Come fall, the hordes of tourists have migrated home, leaving natives with the ice-blue rivers, deep-green junipers, and golden patches of cottonwoods surrounding Paradise Valley all to themselves. The trout are fat, the roads are quiet, and the trails are still; this corner of paradise is all yours, if only for a few months.
Local produce is at its best in the fall, so be sure to hit the Livingston Farmers’ Market before its last day on September 26. On Wednesday, from 4:30 to 7:30 pm, chow down on the region’s healthiest grub and most delectable baked goods. Also be sure to catch the Holiday Market on December 1. After that, hit nearby Mill Creek to hike or bike off the calories—it’s a great place to explore, with a half a dozen hikes and plenty of rock climbing. Passage Falls is a beautiful two-miler with an easy incline; or go for an all-day outing at Elbow Lake, which rests just below Mount Cowen. Many of the Mill Creek trails can be mountain-biked as well, provided you stay outside the Wilderness Area boundary.
If you’re a fisherman, put all that other stuff on the backburner—fall fishing on the Yellowstone is an experience not to be missed. Some caddis hatches continue through October, though the fishing’s slower than the blizzard-like hatches in the summer; but patient, persistent fishermen can end up with a real prize. After a long day of fishing or hiking, head to Pine Creek Café for great food in a quaint setting, or to Chico Hot Springs to soak up the hot water and beautiful surroundings. On September 28, go to Western Sustainability Exchange’s annual fundraiser, Harvest Celebration, at the hot springs and enjoy local food prepared by renowned chefs. Make sure you register early because this event always fills up fast.
At each edge of the valley—Livingston and Gardiner—you’ll find laid-back locals happy that the summer rush is over, eager to bend your ear with a tale of summer adventure (or misadventure). After a long day outdoors, there’s nothing better than ponying up to the bar, ordering a cold one, and enjoying some good old-fashioned Montana camaraderie.
And what’s the rush to get home? With the tourists gone—and off-season rates in place—there’s no better time to rent a room or cabin for a few days of fun in Bozeman’s back 40. The river’s ready, the trails beckon, and hospitality awaits in beautiful Paradise Valley.