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Grand Teton National Park Foundation

Adventure Journal: Autumn in the Tetons

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
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Elk are bugling, birds are migrating out of the valley, and leaves on deciduous trees and shrubs— aspens, cottonwoods, and willows— are changing color. This year the autumnal equinox fell on September 22, marking the official start to fall. Equinox means “equal night” and occurs when night and day are roughly the same length of time. Now that we have passed the equinox, the temperatures are dropping and days are becoming shorter than night.

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Schwabacker's Landing. Photo by Margaret Creel.

Due to cooler temperatures, diminished crowds, and the explosion of vibrant colors of yellow, orange, and red, September is a wonderful month to go for an excursion in the park. Fall in the Tetons lasts from the beginning of September through mid-October. The peak of autumn colors historically happens around the third week of September and lasts into early October. Local climatic conditions like rainfall amounts and nighttime temperatures determine when leaves change color.

Grand Teton is rich with large stands of deciduous trees and shrubs that turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red during the fall. These include cottonwoods and willows that line the banks of the Snake River; aspens on hillsides and alongside creeks and streams; and numerous species of shrubs— including serviceberry and mountain ash— that can be found along lake and canyon trails throughout the park.

Listed below are some of our favorite places to experience the gorgeous palette of fall colors in Grand Teton National Park. Be prepared for cooler temperatures by carrying a warm jacket, hat, and gloves. Check the local weather before you leave home. Always be prepared for the possibility of encountering wildlife as they are out and about busy consuming calories to carry them through the long winter months. Keep your distance, carry your bear spray, and know how to use it!

Oxbow Bend: This spot is always beautiful, regardless of the time of year but especially breathtaking in September when the leaves are changing. This is one of the most photographed places in the park during the fall.

Schwabacher’s Landing: This landing is located east of the Grand Teton along the Snake River so the cottonwoods and willows are magnificent. There is a four-mile hiking trail that meanders along the banks of the Snake past tons of beaver activity including dams, a huge lodge, and chewed trees and shrubs.

Aspen Ridge-Boulder Ridge Loop: This 5.8 mile round-trip hike is in the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. The trail wanders through beautiful aspen groves and boulder fields to the shores of Phelps Lake is a wonderful way to spend a morning or afternoon.

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Photo by Steve Cain.