Mountain Style: Leaf Peeping

Teton Fall Foliage Identification

By Brigid Sinram

Once the long days of summer start to dwindle and we feel a chill to the air, the color palette of our outdoor environment also starts to shift. Greens give way to warm autumn reds, dusky purples, and fading yellows, making late September and early October a great time for meandering our region’s back roads and trails.

The Rocky Mountain’s most easily recognized foliage comes from the aspen tree (Populus tremuloides). Aspens are well known for their bright golden fall hues and delicate leaves. While out floating and fishing our local waterways, enjoy the golden yellow colors of the cottonwood trees and colorful willows (Salix sp.). Several native shrubs also participate in the color explosion. Look for Western mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina), with its large clusters of deep orange fruits. The mountain ash’s long leaflets turn red and golden in the fall, and the fruit clusters attract birds.

While it’s easy to admire the large trees and colorful vistas, don’t forget to observe the smaller color changes happening at your feet. Wildflowers like fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) and sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum) show impressive fall colors of purple, deep red, and bright yellow.

Local Spots for Fall Foliage Adventures

1. Coal Creek Trail off of Highway 22: mature aspen groves with lovely views of Taylor Mountain.
2. Gros Ventre Road and Shadow Mountain Area: aspen groves, hiking trails, and campsites for longer fall excursions.

1. Aspen Trail: a short, favorite fall hike that offers a colorful aspen display.
2. Big Hole Mountains: mountain biking trails, aspen groves, colorful shrubs, and wildflowers.
3. Ricks Basin and Lightning Ridge at Grand Targhee: diverse fall biking and hiking trails through large aspen groves.

What to do with all those fallen leaves?

How to Make a Leaf Wreath

Spruce up your fall decor with a leaf wreath. This creative way to remember your foliage adventure just may last you through winter. And when the wreath gets dry and the colors fade, revive it with a can of metallic spray paint.
Some techniques adapted from The Space Between: “DIY Leaf Wreath” (

– Colorful autumn leaves, stems intact
– Wreath form or metal wreath frame (available at craft stores or upcycle an old one)
– Spool of thick florist wire
– Glue gun (optional)

1. Collect your leaves outside. Look for unusual colors and unique shapes.
2. Sort your leaves by color and shape. Lay them out on a flat surface.
3. Create small clusters of leaves by wrapping the stems together with florist wire. Fan them out.
4. Use small pieces of florist wire to wrap the clusters around the wreath form. Make sure to overlap each cluster for a fuller wreath.
5. (Optional) Hot-glue single leaves into any gaps or open spaces in your wreath.