Grand Teton National Park
Website – https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm
So after we left Yellowstone National Park in the rain and cold, we took many hours to drive south to Grand Teton National Park, which is connected to her more famous neighbor by a 10 mile road.
We drove through the clouds and the rain until we reached Gros Ventre Campground, where Uncle John had help from Tree Rider and The Pres with setting up camp. While it is not the prettiest campground in the park, it is the largest in the park. It does not take reservations in advance, but almost never fills up. We’d spend two nights here.
Grand Teton is a spot I’ve been lucky enough to visit two other times than this – with my wife in 2010 when we drove cross country and again in 2012 where I brought a gang of Scouts here from Troop 48 (we’d spend six days and 60 miles backpacking in this amazing park, but that’s for another post), so I’ll liberally mix in pictures from my other two visits.
After dinner, we did what my wife and I often do on these trips after dinner… head back out into the park to look for wild life. Luckily, the best spot for wildlife watching in the park is on Gros Ventre Road just outside the campsite. We spotted moose each night we were here, and our first time here we hung out with a herd of bison for about an hour and half in pretty much the same spot.
We then headed back to camp to get a good night’s sleep, we’d have a full day of exploring the next day.
Our first stop? The Visitors Center for maps and oversized statues of moose.
Now Grand Teton is one of the most visited parks in the country, with well over 3 million visitors last year. BUT, most people are doing a quick drive by on their way to Yellowstone. This is their loss – of the 31 national parks that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit, this is my absolute favorite one. Go explore it, especially on the trails, and you’ll lose the crowds pretty quick.
We started by driving in a loop down to Jenny Lake. We didn’t explore too much here at this time because everyone else in the park also seemed to be there, but in 2010, my wife and I took the boat across the lake to do the hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. It’s 2.2 miles with a little less than 500 feet of elevation gain, and I can’t recommend this hike enough. If you’ve got the time and the legs, make the hike longer and walk around the lake.
We hopped on the boat and took the ride across Jenny Lake.
Hopping off the boat, we hit the trail, hiking until we reached Hidden Falls. If you want to do just the falls, your round trip would be 1.3 miles.
My favorite part of Hidden Falls was, shockingly, the people. When we arrived, I was wearing my usual grimy looking Phillies hat. A guy a few folks down from us looked over and said, “Hey! I’m from Pittsburgh!” and got really excited. The guy between us started laughing. It turns out that he lived in Harrisburg. My wife (who is actually from Pennsylvania) wouldn’t get in a picture, so I stood in for her. It makes me happy to know that, somewhere, a guy has a picture of the three of us meeting at a waterfall in the middle of Wyoming. Hands across Pennsylvania!
The waterfall was also very pretty.
Alix and I pushed on to Inspiration Point, which features a view of Jenny Lake that would have alone been worth driving all this way for.
As always, the picture doesn’t really do the view justice. I vowed that I’d have to come back and backpack further up into the Tetons. Luckily, I’d get to do it two years later… but again, that’s another post. We hiked back down to the lake to take the boat back across.
Anyway, back to 2016. We kept driving around the loop and headed for the Cunningham Cabin. This cabin is a very short stroll down from the trailhead. I’m not sure how the farming went, but the view couldn’t be beat.
We then opted to head up to Jackson Lake to make lunch. Of all the areas of the park, this is the part I’ve seen the least of. Next time, next time…
When we were here with the Scouts, we did do a short hike of less than 2 miles, but I neglected to take a picture at the trailhead, so I don’t remember which trail that it was.
From here, Alix and Tree Rider needed a break. So we explored the Chapel of the Transfiguration (all my pictures are, sadly, too dark), then they went off for a break while Uncle John, The Pres, and I decided to explore a spot we’d never seen – Menor’s Ferry Historic District. This was the location of a ferry across the Snake River.
We also listened to a Ranger talk here about the history of the area. Even at age 4, The Pres loved a good ranger talk.
From here, it was time for a wilderness break, so we took a trip into Jackson Hole to celebrate our last night with Uncle John. We’ll come back to Jackson Hole after we finish with the park.
After Jackson Hole, we went out to look for animals again, and found a nice sunset as well.
After a good night’s rest, we set out for the last of our ten days of park exploring with Uncle John before he had to fly back to Japan. Our goal for the morning? Mormon Row, which has a view of the Tetons that’s worth driving from New Jersey for.
After this, we went back into Jackson Hole for our final lunch together before heading our separate ways… one of us to the airport, the other four to slowly drive back to New Jersey.
So we’ve been just about everywhere in the Tetons… except on the top of a mountain. It’s tough to hike to the tops of a mountain… BUT our last adventure that I highly recommend is cheating. Yes, cheating. I’m talking about the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram. 9 minutes, 4000+ feet, and you’ll get to stand a top of the Teton Range. You can even get waffles at the top.
We didn’t do this on this trip, BUT when my Scouts and I were here in 2012, we cheated on the first leg of our backpacking trip by avoiding the first big climb.
You can take the tram back down, or you can hike your way down on the trails. MOST people don’t take six days and 60 miles to hike down, but that’s their fault.
Grand Teton has a million beautiful spots that you can find by driving along or hiking a short distance in. Not sure where these are, just places that we drove past and stopped.
Anyway, we can’t put it off any longer. Time to head into Jackson Hole and say goodbye to Uncle John. We went into town for pizza. Now anyone whose familiar with the Pizza Belt theory knows that the odds of getting a good slice of pizza in Wyoming are slim, very slim. But Pinky G’s in Jackson Hole has actually good pizza, which is welcome when you haven’t been in Jersey for close to three weeks. So that’s where we went to eat pizza and say goodbye.
But the night before, we’d explored the town. Now, be warned, Jackson Hole is a giant tourist trap with the usual tourist trap type stuff, and it’s not a cheap place. BUT, there are some gems in town.
Anyway, pizza accomplished, we said our goodbyes here to Uncle John. It was a fun ten days exploring Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks with him!
But while he was heading home for Japan, we had another week of adventures ahead of us as we recrossed the country back to South Jersey.
Park before? We adventured in Yellowstone National Park.
Park after? We’re headed for the Black Hills of South Dakota!