August 30, 2019

By Kathryn Montana Perkinson

Fall in Wind River Country is our best-kept secret. When August rolls into September, the air becomes crisp and the sun starts to cast autumnal, long shadows. Quaking aspens turn from green to yellow and their rustling leaves begin to drop off. For a treasured six weeks, adventurers enjoy the pause between the mosquitoes of summer and the snow of winter. Tiny red berries pop up on grouse wortleberry ground cover in the mountains, perfect for collecting and adding some tartness to your morning pancakes. Nights are cool, days are still long enough to fill with adventures, and the excitement of summer thunderstorms wanes with stable weather. It’s the best time to be here.

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Popo Agie waterfall surrounded by fall foliage.
Fall is an ideal time to head into the Wind River or Absaroka mountains. Photo: Scott Copeland

The fall is prime fishing time in Wind River Country. Cool mornings and evenings provide lovely fishing opportunities. Many species such as brown trout set up to spawn in the fall. Wanting to put on some weight for the lean winter ahead, even the biggest trout start to feed more aggressively. And on the cusp of mating season, they can become territorial. These factors combine to create prime streamer fishing season. Enjoy the magic of autumn fly fishing in the foothills of the Wind River Range in the Wind or Popo Agie Rivers. But in Wind River Country, we’re not limited to stream fishing. Before it snows, anglers can easily access high alpine lakes filled with beautiful golden, rainbow, brook, and cutthroat trout. 

Rainbow trout in a fisherman's hands in the fall in Wind River Country
Fishing in the fall in Wind River Country is colorful and exciting. Photo: Montana Kathryn Perkinson.

Mountain bikers relish in the cooler temperatures too. Trails outside of the wilderness in Dubois and Lander become hot spots for long weekend rides. Single track trails are dry (unlike the spring) and the trails are well maintained after a summer of use. There are multiple races, rides, and clinics for mountain bikers in the fall like Lander’s Lassie Clinic in October. Two favorite spots are Johnny Behind the Rocks and the Dubois Overlook Trail

Three bikers make their way up a trail in Dubois, Wyoming
Fall trails and temps are ideal for biking. Photo: Jennie Hutchinson.

The fall in Wind River Country is the best season of the year to go rock climbing (climbers, after all, love to take advantage of “Send-tember” and “Rock-tober”). Before snow closes the dirt roads, climbers enjoy access to Fossil Hill and Wild Iris without the crowds of the summer. Cooler temps make for better climbing: higher friction with the rock and less sweaty hands. The perfect climbing season extends beyond sport-climbing (climbing bolted routes) to stunning climbing in the mountains. Climbers enjoy the alpine granite crack climbing before it snows.

Climber on a rock face with fall colors in Wind River Country, Wyoming
Climbers make the most of the season, surrounded by stunning colors. Photo: Matt Wendling

Located just outside of Dubois, the bighorn sheep rut is a highlight fall activity in Wind River Country. The National Bighorn Sheep Center offers tours near Whiskey Basin as the sheep return to their winter homes. Looking for more about bighorn sheep? The National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center is located in downtown Dubois and gives visitors a chance to learn about the native animal, both in the center and on guided tours to see the rams battle for the attention of ewes. You can make an appointment with 24 hour notice to see the splendor yourself!

Two bighorn rams butt heads on a snowy hillside.
Bighorn rams battle for dominance. Photo: Bill Sincavage

Once October rolls around, the trailheads in the foothills of the Winds bustle with excitement for elk hunting season. Wyoming Fish and Game surveys the elk population and issues permits to help maintain a healthy population, and opening day varies from place to place. Elk hunting is one of the most spectacular ways to enjoy the Wind River Range. If you like big game hunting and draw an elk permit, you can hunt in your specific zone and time frame. There are numerous outfitters and guide operations who can help facilitate your hunt. Hunters spend anywhere from a weekend to a lifetime intimately getting to know their permitted area, treasuring the stillness and thorough observation of looking for elk sign. You might thrill at the sign of a broken branch, some scat, a slightly musky smell. Or perhaps you’ll get lucky and your elk tag will line up perfectly with the rut— when the bull elk vie for the hearts of the cows. Hunters use different bugles to call the elk in. Hopefully, they come home with meat to stock the chest freezers for the year.

Two hikers high in the Wind River Mountains
Fall in Wind River Country will take your breath away. Photo: Kathryn Montana Perkinson

We love Wind River Country in every season-—the magic of this place lies in the fact that the activities are year-round with changing conditions and opportunities. But above all else, fall provides the most variety in the most beautiful weather. Come visit! 

Kathryn Montana Perkinson is a writer living in Lander. Find more at kathrynmontana.com and @kathrynmontana. 

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