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Fall 2014: What’s Hot? What’s Happening? (Sept-Oct)

Current Wildlife, Scenic Opportunities, and Events In and Around Jackson Hole

Note: During the Fall, there’s so much going on in all areas of the park—including Foliage Updates. I created this page during that time to give more specific information. After about October 5th, I returned to the Daily Updates pages with more condensed information.


Moose Wilson SignImportant Closure Notice! Moose-Wilson Road Open Again!

A Grizzly was spotted again on the Moose-Wilson Road a few days ago which closed the road. If the grizzly is seen again, they’ll close it again for at least 48 hours and you’ll see numerous signs like this one.


What’s Hot? — Wildlife Highlights

Elk: Elk are active right now, with bulls bugling and keeping track of their harem of cows. Look for elk very early and late at Windy Point, Taggart Lake Trail Head, Timbered Island, Lupine Meadows, Jenny Lake, Cascade Canyon pullout, String Lake road and drive.

TasslesMoose!: The rut is in full swing but the park service is asking (requiring) people to stay back and give them plenty of room.

Look for moose in these areas:

  • Along the Gros Ventre River. There are several pullouts near the river and the moose can often be seen along it.
  • Around the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction: A couple of moose hang around the bridge, but can roam north to Blacktail Butte overlook and sometimes across the highway to Blacktail Butte.
  • Along the Moose/Wilson Road: Several moose have been spotted grazing in the beaver ponds along the road.
  • Buffalo Fork River bottom: The Buffalo Fork flows into the Snake at Moran Junction. Look for moose in the willows and side channels.
  • Oxbow Bend Area: Seen less often with wolves in the region, Moose graze on willow bushes in the area. There is at least one very large bull there this year.
  • Schwabacher Landing: A couple of bulls, cow and calf have been spotted there recently.

Black Bear In Tree Sept 26Black Bears: Watch for black bears wherever you find berries. While they can be found in many areas of the park, the two best places are probably along the Moose-Wilson Road and on Signal Mountain.

Alarmed_SowGrizzly Bears: Grizzlies are seen more often during the middle of the day than most other animals, so search for Moose, Deer, and Elk early then move to areas where the bears hang out during the summer months: Grizzly 760 is reported to be roaming the area around the Moose-Wilson road, responsible for closing it regularly this year.

  • Oxbow Bend
  • Pacific Creek Road
  • Jackson Lake Lodge and Christian Pond Area
  • Pilgrim Creek and Pilgrim Creek Road
  • Colter Bay Area
  • Along the highway over Togwotee pass.

Remember, you must remain at least 100 yards from a Grizzly or Black Bear. Rangers have been ticketing people this year that violate the 100 yard rule—and that includes sitting inside your vehicle or approaching a bear in a vehicle at less than 100 yards.

Grand LightSunrise is roughly 7:20 AM during the early part of the month and sunset is at roughly 7:48 PM. You need to get up early or stay out late to have the best chances to see animals. Staying out late has a caveat, of course, as the Teton Range puts most areas into shadows long before actual sunset. Beavers have been active just before dark at Schwabacher Landing.



What’s Hot? — Scenic Highlights

Fall at the Barn

Fall Foliage! Most of the area is PAST PEAK! Still, get out and capture the remaining hot spots like the Moose-Wilson Road, Taggart Lake Trailhead, and Upper Gros Ventre.

Current Foliage Reports

Sept. 2 : Most of the valley is still green and holding onto it’s summer appearance, however small patches of yellow and orange are randomly appearing. Ground cover and grasses are currently showing the most changes. There are still some wildflowers scattered around, but they are waning. Berries are changing to bright red or dark purple. It is still quite early, but hints of fall are now becoming evident. Check back to this page for updated Foliage Reports. You can get a very good idea of what to expect this September by looking over the reports from last September. Click Here!

Sept. 3 Foliage Notes: The Gros Ventre river bottom seems to be getting a jump start on Foliage Season this year. There is a definite shift in the colors…not yellow…but shifting. I received a call from a friend and photographer letting me know the Mountain Maple are changing fast in the Snake River Canyon, especially towards the southwest leg nearing Alpine. I might make a trip down sometime soon. Mountain Maple leaves hold onto their branches longer than aspens, so the season is extended.

Sept. 5 Foliage Notes: It has been 30°-32° in the South End of GTNP over the past couple of mornings. I drove to Wilson yesterday. Cottonwoods along the Snake River are changing now, too. I went to Schwabacher Landing last evening. Cottonwoods there are not as far along as the ones near Wilson. South of Moose Junction, I noticed more yellow than the last time I went by.

Stormy Skies

The Gros Ventre on September 7: This shot might give you some clue about the current state of the foliage season as of today. Many trees are still green, while large portions are starting to shift in color and some are actually beginning to turn yellow. Each day, changes are evident.

Mountain Maple Sept 7Mountain Maple along the Palisades Reservoir on Sept 7: The Mountain Maple trees are vivid in many areas of the Snake River Canyon and along the road running beside the Palisades Reservoir. Now’s a great time to go! Look for maples by the road in the last 1/3rd of the drive towards Alpine Junction. The trees are in all stages of color and the best is probably still yet to come. The maples are ahead of most of the tall aspens.

Washakie Near River BottomSept. 8 Foliage Notes: I took this shot of a moose along the Gros Ventre today. While this photo might be a bit misleading, the GV is starting to turn and some small sections are noticeably yellow.

Willows and Cottonwoods

 Sept 9 – Willows and Cottonwoods along the Gros Ventre : Taken late in the evening. There was a slight haze from some distant fires. The large aspen stand on the distant hillside hasn’t changed much, yet some aspens in other parts of the valley are beginning to change. Changes each day are becoming very noticeable.

Foliage Report Sept 10:  Unscientific! Just observation. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being summer green and 10 being peak, I will give a three part number. The first one is an average of the least changed. The middle number is the overall average and the last number is the status of the most advanced trees in an area.

Gros Ventre river bottom: Cottonwoods 3-6-9, Willows 4-7-9, Aspens 1-3-5, Underbrush and Shrubs 4-5-8
Snake River river bottom: Cottonwoods 3-5-7, Willows 3-5-7, Aspens 1-3-6, Underbrush and Shrubs 4-5-8
Moran Junction area: Cottonwoods 3-4-5, Willows 5-6-8, Aspens 4-6-9, Underbrush and Shrubs 4-5-6
Shadow Mountain: Cottonwoods N/A, Willows 5-6-7, Aspens 4-6-9, Underbrush and Shrubs 4-5-6
Snake River Canyon: Cottonwoods 3-4-5, Willows 3-5-7, Aspens 2-3-6, Underbrush and Shrubs 4-5-6 Mountain Maple 3-7-9

Foliage Update Sept 10: My wife was in the Lost Creek / Snake River Overlook / Triangle X area this morning. She reported good color already developing in that area in the aspens. With the road construction on the highway, I haven’t been venturing that far north lately. Maybe I can do so over he weekend. I noticed a shift in the color of the aspens on Snow King Mountain behind the Post Office. They are still far from peak, but seemed to change from green to olive green quickly. By now, I’d bet the Snake River Canyon is ablaze with Mountain Maple.

Snake River HighwayFoliage Update Sept 14: I did a loop around the valley this afternoon. The numbered report from Sept. 10 should still be close enough, so I won’t repost it. Generally speaking, thing look a little more “fall like” each day or two, but the valley floor is not changing equally in all areas. The areas around Moose Visitors Center, Triangle X Ranch, and Jackson Lake Lodge seem to be the brightest at the moment. The various species of willows along the Gros Ventre are past half way in most zones, with few of them still green. Some willows are losing leaves and are beginning to carpet the ground. The Snake River Canyon and drive along Palisades Reservoir are the star of the show at the moment. Hurry! Aspens are mixed in with them, but most are still green. While there are Mountain Maple trees high on the peaks all the way down the canyon, you can find them close to the road in the last 1/3rd of the drive to Alpine Junction and onward towards Swan Valley along the lake.

Tree TopsFoliage Update Sept 15: Willows and Cottonwoods along the Gros Ventre are getting yellow now. Along the East Boundary Road, aspens are turning yellow north of Antelope Flats Road. Shadow Mountain is changing fast, too. The south end of the Park is slightly ahead of most areas north. If you want to find bright yellow now, you can do so, even if the bulk of the area is still at about midway.

This new Feature Post might also be of interest: Fall at Oxbow Bend. It shows Oxbow Bend images from over the years and includes the date I took them.

Shadow Mountain HillsideFoliage Update Sept 17: Wow! Leaves are changing fast in the south and east side of the park. The Gros Ventre is mostly yellow and much of Shadow Mountain is now peak or at least near peak. I added quite a few photos from this afternoon on the September Daily Updates. Get here soon!


Chapel of the TransfigurationFoliage Update Sept 18: More areas are changing….and fast! Same report as yesterday with Shadow Mountain and the Gros Ventre nearing peak. But, looking in almost any direction now you can see yellow patches. I haven’t had time to make it to Oxbow lately for a report, but maybe I can tomorrow. The Moose Wilson Road was still closed when I drove by the signs.

Aspen Stand at Oxbow BendFall Foliage Update Saturday Sept. 20: Game On! While not all of the aspens, cottonwoods and willows are bright yellow, valley wide, many of them are! More interesting, it is all going off at about the same time this year. There will probably be lingering pockets of peak, but the next few days should display some of the best color of the season.  I’d say Monday will be one of the first peak days at Oxbow, however Sunday will probably be good. Hopefully, we’ll have a few clouds to help fill the sky.

Sunday Foliage Report Sept 21: Peak Week is beginning! Oxbow looks very good now. There were lots of people at Schwabacher Landing as I drove by over the weekend.

Oxbow Bend Aspen StandFall Foliage Update Sept. 23: The entire valley is looking REALLY NICE! Almost all aspens, cottonwoods, and willows are turning to peak at about the same time this year…somewhat unusual from my experience. Shadow Mountain still looks very good. Schwabacher looks good from the highway. There have been lots of cars filling the parking lots to overflow capacity each morning as I drive by. Today, with all the clouds and fog, they thinned out quickly. The Aspens on the north side of the road at Oxbow had begun to blow off, but the nice stands of aspens by the water are beginning to show some orange. Hopefully, they will go ahead and turn orange before blowing off. The Gros Ventre looks good and the Aspens I can see up Curtis Canyon are yellow. Aspens on Snow King Mountain are yellow now.

Moose JunctionSeptember 24 Foliage Additions:  I’ve been to Oxbow Bend five mornings in a row. I had two good days of extended shooting, one day with a few minutes of good light and clouds, and two days where I never saw the mountains. The far left clump of aspens in the grove at the west end of the bend is starting to thin, while some near the middle are just now prime. Tomorrow will probably still be good there, but it will depend on how windy it gets this afternoon. The water level remained high this year during peak foliage there. We’ve had a bit of haze lately, but nothing like earlier years. There is some great color around Cottonwood Creek near Jenny Lake and onward to the Taggart Lake Trail Head. Another bright area is the Moose Junction zone. Some of the cottonwoods along the Snake River are thinning along with cottonwoods and aspens along the Gros Ventre.

Slide Lake WillowsSeptember 25 Foliage Report: Leaves are falling fast in many areas. Especially on hilltops, the once bright yellow aspen leaves are on the ground. Some of the cottonwoods along the Snake are now looking half full and half fallen. The Gros Ventre is also thinning, but there are still a few bright spots. I didn’t go all the way to Oxbow, but I have a feeling it is past peak and partially fallen. I found quite a bit of yellow up the Gros Ventre on Thursday. The areas around Taggart Lake trail head and Cottonwood Creek were colorful a couple of days ago. Still, much like the early days of the foliage season, you can find plenty of pockets of bright colors if you look for them.

Variegated LeavesSeptember 27 and 28 Foliage Report: It rained on both days of the weekend eliminating much of a chance to take photos of the vista views of the Tetons, however there is still a lot of color around the valley available to those willing to brave the elements and take advantage of the “smaller scenes”.  Check out Making the Best of a Rainy Day: for ideas and instructions. The weather report suggests more rain and thunderstorms on Monday, so make sure to visit the Rainy Day post. As the weather clears, keep an eye on Cottonwood Creek, Taggart Lake Trail Head, and the Moose-Wilson Road. The cottonwoods along Mormon Row are still turning and not peak yet.

AspensOctober 1-5 Foliage Wrap-up Report: Fall came early. But if you check out the October 2014 Daily Updates & Photos for Grand Teton National Park & JH, you can see I found lots of Fall Foliage opportunities around the valley. Bar BC Dude Ranch was taken on Saturday the 4th of October and I had plenty of color. Around the town of Jackson, there are mixed bags of bright green aspens, peak aspens, and aspens with all leaves fallen. The ornamental or domestic trees around town are behind (or actually on schedule) and will turn soon and begin dropping their colorful leaves. I think that’s a great time to look for the leaves along Flat Creek, trapped against flowing water on the rocks.


What’s Happening? Current Events and Activities

  • Gasoline is $3.48 per gallon for Self-Serv Regular at most stations in town.
  • Events Page at the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce: The Chamber will have various events listed I won’t know about. Keep an eye on their page!
  • Photography at the Summit: You might bump into some of the workshops around the valley. Each night, the National Museum of Wildlife Art hosts a presentation by one or two of the instructors.

Road Work and Road Closures:

  • Yellowstone: For anyone traveling north to Old Faithful after September 2nd, you will probably want to know a section of Craig Pass will be closed to through traffic. You’ll have to drive around to Lake, up to Canyon, over to Norris, and then back south to the Old Faithful area.  “So instead of a 30-minute drive from West Thumb to Old Faithful it’s another two hours,” Nash said, “and, yes, that’s a significant increase in traffic time.”  Source: Craig Pass road closure to cut route to Old Faithful
  • GTNP Road Work:  Some sections of the bike path through GTNP are still closed and barricaded.
  • Tail Lights
  • Road Closure SignsMoose/Wilson Road : is currently open. It can close at any time due to Grizzly activity as seen in this photo. You can access the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve over the newly graded road from Teton Village.

Granite Hot Springs Pool Closure:

  • Closed for re-plastering the pool area. Not clear how long the closure will last.

Controlled Burns: 4 Controlled Burns Set For Cool Months Ahead  (JH News & Guide:)

  1. Emma Matilda Lake to the west and the junction of Pacific Creek and Two Ocean Lake roads to the east
  2. Agricultural land near Kelly (1 day)
  3. Northeast Quad burn is part of the Central Buffalo Valley Habitat Enhancement Project
  4. South of Jackson near Bryan Flats, Teton Interagency crews plan to conduct a prescribed burn at Beaver Mountain.

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Comments (2)

  1. Mike,
    Thanks for publishing this website with information for visiting photographers! I was up there last (peak) week and got some good images of both wildlife and scenery – aided by my knowledge from previous visits but magnified with your running commentary of the changing colors and conditions. You made our trip and our photos better – thanks for your help.
    Scott Randall

  2. So happy to hear this blog helped! Hope you had a great trip. MJ

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