When autumn comes to Yellowstone National Park so 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 in Yellowstone is often heralded by the sound of hopeful bull elk and the sight of determined bison bulking up on grass for the winter ahead,” said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra, operator of lodges, restaurants, gift shops and other concessions in the park. “It’s as if the wildlife have suddenly awakened from more leisurely lifestyles in order to accomplish what Mother Nature says they must before the onset of winter.”
Hoeninghausen urges travelers thinking about a fall-season visit to act fast. “There are still rooms and campsites available in the park, but they will get picked up,” said Hoeninghausen. “Now is the time to book in-park lodging, 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 their seasonal closures. Even the most sought-after lodges such as Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Old Faithful Inn have availability right now for fall-season visits. 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).
Pitch a tent or park an RV. Of the 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone, five of them – with more than 1,400 individual sites – are operated by Xanterra and can be reserved through the website or reservations number.
The campgrounds include Bridge Bay Campground, Canyon Campground, Grant Campground, Madison Campground and Fishing Bridge RV Park. All but Madison are located convenient distances from stores, sightseeing tours and camper services such as laundries and showers. The Fishing Bridge RV Park is for hard-sided RV and trailer units only with a maximum length of 40 feet. Campgrounds close for the season on a staggered schedule beginning in early September and ending with Madison Campground’s closure on Oct. 21.
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, and enjoy 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 four-night programs are offered beginning Sept. 7, 11 and 15. The rate is $739 per adult based on double occupancy plus taxes, fees and gratuities. For more information visit www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/roosevelt-rendezvous-7989.html.
Find romance in the “Stone.” Xanterra offers the five-night Yellowstone Couples Adventure Package until Oct. 1. Guides lead participants on daily adventures 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 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 mating game. Rutting season in Yellowstone is entertaining to both watch and hear. Bull elk can often be seen locking antlers with the competition and heard bugling to attract potential mates. Besides elk, visitors also have opportunities to observe other species of free-roaming wildlife in their natural habitats including bears, wolves, eagles, bison and other wildlife. Xanterra offers numerous tours that focus on wildlife watching. For example, the 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 the area and its inhabitants.
Cycle the Old Faithful region. Another popular fall activity is cycling 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. No matter what the season, a very small percentage of Yellowstone visitors venture away from the roads and standard viewpoints, so hikers need not travel far along a trail before they begin to experience a sense of solitude.
Be a shutterbug. The half-day Picture Perfect Photo Safari departs daily from Lake Yellowstone Hotel through Sept. 22 and the Old Faithful Inn through Sept. 23. 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 $90 for adults and $45 for children 11 and under. Continental breakfast is included.
Complete details about accommodations, restaurants, tours and activities in Yellowstone National Park can be found by visiting www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com or calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll free (1) 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375).