When autumn comes to Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park so, too, do travelers seeking a relaxed vacation that is abundant in breathtaking scenery and active – sometimes over-active – wildlife. And if the beauty of the park and antics of its inhabitants aren’t enough reason plan a fall vacation in Yellowstone, concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts offers several more.
“Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to work here because you just never know what you will see and hear,” said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra , operator of those lodges, restaurants, gift shops and other concessions in the park. “My office in the Mammoth area of the park is a particularly appealing place for elk to gather, and we often see bull elk gather their harem of females in shady areas near the hotel.”
Hoeninghausen urges travelers thinking about a fall-season visit to act fast. “There are still rooms and campsites available in the park, but they are going fast,” said Hoeninghausen. “Now is the time to book lodge rooms, especially if travelers are seeking specific lodges or room types.”
Hoeninghausen cited these reasons to visit Yellowstone National Park in the fall:
Find a lodge room. Yellowstone’s nine in-park lodges fill up most nights during the summer, and it can be difficult to get peak-season rooms at the last minute. The lodges close for the season on a staggered schedule, and many of the lodges have room availability in the days leading up to the seasonal closures. Even the most sought-after lodges such as Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Old Faithful Inn are showing some availability then. The Yellowstone National Park Lodges website, www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com, features a real-time online reservations tool that allows potential travelers to check lodge-by-lodge availability for certain dates. For room reservations book online or call toll free (1) 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375).
Have a whole lodge to yourself (almost). Three times in the fall, Roosevelt Lodge, situated in the heart of prime wildlife habitat in Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite park region, closes its doors to the general public so that up to 52 enthusiastic park-lovers can have the lodge to themselves for four nights. Called “Roosevelt Rendezvous,” this Lodging & Learning program is a Xanterra and Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI) partnership. During the day, YAI guides lead small groups on field expeditions to search for wolves, learn about geothermal features, take day hikes and other activities. By night, the group convenes in the main lodge dining room for buffet-style dinners and entertaining evening programs. The rate is $729 per adult based on double occupancy plus taxes, fees and gratuities. For more information visit http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/roosevelt-rendezvous-7989.html.
Find romance. Xanterra offers the five-night Yellowstone Couples Adventure Package until Oct. 1. Guides lead participants on a daily adventure with a different Yellowstone theme every day. For example, on “Glorious Geysers” day, couples explore the area surrounding Old Faithful. Guides plan itineraries based on predicted times of geyser eruptions. On “Grand Adventure” day, participants explore the park’s east-side features such as Yellowstone Lake and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The package includes lodging in Old Faithful Inn, some meals, guides, in-park transportation and activities. This package is $1,669 per person based on double occupancy. For more information visit http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/yellowstone-couples-7980.html.
Watch the wildlife. Fall is mating season for elk and other wildlife, so visitors are often treated to the sights and sounds of the wildlife dating game. Rutting season in Yellowstone is entertaining to both watch and hear.
“Every fall, I can count on phone calls being interrupted by the bugling of vocal elk outside my window,” said Hoeninghausen, whose office is in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. “Callers often think it is some sort of alarm.” Along with elk antics, visitors can watch for bears, wolves, eagles, bison and other wildlife in other parts of the park. Xanterra offers numerous tours that focus on wildlife watching. For example, four-hour, early-morning Wake Up to Wildlife Tour explores Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley in a Historic Yellow Bus. Trained drivers/guides drive through the region searching for wildlife, set up a spotting scope for participants and provide an abundance of information about what participants are viewing.
Bike the Old Faithful region . Another popular fall activity is bicycling in the Old Faithful Geyser area. Old Faithful Snow Lodge offers bicycle rentals for $8 per hour, $25 for a half day and $35 for a full day. The shop also offers accessories such as helmets and hip packs as well as bicycles for children.
Take a hike. The park’s hundreds of miles of hiking trails offer visitors a chance to see the park from many different perspectives, and with fewer fall-season visitors, there are fewer people on the trails this time of year. Xanterra’s website lists information about several favorite hikes. In addition, park visitor centers offer trail maps and hiking information.
Cast away. Yellowstone’s fly fishing guide service is available through Oct. 9. Xanterra guides generally take their guests to classic Yellowstone rivers such as Firehole, Madison and Lamar first thing in the morning and then head to some of the park’s more secluded streams. All-day guide service includes in-park transportation, lunch, non-alcoholic beverages and flies. The cost ranges from $410 for one person to $546 for four people. Gear, including a rod, reel and waders, is $28.50 per day. Anglers who are 16 or older must have a valid park fishing permit. Cost is $15 for a three-day permit.
Channel your Ansel Adams. Fall is a favorite time for photographers. The half-day Picture Perfect Photo Safari departs daily from Lake Yellowstone Hotel and the Old Faithful Inn. The Lake Yellowstone Hotel tour explores the northern shore of Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, while the Old Faithful Inn tour explores thermal features and scenic areas from the Firehole River to the Madison River. Like all Xanterra tours, stops along the way vary from day to day depending on wildlife sightings and other conditions. Photographer-guides lead these small-group tours and share information about photo hot spots and tips for capturing the best images of Yellowstone. The tours are $85 for adults and $42.50 for children 11 and under. Continental breakfast is included.
Complete details about accommodations, restaurants, tours and activities in Yellowstone National Park can be made by visiting www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com or calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll free (1) 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375).