15 Reasons to Visit Yellowstone in the Fall
CODY, Wyoming - It is not just the sudden-onset yellow transforming the towering aspens that provides the signal that fall has arrived in Yellowstone Country. Other signs are the fat bears, noisy bull elk, conspicuous lack of costumed gunfighters and rodeo cowboys and a relaxed pace throughout the towns of Cody, Meeteetse and Powell, Wyo., three towns that comprise a region called "Yellowstone Country."
"While some of our summertime activities like the rodeo and the nightly gunfighter shows come to an end, fall is the start of new adventures and activities in the region," said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council, the tourism marketing arm for the region. "This is the time of year when we see fewer families and more adults and couples, particularly those who enjoy outdoorsy and cultural activities."
Here are 15 reasons to plan a fall visit to the region and the town founded by and named for the Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody:
The North Fork of the Shoshone River appeals to anglers of all abilities, particularly in the fall.
1. Bears. Visitors might see them preparing for winter by foraging for nuts and other sources of nutrition so they are ready for the long den-bound winter ahead. Bears are frequently seen along the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway - the road to the east entrance to Yellowstone - as well as the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway which takes travelers to the northeast entrance. Bears are best viewed with binoculars or spotting scopes, and travelers should maintain at least 50 yards between themselves and any bears they see.
2. Bull elk. Even if travelers don’t see them, they might hear them. Elk mate in the fall, and bull elk get the attention of potential mates - and warn potential competition - by emitting a distinctive bugling sound.
3. Other wildlife. In addition to the marquee animals - bears and elk - many other wildlife species can be viewed preparing for winter or simply enjoying the moderate autumn days. Among them are pronghorn, big horn sheep, deer, moose and eagles. For complete information about viewing wildlife in the area visit www.yellowstonecountry.org/things-to-do/wildlife/wildlife-viewing.
4. Blue-ribbon trout. While seasoned anglers will tackle trout action in the streams in and around Cody on their own, novices might want to hire a fishing guide for their first foray. Fly fishing shops also offer maps and advice. For more information on fishing in Yellowstone Country, visit www.yellowstonecountry.org/outdoor-recreation/.
5. Lodge rooms and guest ranches. Accommodations are easy to secure this time of year, and travelers have a wide array of lodging choices, from independent boutique hotels like the Chamberlin Inn, luxury hotels like the new Best Western Ivy Inn & Suites and The Cody, a high-end hotel with an emphasis on sustainability; and guest ranches along both scenic byways.
6. Rocks. Rock formations along the 52-mile Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway have been dubbed by locals with names like "Old Woman and her Cabin," "Bishop" and "Chinese Wall." The road travels along the north fork of the Shoshone River and traverses the Wapiti Valley through the Shoshone Forest. Viewing the rocks - and wondering how Cody residents named them - is an inexpensive way to spend a fall afternoon.
7. Hunting. There are several hunting seasons in the fall - for pronghorn, deer, elk, moose and bighorn sheep. Dates for each season vary, and hunters should check for details and hunting regulations at http://gf.state.wy.us/admin/Regs/.
8. Trolley tours. The Cody Trolley Tour provides a terrific introduction to the destination. This informative one-hour tour covers 22 miles and helps orient visitors to where things are and what they might like to go back to see. The tours are offered two times a day through Sept. 22. Rates are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors, $12 for children six through 17 and free for younger children.
9. History. The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center at the site of the Heart Mountain Internment Camp offers a glimpse of the lives of some 11,000 Japanese-American citizens who were interned there during World War II. Opened in August 2011, the center explores that difficult period of the country’s history with thoughtful exhibits that encourage visitors to ask the question "Could this happen today?." The center is open year-round and admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.
10. History. The storied life of the town’s founder, Colonel William Frederick Cody, is presented in the recently reinstalled Buffalo Bill Museum, one of five museums that comprise the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. There are also museums dedicated to firearms, fine Western Art, the Plains Indians of the region and the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
11. And more history. Another popular activity is to walk the town’s main street, Sheridan Avenue, and check out the town’s many historic buildings. The Irma Hotel was built by Buffalo Bill himself and named for his daughter. Across the street, the Chamberlin Inn was built and operated by Agnes Chamberlin, an employee of Cody’s newspaper. Farther east, there is Cassie’s, once a house of ill-repute and now a restaurant and supper club with live music and Western dancing.
12. Western style. The most prestigious event of the year, Rendezvous Royale is staged the third week of September. The event includes the nationally rated Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale with Western-themed art, a quick-draw event, auction, Western fashion show, seminars, studio tours and a ball. For more about the rendezvous, go online to www.rendezvousroyale.org/.
13. Room-sized diorama. Tecumseh’s Old West Miniature Village and Museum is a massive diorama that showcases western and Wyoming history and features thousands of American Indian and other historic artifacts. The diorama is free and open year-round, but travelers visiting between November and April should make an appointment first by calling 307-587-5367.
14. Music. Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue continues its performances of cowboy music, poetry and comedy Monday through Saturday night through the third week of September.
15. Indoor fun. If weather becomes dicey, travelers can visit the Cody Quad Center, a massive complex with an ice arena, basketball and racquet ball courts, walking track, fitness facility and two swimming pools.
Yellowstone Country is comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park.
The area of Park County is called "Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country because it was the playground of Buffalo Bill Cody himself. Buffalo Bill founded the town of Cody in 1896, and the entire region was driven and is still heavily influenced by the vision of the Colonel. Today its broad streets, world-class museum Buffalo Bill Historical Center and thriving western culture host nearly 1 million visitors annually.
The Park County Travel Council website (www.yellowstonecountry.org) lists information about vacation packages, special events, guide services, weather and more.
Travelers wishing to arrange vacation can also call the Park County Travel Council at 1-800-393-2639.
This article is part of our "Winter 2013" series. Want to read more?
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