Fall in Gardiner, Montana and northern Yellowstone is spectacular—especially if you love wildlife watching, photography, and classic mountain town recreation. Here are just a few reasons to plan a fall adventure to Nature’s Favorite Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
The elk rut. Fall in Gardiner and northern Yellowstone means elk mating season is in full swing. You can be at the center of the action and watch the bulls (males) compete for the attention of females. Just be careful—the bulls are easily agitated this time of year so give them plenty of space. Check out this video from Yellowstone National Park if you need some visual proof.
Beautiful hiking weather. The Gardiner area is still relatively dry but the daytime highs are cooler, making the weather more comfortable for a day hike. Our favorite hikes this time of year include Knox Lake (Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, inquire at the Gardiner Ranger Station), any of these northern Yellowstone hikes, and Pine Creek Lake. All our favorite spring hiking adventures are great options in autumn as well.
Camping. Crisp mornings give way to warm, sparkling autumn days in Gardiner, Montana. We have a campground recommendation for every vehicle type and recreational interest, from just outside town to Yellowstone National Park to Cooke City. Just remember some campgrounds close by late September, so be sure to check with the Forest Service or Park Service before you go.
Scenic drives. Paradise Valley, Jardine Road, Yellowstone’s Northern Range, and the Beartooth Highway all offer spectacular scenic drives filled with alpine scenery, fall color, and opportunities for viewing wildlife—including bears, elk, and moose.
Yellowstone has fewer crowds. Cooler temperatures mean the thermal features are even steamier than in the warmer months—plus you can view them without the usual summer crowds. Though September is still considered peak season in the park, October and early November are some of our favorite times to enjoy the wonders of Yellowstone National Park at your own pace (and find parking, too!)
Fly fishing. The Yellowstone River runs right through town—and just happens to be a world-class fishing destination. Try your luck in Gardiner, Tom Miner Basin, and the Paradise Valley. Visit the local fly shops to find out what the fish are biting on and where.
Endless photography opportunities. Wildlife are more active as the ungulates (elk, pronghorn, and deer) head into mating season and bears prepare for hibernation. Grab the big lens and take advantage of premier wildlife watching and photography opportunities. Bonus: If the animals are being elusive, you can always capture the stunning fall colors that surround Gardiner on all sides. Some excellent places to photograph fall foliage include Paradise Valley, the Tom Miner Basin, and Yellowstone’s Northern Range.
Best of all, many of the shops, restaurants, and comfortable accommodations available during the summer months are still open and ready to serve you. Try delicious local cuisine like elk burgers and huckleberry milkshakes, stay in a comfortable hotel or cozy cabin, and pick up all the supplies and mementos you and your family desire.
We look forward to seeing you in Gardiner this fall, where skies are cobalt blue and the air is filled with the sounds of bugling bull elk!
Photo Credits: Knox Lake; camping image: Loren Barrett/Gardiner Chamber of Commerce. Fall foliage and dirt road: Jean Modesette. Fall foliage in Paradise Valley: Zondra Skertich/Gardiner Chamber of Commerce. All others courtesy of Yellowstone NPS.