While the high country around Jackson is being dusted with snow, many lower-elevation areas are abuzz in autumn with adventurous types, especially trail runners. It's not hard to understand why: Fall is a great time to hit the trail, with the reassuring crunch of dirt beneath your feet and brightly colored leaves swirling around you. Add in crisp, cool air and the absence of summer tourists, and you've got the formula for a sublime outdoor experience.
But while you hit the trail, be sure to be bear safe, especially since the hungry critters are ravenously devouring berries this time of year. Pack your bear spray, bring a few friends, and make some noise when you're out on the trail. And don't forget: If you see a bear, be sure to stop running.
And with that, here are five fall trail runs around Jackson well worth lacing up the sneakers for.
1. Taggart Lake Trail, Grand Teton National Park
Start at the Taggart Lake Trailhead and head out on this 5-mile round-trip route to Taggart Lake . Enjoy a gentle run with a few rolling hills along this relatively easy trail in Grand Teton National Park. You'll run through the forest, cross a bridged stream, and, of course, revel in stunning Teton views along the way. Plan on spending a few extra minutes checking out the lake and maybe even enjoying a snack before turning around to run back to the trailhead.
2. Teton Pass to the Head of Black Canyon
If the snow isn't flying up high, this four-mile route from Teton Pass to the head of Black Canyon provides gorgeous views during a run that's perfect to fit in when your schedule is tight. The path has a limited amount of elevation gain, yet still offers spectacular views of the valley below and the Gros Ventre Range in the distance.
Head out on Highway 22 and park on top of Teton Pass (you'll find a large parking area on your left-hand side when you're heading up the hill from Jackson). You'll find the trail on the west side of the parking lot; it starts off as a two-track road. Follow this road and you'll soon pass an electrical tower. The trail then winds through meadows and forests to the head of Black Canyon.
3. Elk Refuge Road
While it's more of a road than a trail, the Elk Refuge Road is a great place for a run. Located right on the edge of town, this route often stays clear when other routes are covered in muck, mud, and snow. To reach this road, run, bike, or drive to the end of Broadway (just past St. John's Medical Center), and take a left when the road dead-ends; parking is plentiful.
Run along the gravel and dirt road for as long as you like. Be sure not to veer off the road, though, since the land beyond the road and a few feet on each side are closed to humans and dogs to protect wildlife. You'll have great views of the Tetons on your way out, and you might even spot some bighorn sheep or other wildlife along the way.
4. Putt Putt Trail
To hop on the Putt Putt Trail , start from either the Cache or Nelson Drive trailheads and head out on this singletrack trail. You'll pass through grassland and aspens along the 4.7-mile trail. You can create a loop by connecting with Cache Creek Trail or Cache Sidewalk, or hop on another Snow King Area Trail to create an even longer route.
5. Cache Creek Trail
For a superb run just on the edge of town, hit the Cache Creek Trail . This path is popular with dog walkers, bikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, so keep in mind you'll have some company at least for the first mile and a half or so. Run up the old road and you'll find the Game Creek Trail junction four miles in. At the six-mile point, you'll hit the Gros Ventre Wilderness and be able to connect to other trails. Be sure to respect winter wildlife closures; many areas of the Gros Ventre Wilderness close in the fall to protect wildlife.