Fall in West

Fall in West Yellowstone. Kiss Coppertone-scented summer park crowds goodbye and say hello to a sublime season of hogging the whole playground—all to the familiar screech of a lusty elk. Here are five ways to do autumn in West.

If the boss doesn't mind (or doesn't find out), local legend Bob Jacklin recommends extended lunchtime fishing, as cooling autumn temperatures confine bug shenanigans to midday. Come autumn, the Firehole, Madison, Henry's Fork, and local small streams hatch small mayflies and a few caddis. Catch the brown trout's annual spawning run in Hebgen Lake in early September. Rainbow trout make their run in late fall, but for your best chance of a catch late-season, hit the upper Madison.

Horseback Riding
For a break from boots and bikes, try investigating the local trails cowboy-style. Local trail-riding outfits such as Flying Pig Raft Company and 320 Guest Ranch offer excursions from an equine hour to a full day's ride. Jake Grimm of Jake's Horses boasts 100 horses ready for fully customizable trips, from a private gallop to a multiday family fishing retreat. For those overwhelmed by the options, Grimm recommends a three-day trip with a group of four to six people. "Much bigger than that and you're bringing the city to the woods," he says. Experience and cowboy boots are not required, as lessons are available at most ranches and a smooth-soled, heeled pair of shoes suffices.

Put October 6 on the calendar:—it's the 10th Annual Fall Cycle Tour. If 60 miles of peddling through spewing geysers and shrieking elk has you spewing and shrieking too, a gracious van will haul you and the wheels to safety. There are two feed stations to tide you over and a grand-finale spaghetti dinner near Old Faithful. Bring your Park Pass or $12 for a park fee, and register early—only 300 riders allowed.

When the exhausted elk finally pipe down, you might hear a canine howl—lone wolf or just a local working dog ready for some Science Diet? The friendly canines of Spirit of the North dogsledding will take you on your own half-day Iditarod, trotting over an eight-mile scenic stretch. Best of all, you operate the sled. Tip: only newbies tell a malamute to "mush"…the huskies are trained to gallop at a mere "alright!"

Although the Rendezvous Trails' 40 miles of cross-country skiing is certainly a worthy weekend excursion in itself, it's a can't-miss when the Yellowstone Ski Festival kicks off the season over the Thanksgiving holiday, November 20-24. Rub Lycra-clad elbows with 3,000 fellow nordos during one- or multi-day clinics, the gargantuan Try It and Buy It Gear Demo, an indoor ski show, and races with cash prizes. For a brief respite from ski brain, there are yoga and pilates classes morning and noon, and happy hours at the Iron Horse. Grand Teton Brewing Company hosts a concluding shindig at Iron Horse with live music—a prime opportunity to medicate your aching booty with local brews and a thorough shaking. Consider it a snow dance of sorts. A fitting farewell to crunching leaves and the perfect way to ring in winter 2007.

Go West: West Yellowstone events
Famous editor and politician Horace Greeley is perhaps most famous for saying, "Go west, young man, and grow up with the country." He wasn't talking about West Yellowstone, but he should have been—it's where everything is happening this fall. Here's a taste:

West Yellowstone Foundation “Happening”: Cocktails start at 5pm, followed by dinner and live auction. Everyone is welcome. Contact Mary at (406) 640-2030.

All monthPainted Buffalo Roam West Yellowstone: Follow the painted buffalo treasure map. Twenty-six painted fiberglass buffalo on display. For more information contact the West Yellowstone chamber of commerce at (406) 646-7701.

Annual Fall Cycle Tour: A Ranger-led tour at Old Faithful with t-shirts, shuttles, and dinner. Registration is limited. Visit the website at cycleyellowstone.com.

West Entrance to Yellowstone closes to motorized traffic until December 20, 2007, when snowmobile and snowcoach travel starts.

19-25Yellowstone Ski Festival: Nordic skiers from novice to expert welcome. SuperTour Ski Races will be held on Friday and Saturday. Visit the website at yellowstoneskifestival.com or call (406) 646-7097.

-Kelly Stoll