Fall is a perfect time to explore Yellowstone National Park. The colors are beautiful, the crowds of summer are gone, and the animals are usually out and active. This was also an inexpensive trip, as we only had to pay for the campground spot and gas.
We started our trip in Idaho Falls, on a Friday afternoon. We drove through Island Park to West Yellowstone, MT. Island Park is a unique area. It is located in a very large, extinct, volcanic caldera, much like Yellowstone. The other unique thing about Island Park, is that the town boasts of having the longest Main Street in America. Don’t expect your typical main street, just a few businesses spread over 17 or so miles, but it is one of their claims to fame. We also had our only moose siting of the trip, just before Last Chance.
West Yellowstone as the name suggests, is where the west entrance to the Park is located. In September and October it is pretty quiet as this is the off-season. Once the snow comes, then the town will be full of snowmobiles.
Using our America the Beautiful pass, we entered the park for free. From the west Entrance, we drove along the Madison River, where we saw our first elk.
Since we were in the park on the first week-end of October, many of the campgrounds were closed. We checked the campground sign just past the entrance and learned that only Lewis Lake had spots available. This is near the south entrance. Lewis Lake campground is an older campground. It is recommended for vehicles under 25 feet. The campsites are close together and the ground is a bit hilly. They provide bear boxes, tables and a fire pit at each space. It is $18.00 per night and there is a ranger station as well as a small boat ramp. In Yellowstone, you are only allowed to camp in an approved campground. No roadside or parking lot camping.
We settled in for the night, using our stove/oven combo for chicken nuggets and fries. The next morning we wanted to get an early start so we had oatmeal and toast. I love having the old-fashioned toaster.
There were no clouds on Friday night, so we broke out the telescope and looked at the amazing stars. Jim and Jade walked down to the boat ramp and from across the lake they could hear the elk bugling and whistling as well as a bear grunting. We ended with a nice night by the fire. Our campsite neighbors commented that we must be from near the park, because we had shorts on and they were bundled up.
Saturday morning there was a hint that it might rain so we headed around Yellowstone Lake to the Canyon area.
We had been in the park in July and marveled at how different the Lower Falls looks in the fall.We walked out to Artist Point, where the view never gets old. The view on the left is July, the right is October.
With the cooler weather, we figured it was a good day, to hike Uncle Tom’s trail. This is a series of switchbacks and steep stairs that takes you to within a couple of hundred feet of the bottom of the canyon.
It is quite the hike, but the views are worth the effort.
Next we headed north over Dunraven Pass towards Roosevelt junction. On top of Dunraven, you can hike a trail to the Mt. Washburn fire lookout. On the north side, you can drive to a parking lot and hike the fire service road instead.
Just before the Roosevelt Junction we encountered what is known in Yellowstone as a Bear Jam. As visitors to the park you are asked to stay 300 feet away from bears, but the Mama bear and her 2 cubs, walked down the hill and across the road leaving everyone to give them as wide of a berth as possible.
Next we headed northwest towards the Mammoth Hot Springs area. This is the park headquarters, but it is also the best place to see elk. They love to sit on the grass.
We walked the board walk of the lower Mammoth hot springs. This is an area, that went dry for several years, losing its colors, but the water is flowing again
We stopped for an ice cream cone at the General Store and just had to ask about the flavor, Stuck in a Rut. They told us that was the most popular question of the summer.
We took a side trip on Blacktail Plateau road, the fall colors were beautiful.
It used to be that Hayden Valley had all of the buffalo, but we have noticed on our last few trips that they have moved to Lamar and seem to be closer to the road.
We like to end an evening in Yellowstone by cooking dinner in either Lamar or Hayden Valley. We got the spotting scope set-up and started to cook, when we realized that we had forgotten the brats we were going to have for dinner. So we took Sunday morning’s breakfast, put a dinner twist on it and came up with ham and egg sandwiches, with hashbrowns. We had tater tots left over from Friday night, so crumbled them and add the grilled onions, we had cooked for the missing brats. You can even have adventures with food.
On Sunday morning, since we were so close to the south entrance we decided to go home through Jackson, WY. We stopped to look at several falls close to the road. At Moose Falls, there is a short steep hike to take you neat the bottom of the falls.
Just after leaving the park you enter the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. He was instrumental in the creation of Grand Teton National Park. In the Parkway there is a privately owned resort called Flagg Ranch. It was originally an outpost for the US Army. Two weeks before we were there, they were evacuated due to a wildfire. The fire skirted the parking area. Having no real plan, we decided to take the Flagg Ranch back road to Ashton, ID instead of Jackson. This gave us a first-hand look at the fire damage.
Along this road road, we stopped at Loon Lake one of the few lakes that loons migrate for the summer. There is also Grassy Lake Dam, which was completed in 1939, as well a many nice camping areas.
We ended the trip with some beautiful fall scenery.
And one lonely farmhouse….
It was a nice way to say our final good-bye to summer, because the next week, Yellowstone got it’s first snow storm!!