Fall in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

As a preface to today’s photo post, head over to Think Save Retire, where Steve was kind enough to host a guest post I wrote about Five reasons we chose a minivan to travel the country. If the rationale laid out there doesn’t inspire you, perhaps these photos from Wyoming and Montana will.

After starting our second North American road trip in Montana and the Canadian Rockies, it was going to be difficult to match the awe-inspiring natural beauty in any future destination. Yellowstone, though, was up to the task.

Fall in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks - The Resume Gap

We had each traveled to Yellowstone in the past, but never for this long, and never during the off-season. Late September and early October in the park were surreal: minimal crowds, vibrant fall colors, and the last traces of warm weather before the region’s first snowfall of the season. With a full week at our disposal, we were able to enjoy all the major perks of the park: geological wonders, majestic wildlife, and seemingly endless expanses of natural scenery.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs

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Yellowstone River near Tower Fall

Yellowstone River near Tower Fall

A new friend we made on an afternoon hike

A new friend we made on an afternoon hike

While there’s no free camping in the park itself, we were able to find free dispersed camping on National Forest land outside most of the National Park entrances, including this stunning riverside spot outside the Northeast Entrance:

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We rose before sunrise several mornings to explore the park at dawn. On one particularly awesome morning hike in the Lamar Valley, near the northeast corner of the park, we enjoyed the sounds of howling wolves in the distance along with close encounters with bison, pronghorns, and a coyote (always keeping a safe distance, of course). We saw only one other hiker all morning.

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"Hmm, I guess we'll find an alternate path."

“Hmm, I guess we’ll find an alternate path.”

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Lamar River

Lamar River

View from the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone

View from the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone

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Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

Dawn at a dispersed campsite just outside the park's East Entrance

Dawn at a dispersed campsite just outside the park’s East Entrance

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The morning commute

The morning commute

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Upper Geyser Basin

Upper Geyser Basin

Dragon Mouth Spring

Dragon Mouth Spring

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Cruising in the van on Firehole Lake Drive

Cruising in the van on Firehole Lake Drive

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Artist's Paint Pots, at their most viscous time of year

Artist’s Paint Pots, at their most viscous time of year

Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin

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View from our dispersed campsite on National Forest land just outside West Yellowstone, MT

View from our dispersed campsite on National Forest land just outside West Yellowstone, MT

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You didn't think I would leave out Old Faithful, did you?

You didn’t think I would leave out Old Faithful, did you?

We drove south from Yellowstone into the comparably impressive Grand Teton National Park, where we camped for two nights. We had hoped to spend more time hiking in the Tetons, but winter rolled in on our second night, and it was time to head out for better weather. Had to save something for next time!

View of the mountains from Willow Flats

View of the mountains from Willow Flats

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Cottonwood Creek, near Jenny Lake

Cottonwood Creek, near Jenny Lake

Peak fall colors on Moose Wilson Road

Peak fall colors on Moose Wilson Road

View of a storm rolling in from the Snake River near Schwabacher's Landing

View of a storm rolling in from the Snake River near Schwabacher’s Landing

Big skies from Highway 89

Big skies from Highway 89

Evening sky at our free dispersed campsite just outside the park

Evening sky at our free dispersed campsite just outside the park

Morning drive on our last day in western Wyoming. Time to get to lower elevation!

Morning drive on our last day in western Wyoming. Time to get to lower elevation!

Fall in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks - The Resume Gap
Fall in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks - The Resume Gap

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23 Comments

  1. Wow! Awesome stuff, Matt. As a photo buff, I love seeing stuff like this. Although I don’t particularly like the snow, I can’t wait to photograph it in a place like Yellowstone. Super cool photos, thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Steve! Yeah, the scenery easily makes up for the winter weather. We got lots of sunshine in Yellowstone during the day, so it was still pretty nice there.

  2. These photos are amazing! Did you ever run out of gas with being in all these remote areas? Thanks for sharing.

    • Nah, we haven’t ventured into too many places without some services. All the bigger parks we’ve visited (like Death Valley, Big Bend, and Yellowstone) have services, including gasoline. It’s usually more expensive than outside the park, though, so we try to top off before we enter. We use the GasBuddy app a lot on the road to find the cheapest stations. It doesn’t feel like big savings each time, but it adds up. Appreciate the comment!

  3. Amazing! I’ve been to both in the summer time when I was younger and have always wondered what fall would look like in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Back then I wasn’t into photography…. I can totally spending weeks in Yellowstone and Grand Teton taking pictures nowadays.

  4. These are terrific photos. I’ve been too Yellowstone before in the summer (like most people), but it must be a totally different experience seeing it in the fall when it’s less crowded with tourists. Really looks like you got to escape out there.

    • Thanks, FP! Traveling in the off-season (or shoulder season) definitely has its perks. We love being away from the tour bus crowds!

  5. Wow, awesome pictures. Wyoming and Montana are definitely on our to-do list for 2017. And that would be out first time ever in that region. Probably not in a minivan, though. But who knows?!

  6. Amazing pictures! We are hoping to be in Yellowstone and the Tetons next fall. We were considering an R-pod but we have a mini-van and are now thinking about using it (as I mentioned to you over on Think Save Retire). We are hoping to be there in Sept/early Oct. Hopefully we can do it before the snow falls there too!

    • Ooh, we really like those R-pods. I think my ideal long-long-term travel setup might be a Jeep Wrangler (for all those tempting 4WD-only roads the van can’t handle) with a small trailer. Definitely try to get there before mid-October, because everything starts shutting down around then!

  7. You made it to the Tetons! My sister and I backpacked it when I was in grad school, absolutely loved that place and can’t wait to take my husband. The view from higher up into the valley are even more incredible.

  8. Great pictures..! I like the wildlife and scenery a lot…! What FIRE enables, it is just amazing.

  9. Both places were just thrilling to our kids during our trip this summer. It’s such a fun place. And a smart move going in the off season. It was a little hectic this summer. =)

  10. Thanks for sharing your adventures! I’m reading a book about Grand Teton right now and it looks even better than I’d imagined. Good luck finding warmer weather!

  11. Wow those are some awesome pictures! So beautiful there…I really need to take a family trip to Yellowstone.

  12. What a way to end my 2016! Mrs. G and I always say that Yellowstone is the most impressive National Park we’ve seen to date, and your pictures certainly don’t give us reason to question that position. Thank you for posting them, my friend. Happy New Year!

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