For many, fall conjures images of blizzards of golden leaves, the eerie bugles of bull elk, and the first crisp, possibly snow-dusted, days of year's end. For the northern half of the country these are the realities of the National Park System. There are the breathtaking days of hiking, watching wildlife on the move, and even tasting the season in the bounties of wild berries and other fruits.
These three months are picturesque and inviting, luring us into the parks to celebrate the season. For some, it might be the last adventure before winter's snows and cold close in. For others, it's the best season to experience the parks, with fewer visitors, and cooler weather. People's calendars are filling with trips.
Rocky Mountain National Park kicks off its year-long centennial celebration in September, and Estes Park will draw crowds early in October for the 17th Annual Elk Fest. To the north, Yellowstone National Park might be winding down its high season, but the wildlife, not tourists, are crowding meadows and drawing photographers, and the fish are definitely biting, as any of the guides in West Yellowstone will assure you.
Itching for one last'or one more'great hike? Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, who wrote arguably the definite photography guide to Acadia National Park, has some great hikes for you in Acadia. Michael A. Lanza counters with a collection of day, and multi-day, treks in Grand Canyon National Park.
Our fall guide also brings you road trips through big trees and the ruins of ancient civilizations, an enticement to steep yourself in the Western parks through a dude ranch stay, and a peek at what just might be the oldest lodge in the park system, the nearly 200-year-old Charit Creek Lodge at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Fall also is harvest season in the parks. Do you know what you can eat, and what you shouldn't eat? It's also the last big migration season of the year, with bears, elk, wolves, bighorn sheep, and more on the move.
With such possibilities this fall, staying inside is not an option. In the weeks and months ahead, we'll roll out articles that examine all these aspects of making the most of the season in the National Park System.