Grand Teton National Park is a beautiful location to capture splendid fall colors, but since the display isn’t as widespread as New England or even Colorado, it helps to know a few key locations. This will help you capture stunning fall leaves in their prime, giving a powerful burst to the landscape.
Arguably the most iconic fall scene from Grand Teton National Park, Oxbow Bend features sprawling aspen groves around a calm body of water, capped by the massive Mount Moran. Thanks to a slower side channel of the Snake River, the water of Oxbow Bend is nearly always crystal clear and calm in the mornings, creating a mirror reflection of the already breathtaking landscape above.
Find a spot early in the morning, ideally before sunrise, to capture warm sunrise light on the scene. This will illuminate the aspen leaves and give the landscape a fiery burst of color. It’s an idyllic landmark of Grand Teton National Park and one every photographer should have in their portfolio.
Nearly as iconic as Oxbow Bend is Schwabacher Landing. Revolving another slower and calmer side channel of the Snake River, beaver ponds built up along the stream reflect an iconic angle of the Teton Mountains. Around the area are endless cottonwood trees, glowing a bright yellow during the autumn season. As an extra bonus, moose are frequently spotted in the area, giving an extra dimension to an autumn mountain scene.
Stick to the main bow of the stream around both parking areas. If you follow the main trail farther back, the cottonwoods begin to thin out and are replaced by evergreens, removing the essence of the fall season. Be sure to get there at sunrise (also) to catch the water with minimal disturbance.
Snake River Overlook
The site made famous by Ansel Adams, the Snake River Overlook provides an ideal view of the Snake River twisting in front of the Teton Mountains. And though it’s not covered in fall colors, the river bottom is sprinkled with cottonwood trees among the evergreens, the yellows popping out of the greens in a Jackson Pollack way.
This spot can be caught either at sunrise or sunset, though some evening weather will help give the scene a more dramatic look if you’re leaning toward sunset.
Gros Ventre River
While not a hotspot for most people, the Gros Ventre River provides ample nourishment for a forest of cottonwood trees throughout its stretch in Grand Teton National Park. In addition to a beautiful canopy of yellow that the cottonwoods provide, it also makes for great moose habitat. Likewise, the Sleeping Indian peak rising in the background makes for a fantastic subject later in the afternoon and at sunset.
Find one or two of the pullouts along the river to catch one of the few great sunset vantage points in Grand Teton National Park that don’t require the Teton Mountains. Fall is when they’re at their prime, and if you time it right, the Sleeping Indian might even have some snow around its summit, completing the mountain fall scene requirements.
The Moose-Wilson Road is a slow and winding road in southwestern Grand Teton National Park. During the fall season, this not only becomes a hotspot for a variety of autumn leaves and vegetation, but also for the wildlife that’s frequently found along the narrow road’s edges. Moose, black bears, elk, and much more can be easily found around sunrise and sunset, and many hours in between among vibrant fall leaves of every shade thanks to the aspens, cottonwoods, hawthorn berry bushes, and much more.
Find a pullout and start walking up and down even just short distances from where you park to not only find wildlife, but also endless abstract fall color opportunities. If you want to get a hike in as well, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve makes for a great stop to capture everything along the road, while also checking out the splendid Phelps Lake.
While these are just some of the great spots found in Grand Teton National Park, nothing can make up for exploring on your own and finding your own gems! See what calls out to you and enjoy your national parks!
Interested in experiencing the park’s fall colors with me as your guide? Check out my private photography workshop options and let me do all the work while you get all the photos you want!