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Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in the Fall

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Jul 16th, 2011, 11:30 AM
  #1
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Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in the Fall

I'm considering a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in the fall and need some advice about when to go. We'll be traveling without kids so kid-friendly activities aren't important.
Due to really tight schedules, we are looking at the third week in Sept or the third/fourth week in Oct. Any pros/cons to going going this time of year would be appreciated. Also, are there any advantages to one of these weeks over the others?
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Jul 16th, 2011, 12:28 PM
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I think you'd be better off in September. The crowds should be gone by then and you'd probably get at least the beginning of the fall colors, and most things should still be open. Weather should be beautiful.

I went in early October two years ago. It was beautiful - the end of the fall colors, but most of the lodges in GT Park had just closed for the season, and the Jenny Lake Boat Ride had also closed. Smooth water rafting had also just closed for the season.

It was warm when I arrived, but I also had snow on a few days. I stayed the entire time in GT and had planned to drive up to Yellowstone ( where I'd been before) on one or two days. The first day of the snow I had to turn back before I even got to Yellowstone; the second day I got 15 miles into the park and had to turn back b/c they started closing the road to Old Faithful.
Of course, I only had a small economy car - hadn't anticipated snow - but if you have 4WD you should be okay driving.
The snow was beautiful and I got to see the parks in fall and winter, so I wouldn't call it a disadvantage. And it's not a certainty that you will get snow, but you should be aware of the possibility.

The day I left to return home, it was warm and sunny, and about 70 degrees.
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Jul 16th, 2011, 12:30 PM
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P.S. Hotel prices will be lower in late October. I think they just start to drop around then
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Jul 16th, 2011, 12:45 PM
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According to http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisi...closedates.htm , most of the lodging in Yellowstone closes by the end of September. I would go as early in September as possible.

Lee Ann
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Jul 16th, 2011, 04:26 PM
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I'd opt for September and agree with the previous poster--the earlier the better. The weather will be better (warmer) than October and the foliage will be great! You can still expect cool mornings. One of our trips occurred in early September and I remember wearing gloves on an early morning float trip. Oh yes, we also had snow on the day we left (September 10th or 11th). Still, it was great. We enjoyed that trip more than the one we took there in the summer.
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Jul 16th, 2011, 07:03 PM
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We were there for the last weekend everything was open in Yellowstone (Oct 15th weekend) and it snowed. It was fabulous to see the snow and we had a room overlooking Old Faithful in the inn....

but I'd go earlier in September. I'd love to see the aspens in Grand Tetons when they are gold. That is definitely on my bucket list.
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Jul 16th, 2011, 07:52 PM
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We were there for the last weekend everything was open in Yellowstone (Oct 15th weekend) and it snowed. It was fabulous to see the snow and we had a room overlooking Old Faithful in the inn....

@ starrs, Was everything in the park open or everything at Old Faithful area open? According to the Yellowstone National Park Website, there are a lot of things that close at the end of Sept and more in October. http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisi...CP_JUMP_127510

In 2008 we were in Yellowstone from Sept. 5 to Sept. 16th. We had a wide range of weather. One night we saw a dusting of snow on the higher peaks near Madison. We had several days of thunderstorms and many more nice days. We're planning on going again in September this year.

Utahtea
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Jul 16th, 2011, 08:52 PM
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Well, let me think. We flew into Jackson and spent some time there and then on to Old Faithful. It was the last weekend the inn was open. We ate at the dining room there once and the rest of the time at Fred Harvey's next door. We kind of got to know the retirees who had been there all season and were really excited about closing down the shop/restaurant and heading to warmer weather. Snow Lodge would be open during the winter season and we talked about winter options.

We drove around the park and mostly stopped at Artists Point, Mammoth (lots of water back in the day) and along most of the geyser boardwalks. The gift shop at Mammoth was open.

So that's what we saw on that fall trip. Maybe you are right - maybe "everything" wasn't open. I just can't think of anything in particular we wanted to do that we weren't able to do.

Definitely check the dates. I'd pick Sept over October anyway. It was a bit exciting to be there on the last day the park was open for the season (before they opened back up for winter visitors).
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Jul 17th, 2011, 07:09 AM
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Ah yes, Starrs, the golden aspens in the Teton. They were among the key reasons why some of my best photographs ever were taken in the Teton!
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Jul 17th, 2011, 02:39 PM
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I don't want to create the wrong impression about the weather in that area in September. Sure, we wore gloves at 7 a.m. one day, but we were wearing shorts a few hours later!
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Jul 19th, 2011, 07:18 PM
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Thanks, everyone. Seems like Sept is the way to go. How important is it that we stay in Yellowstone as opposed to in one of the towns outside the park? We were in Bryce/Zion last Oct and were just fine staying outside the parks in the surrounding towns.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 07:45 PM
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The big difference is the SIZE of Yellowstone. It's better to stay in the park vs an outside town. Jackson WY is >righthere< next to Grand Teton NP. Not true for Yellowstone.
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Jul 20th, 2011, 12:41 AM
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I'll give you some ideas on distance.

Zion from west entrance to east entrance is only 13 miles. Not sure what town you stayed in but even Kanab, Utah is only 43 miles to the east entrance of the park.

Ruby's Inn to the end of the Bryce scenic drive is only 20 miles. Even Tropic to the end of the Bryce scenic drive is only 28 miles.

Compare that to Yellowstone's mileages:

Cody to Old Faithful is 117 miles over two mountain passes. This isn't something you will want to do twice a day for a couple of days.

Gardiner to Old Faithful is 60 miles but plan on it taking close to 1 1/2 hours and that's without a bison jam.

Even within the park scenic areas like Tower Junction to old Faithful is 59 miles with some slow driving mountain miles.

West Yellowstone is your best bet if you decide to stay outside the park. W. Yellowstone to Old Faithful is 32 miles. W. Yellowstone to Mammoth Hot Springs is 47 miles. West Yellowstone to Tower Junction is 55 miles. West Yellowstone to Canyon area is 40 miles.

Utahtea
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Aug 10th, 2011, 11:49 AM
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In 2009 we were in Yellowstone and GTNP from Sept 9 thru Sept 20. It was a glorious trip with great weather. We stayed outside the park in Yellowstone and at Signal Mtn Lodge in GTNP. See our trip photos and report at

http://strayertravels.wordpress.com/
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Aug 19th, 2011, 07:45 AM
  #15
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Thanks, everyone. Sept isn't going to work for us due to work constraints so we're back to late Oct/Early Nov. Looks like this trip may need to wait until next year and we'll need to come up with a Plan B.

Any suggestions? We've already been to Bryce, Zion, Arches and Canyonlands.
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Aug 19th, 2011, 10:48 AM
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that's to bad about not being able to get the time this Sept.

Death Valley is a good place to visit in November - December. If you fly into Las Vegas you can also visit Valley of Fire State Park.

You can still visit Yosemite late October - early November but there is always a slight chance of snow by then.

If you can wait till Jan - Feb. time frame you could visit Yellowstone in the winter. I haven't been but I hear it's magical and you take slowcoaches to Old Faithful area.

Utahtea
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