Best Time Of Year To Visit Grand Teton National Park
Do you like golden aspens against snow-capped mountains and 70 degree weather with just enough nip in the air for a campfire at night and some s’mores while snuggling by the fire? Sheesh…
Then this is your time. In fact, September is the BEST time of year to visit Grand Teton National Park!
The weather in September is superb!
The weather in Grand Teton in September is the most pleasant of the year. You get a healthy dose of seventy degree days and the skies are mostly sunny. You always have a risk of a short afternoon thundershower in the the mountains, and very rarely a snowstorm.
I won’t tell you about the Labor Day we spent in six inches of snow. Oops. I guess I just did. Anyways, that’s rare, but it does happen and can happen anytime of the year in Grand Teton, so plan accordingly. That’s what makes it so exciting!
But, for the most part, your days in the park will be pleasant and your nights will be just chilly enough for a coat and a fire. Now, doesn’t that sound cozy?
The wildlife are going through a cyclical change.
The wildlife in the park will be getting ready to batten down the hatches and many animals begin finding a mate during this season. There is a lot of activity and you don’t have to look hard to see many animals in their natural habitat readying themselves for winter.
Grizzlies and black bears will be busy foraging for berries and pine nuts in the forests of the the mountains. If the weather hasn’t cooperated for the pine nuts to flourish, this will force many bears into the valleys where you might see them in the Elk Refuge and in the wide open spaces in the valley.
The most exciting bear encounter I ever had was in September when a mother bear and her three cubs crossed my path. I was armed with bear spray, but like in most instances, I did not have to use it as she just wanted to walk passed us and cross the river behind the boat dock at Jenny Lake. But, wow was that one of the most thrilling moments of my life!
September is the middle of the elk rutting season. Male Elk are looking for a mate and in doing so will bellow out a bugle in hopes of making a lady friend. This ethereal sound can be heard up to two miles.
The best place to hear and see this phenomena of the wild world is White Grass Ranch. Elk have been gathering hear for centuries, and so come the people to see this yearly intriguing ritual. Make sure you bring your binoculars and a chair or blanket to perch on. You may be there a while.
The majestic moose is elusive in the summer, hiding behind cottonwood trees and munching on willow. But in the fall, the cool air brings them out and as the foliage begins to thin, you can see them more and more. The Gros Ventre River is a great place to see them in the early morning or later in the day. Travel down the Moose-Wilson Road and you are almost sure to see one slurping from the ponds on the roadside. September is the best time of year to visit Grand Teton and catch a glimpse of these amazing animals.
The crowds have thinned and the hiking is spectacular!
Hiking anytime of year is great in the Tetons. But, September promises that the trails won’t be as packed and you will be able to enjoy those coveted views with less hindrances and chaos. Jenny Lake, Mormon Row and all the other usual suspects are a given to conquer. But, there are other amazing hikes that don’t get much air time.
For a quick hike that has no elevation gain or loss, Leigh Lake can have you relaxing on a gorgeous beach with outstanding views. The 3.7 mile hike is a lovely jaunt through the thick alpine woods. Bring your swimsuit, because you’ll definitely want to take a dip.
Phelps Lake Loop
This is a beautiful hike in the fall. The black hawthornes are ablaze with red and the aspens shine their golden glow. I took this 7.2 mile hike in mid-September when the golden hour was approaching. The colors were out of this world! Spending time at the lake at dusk, you could here your own heartbeat. Lake Phelps was so peaceful and a great end to a day at the park.
Signal Mountain Trail
You could just drive to the top of Signal Mountain, but why would you want to do that when you could hear the crunch of pine needles under your feet and the breeze in your hair. It is a steep climb at 6.8 miles, but you will be paid handsomely in the form of stunning views of the Grand Tetons, the Snake River and Jackson Lake. This is definitely a hike worth doing while visiting the park.
September is colorful!
The valley is on fire in September and early October in Grand Teton National Park. Serviceberry, mountain ash and black hawthorn turn the trails and the lakeside rims ruby red with color. Aspen creep up the mountain bases and paint them with a golden hue. Cottonwoods line the rivers and the valley with the burnt orange and gold that found fame and fortune through the years in so many photos.
Autumn is awesome in the Tetons and there are great places to gaze at the glory that has been bestowed upon us as the earth tilts it’s axis. There are some particularly great places in the Tetons to see fall color.
Here, the exploding aspens against the backdrop of Mount Moran will make for some stunning photographs. Take a picnic lunch and a blanket and relax the day away as you stare in awe of nature.
The cottonwoods and willows steal the stage here along the Snake River. You can relax along the beaver ponds and watch the ducks skitter past you vanishing the reflection of the Grand. But, you may choose to trek the four mile hike through the woods and along the river. Either way, Schwabacher Landing and its autumnal show is hard to beat.
Aspen Ridge-Boulder Ridge Loop
This trail is a 5.8 mile walk that will take you through thick groves of amber aspens. This is an amazing way to say goodbye to summer and embrace the change that autumn always brings. Sit by the lake and contemplate the fun you’ve had on your trip and plan coming back in the winter to see it all under a blanket of snow.
September is beautiful and there is so much to do in the Grand Tetons this time of year. So, mark on your calendars that you will be hanging with the elk and walking among the golden aspens next September in Grand Teton National Park.
Here are a few other Grand Teton posts you might find useful:
- 12 things you need to know about visiting Grand Teton
- How to photograph Grand Teton National Park
- How to see Grand Teton in a day
- Best Grand Teton hikes for families
- Guide to the Grand Teton 42 mile scenic loop
- Best places to camp at Grand Teton