Thursday, September 23, 2021

Yellowstone in autumn: spendid, serene, spellbinding time

A group of elk saunters across the highway leading to Mammoth Hot Springs.


A horseback ride in the crisp autumn air hits the spot.

WE ARE LUCKY to live within a few hours of one of our nation's most beautiful places.
An annual autumn trip through Yellowstone National Park is a tradition we honor and enjoy.
On this year's trek, we took along a California friend.  Phyllis had never visited Yellowstone and although we didn't have time to give her a complete "immersion," we shared a few favorite nooks and crannies of this  magnificent wilderness recreation area.
Yellowstone is set atop a still active volcanic hot spot.
Bruce Keller and Phyllis Broker admire the scenery from a spot
framing the Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The smells of sulfur and steam from the hot pots and geysers can be appreciated without leaving the car. But we always make a pilgrimage on foot to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, as viewed from the Lower Falls. That was a big hit with Phyllis, who lived much of her life in New England where nature offers hills, not craggy canyons and towering mountains and rivers.
PHYLLIS WAS amazed and pleased that with limited time and a long driving day, we could view bison and elk from the road. 
Twice, in fact, they pranced across the highway, stopping traffic.
The 3,500 square-mile wonder is mostly in Wyoming, but we Montanans claim Yellowstone, too, since three of the five entrances are in our state.
Bison and steaming geysers catch the eye.

The park also spreads into Idaho, near West Yellowstone. "Our park" features dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful. It's also home to hundreds of animal species, including the ones we saw last week.
We've found through the years that our autumn treks are perfectly timed. With thinning crowds and colorful foliage, fall is a spectacular time to visit Yellowstone.  Many of the park’s iconic animals tend to be more visible in the autumn, when cooler temperatures prompt them to move about more.
DAWN AND DUSK are the best times for spotting wildlife, but with autumn days growing shorter one doesn't need to get up as early, or stay out as late
Bears are more elusive, but can be seen. This
grizzly bear was not far from the East Entrance.
 to take advantage of these prime times. We witnessed several careless activities with wildlife: one family attempting to photograph a child in the same frame as a bison. Bad idea.
Rangers advise maintaining a distance of at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards from all other wildlife. Remember, too, that they are on the move to lower elevations as winter draws nearer.
IF YOU'RE looking for lodging, know that guest facilities and services gradually start to close in the fall. Prices also drop a bit in autumn, and there are appealing fall lodging packages. Check the park’s website for the fall closing schedule, weather and road updates. 
IF YOU GO: Individuals hiking, biking, skiing etc. pay $20 per person; an annual pass, $70; motorcycles or snowmobiles pay $30 and private vehicles are $35. A lifetime senior pass to the parks is $80. 

American Cruise Lines offers a variety of domestic cruises
across the U.S., from the Columbia River to New England.
Here, the fleet's sleek new riverboats cruise close to shore.
  Why not cruise close to home, in the U.S.A while we're waiting out the pandemic? American Cruise Lines offers enlightening, safe options to foreign travel. We recently spent a week in the Pacific Northwest aboard American Pride, one of a fleet of American's unique boats.  Attentive service, luxurious large staterooms, small passenger loads, top hygiene and Covid enforcements provide a comfortable, pampering "domestic way" to travel, enjoying our vast and varied land. In a three-part series on domestic cruising, we explore the Lewis and Clark trail on the Columbia and Snake rivers, offer options for traversing the Mississippi, Great Lakes, New England and contemplate the Sacajawea legacy, including a lovely Montana inn in Three Forks, named after her. All aboard American Cruise Lines' vessels. Remember to explore, learn, live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, nature, family, travel and more:


  1. You are indeed fortunate to be so close to Yellowstone. We visited years ago and hope to return.

  2. Fun story. We enjoy "your park" each year too. Happy to share it with you!!