of narrowleaf cottonwood, and you can see brilliant red-black hawthorn leaves along Moose-Wilson Road.

    Fall is also the “rut”—or mating—season for elk and moose. Keep an eye out for pairs of sparring elk and moose, and bring your longest camera lens since you don’t want to approach too closely. The park requires people to remain at least 25 yards from most wildlife (and 100 yards from bears and wolves). Head up early in the morning for a chance to hear the elk bugle—a distinctive loud noise males make during mating season—and look for them in open meadows. If you miss them in the morning, you’ll likely have another chance to hear them around dusk.

    Hiking in Grand Teton National Park is a fantastic way to enjoy fall colors, but be especially bear aware this time of year since bears are in hyperphagia, eating as many berries and other foods as they can before hibernation. Bring bear spray, take all necessary bear precautions, and know what to do if you encounter a bear. Check weather conditions and be prepared before you head out, knowing temperatures can drop and weather can change rapidly. Snow can and does occur during fall, and it can accumulate quickly.

    The park recommends a few fall hikes, including Phelps Lake Overlook, a 2-mile round trip; Taggart Lake–Bradley Lake Loop, which is 5.6 miles round trip with 890 feet of elevation gain; and the Lakeshore Trail along Jackson Lake, which has views of the Teton Range along its looping 2.2-mile path.

    Stop at Dornans Pizza & Pasta Company, located in Moose, to enjoy food, drinks and gorgeous views. In summer it has nice outdoor decks, and you can always cozy up by the fireplace indoors to warm up. Dornans provides a great place to watch the sunset while enjoying pizza, pasta, hot sandwiches, stromboli, salads, and more.

    While many Grand Teton National Park roads generally close for the winter on November 1, they can also close for periods of time in inclement weather, so be sure to check conditions before heading out.

    Jackson Hole Town Square in the Fall.
    Teton Village, Jackson Hole, and Grand Targhee

    Outside Grand Teton National Park, some of the best ways to enjoy fall foliage are to hop on a tram or gondola, or hit a hiking trail. Be aware that bears and other wildlife may be present, so be sure to take appropriate precautions for recreating in bear country.

    If Grand Teton National Park’s Moose-Wilson Road is open (be sure to check the status), it’s a beautiful drive from the park to Teton Village, with hiking opportunities and chances to spot wildlife along the way. If the road is closed, it’s an easy drive through Jackson and to Teton Village. Ride the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram up 4,139 vertical feet for a 360-degree view of incredible scenery and fall foliage from 10,450 feet in elevation. The tram usually runs through early October. Jackson Hole’s Bridger Gondola is another great way to view early fall colors, though the season generally ends in early or mid-September.

    In the town of Jackson, get a peek at the foliage by riding Snow King’s scenic gondola, which usually closes in very early October. Or you can hike up 1.8 miles with 1,571 feet of elevation gain to look down at the valley and marvel at the colors or connect with other trail systems to continue your hike.

    Take a drive over Teton Pass, through Teton Valley, Idaho, and up to Grand Targhee Resort for a leaf-peeping journey. Grand Targhee offers scenic chair lift rides through mid-September as well as other amenities like a bike park. 

    However you enjoy the wonders of fall, be sure to soak it in. The season can progress rapidly, from the first late-summer twinges of color to the peak to the leaf fall. Watching the brilliant oranges and yellows and reds change and shift before a layer of snow coats the mountains and valleys creates an unforgettable experience.

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    From awe-inspiring encounters with nature to wild and western activities every kind, Jackson Hole offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences, 365 days a year.

    Eager to glimpse your first bear, moose, or wolf? Challenge yourself with a run down black diamonds or class III rapids? Hook an 18-inch cutthroat? Meet a real cowboy? Watch a Teton sunset? This place is full of experiences you won't find that at home, or anywhere else for that matter. In Jackson Hole, wild adventures aren't just possible—they're already here waiting for you.