Wyoming Hot Spots For Spring And Fall

Photographer Frederic Joy reveals some magnificent spots across Wyoming, a state dominated by mountain ranges and high-altitude plains

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Frederic Joy loves Wyoming as much for the freedom of its wide-open spaces as for its spectacular mountains and wildlife. The state’s diversity includes a number of bold mountain ranges such as the Tetons, the Wind Rivers, the Absarokas and the Big Horns. These ranges alternate between high sagebrush plains and high desert, giving way to the prairie grasslands in the eastern part of the state. People are fiercely independent here, and few and far between. The ranching heritage is still strong in many areas, and remnants of old cattle or dude ranches still remain interesting photographic possibilities in their own right.

Wyoming country is diverse with climates ranging from warm, dry desert to high-alpine environment. The mountains are drained by a number of notable rivers. Joy has spent much of his life in the state and could easily spend another lifetime photographing there.

The landscape inspires a lot of freedom and liberty across the state. The celebrated Yellowstone National Park ecosystem has rightfully been called the “American Serengeti” with so much wildlife on view. It’s the largest intact ecosystem outside of Alaska.

Wyoming Wyoming
Wyoming Wyoming

Most people traveling to Yellowstone see a few features and miss so much. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is known for the falls, which most people come to see, while overlooking the possibilities of the canyon itself. Spring and fall are the perfect times to avoid the summer crowds, and many places along the canyon rim are great for photographing the canyon and river.

Other hot spots are Norris, Midway and West Thumb geyser basins for working with the abstract patterns and bright colors found around thermal pools.

1) Absaroka Mountains
Driving from Jackson Hole over Togwotee Pass to Lander and then Pinedale, you can take in a variety of hot spots. The first would be the remote Absaroka Mountains. The mountain range stretches out for 150 miles across the Montana-Wyoming border. They’re amazing mountains, with a completely different geology than the Wind Rivers, by nature of being volcanic in origin. They form the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park and are rather remote and inaccessible—but there’s one place where this shot was taken on Togwotee Pass that allows a spectacular viewpoint indeed. The peaks here are around 10,000 feet.

2 & 7) Moose Wilson Road And Snake River Canyon
Back in the Jackson Hole locale, Moose Wilson Road is an area not to be missed. It’s a great location in the fall, and this shot (#2) taken in early October shows a great spot from which to view interesting wildlife. The Snake River Canyon is also prime in the fall with aspen, sugar maples and pine forests. Snake River Canyon flows through Jackson Hole—the river is beautiful, and the foliage and mix of pines are stunning. Aspens are the first colors to turn in the fall in this area. Image #7 shows a lone aspen tree in the pines. We often get an early snow on fall foliage. The colors and snow together look stunning.

Wyoming Wyoming

3) Antelope
Once on the high plains, be watchful of antelope, which outnumber people in Wyoming. This shot was taken near Pinedale, a region recognized as one of their migratory routes. Here you see them surrounded by sagebrush.

4) Teton Backcountry
Teton country, containing the affluent Jackson Hole ski area, is one of the most familiar spots in the state of Wyoming. It has been photographed a lot, but also possesses extensive wilderness backcountry that most people don’t see. The columbines in this image are one of many prominent varieties of amazing flowers you’ll find there. At least a dozen perennials bloom in June or July. Due to the higher elevation, spring hits this region late. Hot spots include the South Fork Cascade Canyon, and trails are accessed near the Jackson Hole ski area.

5) Wind River Mountains
From the Pinedale area, one can access the amazing Wind River Mountains. One of my favorite spots, the “Winds” is a backpacking mountain range in western Wyoming. The range runs roughly northwest to southeast for approximately 100 miles. It’s solid granite with many summits over 13,000 feet. Lots of mountaineering is available with all types of climbing, such as ice climbs, and once you get into the alpine zone, you’re in a different world.

6) RKO Road
Nicknamed after RKO Pictures, which filmed many big-budget westerns in this area in the 1930s and 1940s, RKO Road is a four-wheel-drive route I highly recommend. Most people don’t know about this road, and it’s well worth a visit. You’ll see lots of elk and antelope, plus a different perspective of the mountains that seem to leap right out at you from the plains. In this image, you see the Teton Mountains jutting out toward the sky.