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Fall in Jackson Hole: As Told by a Wildlife Safari Guide

Wildlife Safari Guide Cathy Shill tells us what fall means to her.

Cathy Shill Hole Hiking Experience Wildlife Safari GuideIn 1989, Cathy Shill created The Hole Hiking Experience in Jackson, Wyoming. They host thousands of people each year on hikes, snowshoes and cross-country ski outings in Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton, Shoshone, and Caribou-Targhee National Forests and surrounding areas. Cathy enjoys the synergy of life found by balance and her interests include meditation, yoga, qi gong and a universal connection to all life.

Who better to poetically express September in Jackson Hole? In Cathy’s words:

The feel of September is different than June, July or August. In September the entire valley breathes and we breath too. We breathe the change, the quietness of town, the coolness of the air, the frost in the mornings and the shorter days. Nature pulses with change.

Though fall months can be stormy, it is still a time to play because when the sun shines it is crisp and clear with refreshing temperatures. Nature adjusts to the shorter days and cool nights. Hummingbirds leave taking with them the high energy of summer. Though the bright yellow foliage of the aspen trees grasp at that energy. They shout with color because they know that soon enough the valley will turn white with snow.
Foliage Aspen Trees in Grand Teton National Park

Similarly, grizzly bears and black bears are in go-mode gorging on as much food - huckleberries are a favorite - to last them through hiberation.

Grizzly Bear and Three Cubs in Grand Teton National Park

Later in the month, frost covers the meadow as you see the exhale of the bull elk. His energy is focused on procreation and spreading his genes to future generations. He bugles and snorts as he gathers his harem of females. He sings high and loud to other males.

If you have heard an elk bugle, you know that the eerie sound will stay with you for the rest of your life. 

The bugle is saying, “This is my spot and these are my gals.” Young bulls approach the edge of the meadow and their hormones make them brave. They approach the iconic old bull to challenge him or to simply hang on the outskirts until he is busy and then they try to mate. This high energy dance reaches its peak around the Autumnal Equinox, though continues for about two months.

Bull Elk and Harem in Grand Teton National Park

The Autumnal Equinox is when there is an equal amount of day to night. Equal light. For us, in the northern hemisphere days shorten until the Solstice in December. Since Jackson, WY is 43 degrees north, we have very short days during the fall months. Native Americans would have already left the valley for warmer climates. Animals begin to migrate to their fall/winter territories. It is time to prepare for the cold, blustery winds of winter and the impending snow.

For now though, enjoy the feel of fall, the beauty of crisp mornings and soft light. Remember though that Indian Summer can continue into October so come play in the Tetons, though bring a book because Old Man Winter is right around the corner.

Snowing on Pine Trees in the fall in Jackson Hole, Wyoming 


Thank you Cathy for getting us excited for Jackson Hole's spectacular fall. 

Cathy's recommended hikes:

  • Stay at lower elevation such as the Laurance Rockefeller Preserve (also known as the LSR), Bradley and/or Taggart Lakes and String Lake to Leigh Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Interested in hearing the eerie elk bugle? Grand Teton's Lupine Meadows or Whitegrass Ranch can be fruitful - no promises though!

​There are many other wonderful activities in Jackson, Wyoming in the fall. You should:

  • Play it low-key with a trip to the spa or pump up the energy dancing the night away to cowboy two-step after a delicious dinner.
  • Don't miss the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival that is widely recognized as one of the premier cultural events in the Rocky Mountain West. Thousands of art enthusiasts are drawn each year to experience the diverse artwork and breathtaking natural surroundings that make Jackson Hole a leading cultural center. 

For more recommendations or if you have any questions checkout our Explorer Magazine Travel Planner online (we mail them to you also!) or stop by one of our Visitor Centers when you're in town.