Travel dates: June 21-23, 2017
I think a lot of people view a visit to Grand Teton National Park the same way we did: as something you really might as well do when you’re already so close, visiting Yellowstone. And then, like us, they get there and realize that, not only is Grand Teton a beautiful, amazing destination in its own right, but it’s also a completely different landscape and experience than Yellowstone–so much more than a pleasant Yellowstone add-on.
Really, I knew this already. I’m an obsessive researcher, so I’d read plenty of accounts where this very thing happened. But what could I do? Yellowstone is so big; there are so many things to see….how could I take days away from it and give them to Grand Teton just because internet strangers said I should? What if they were wrong?!
We ended up with six nights in and near Yellowstone and two at Grand Teton. And Grand Teton is just as beautiful as everyone says, and we certainly wouldn’t have minded another day or two there. But, at the same time, you can hit the highlights at Grand Teton in a day or two much more easily than you can at Yellowstone. Yellowstone has something different everywhere you turn; at Grand Teton you spend a whole lot of time looking at the same basic view and never getting tired of it. Yellowstone is crowded and non-stop; Grand Teton is….also crowded, but still feels less chaotic. So? Eh–you really can’t go wrong splitting your time any which way between these two amazing parks. Just make sure you see both and next time around you can pick your favorite to spend more time at.
We had about a day and a half in the Tetons (staying at Colter Bay RV Park, inside the park), and I feel like we did a whole lot in that time without things feeling particularly rushed or frantic.
Canoeing on Jackson Lake
Dave really wanted to get out on the water, but our family configuration is not set up as well as it might be for self propelled boat travel. At Colter Bay Marina, you can rent single or double kayaks or canoes that seat up to three. I am not at all comfortable being the only adult in any kind of watercraft, owing to some bad experiences in the past, and Ari wasn’t really interested in getting in a boat anyway. So we decided that Milo, Gus, and Dave would rent a canoe while Ari and Abe and I did some hiking in the area. Abe did not like this idea at all it turned out, and we had a rough few minutes with him while the others left.
The Colter Bay RV Park is within easy walking distance of the marina, so we walked over and spent a few minutes checking out the visitor center before heading to the boat rentals:
Canoe and kayak rentals range from $20-23 per person/hour, with a minimum of two hours.
Dave reports that they had a great time, and that the canoeing was challenging at times.
pictures from dave
Lakeshore Trail Hike
While all that canoeing was going on, Ari, Abe, and I were hiking the Lakeshore Trail that starts behind the visitor center. This is a pretty easy two mile hike that offers some fabulous views of Jackson Lake. I was a little more worried about bears than usual, since there were just three of us instead of our usual rowdy pack of six. But we did not see any bears.
Jenny Lake Area
This area was under major construction while we were there, making parking something of a challenge (and bathrooms in short supply). We made an extra effort to get there pretty early, though, and managed to grab a parking space and get tickets for a boat ride across Jenny Lake to do some hiking. If you’re up for a longer hike, you can walk the two miles around the lake instead. The boat shuttle is $15 round trip for adults; $8 for kids 2-11, and it’s a really nice little ride with beautiful views:
Across the lake, there are a few different options for hikes. I think the way things usually work is that you can make a loop and see both Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. But when we were there, they were still working on the trails and they didn’t connect up, so we decided to start with Inspiration Point and then decide whether to make the trip to Hidden Falls after.
The hike to Inspiration Point is just about a mile each way, but it’s a steep mile. The climb is worth is for the views, though:
We spent a good bit of time up there admiring said views and enjoying the very bold ground squirrels. I suspect it is not unusual for people to feed the ground squirrels. We didn’t feed them, but they never gave up hope.
Once we made it back from Inspiration Point, things were getting VERY crowded. The hike to Hidden Falls is shorter (.3 miles) and therefore even busier than the hike to Inspiration Point, and we decided that it was too crowded to be enjoyable at this point. So we got back on the boat and headed across the lake again.
We stopped at a roadside picnic area for a quick lunch. Even when you’re just eating sandwiches by the side of the road in the Tetons you get to look at this:
Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center
This is a beautiful building with very nicely done exhibits inside. Give yourself an hour or so to look around here and make sure to see the film which has a stunning ending that I won’t spoil for you if you don’t already know about it.
Menors Ferry Historic District
Abe needed to do a ranger program to finish his Junior Ranger badge, and it was kind of slim pickings for 4 year old friendly programs that day. We ended up at Menors Ferry historic district, which is a fabulous place to learn about the history of the park…but it did try Abe’s patience a bit.
First we learned all about Bill Menor, who homesteaded on this site on the Snake River and operated a ferry to take people across. There’s a reproduction of the ferry there now, and I think you can ride it across sometimes, depending on the level. It wasn’t running while we were there, though. Also, look: still great views!
Then we went over to Maud Noble’s house and heard the fascinating story about the meeting where a plan to keep Jackson Hole from being ruined by too much development was first discussed:
That was the end of our ranger program, but after that we checked out the Chapel of the Transfiguration, which still holds services every Sunday, I believe:
After this, we went back by the visitor center to turn in Abe’s book and get his Junior Ranger badge, and then we drove into Jackson for dinner at Snake River Brewing.
By the time we were finished in Jackson, it was really too late to do anything else, but we did anyway. We stopped by Mormon Row in hopes of taking amazing photographs of iconic buildings. Unfortunately, the best time to take such photographs is early morning then the sun is in more favorable position. So my pictures are nothing special:
….although I am pretty fond of this one of Abe:
And even though it was a terrible time of day for photography, it was a great time for wildlife spotting, and we saw several pronghorn fairly close up. This isn’t a pronghorn, though; it’s Gus:
Dave also spotted a cat sitting underneath someone’s Class B. When he alerted the owners, it turned out that the cat had sneaked out of the RV and they had no idea, so I guess it’s a good thing we stopped at Mormon Row after all. Dave might have saved that cat’s life!
And that was the dramatic finale to our Grand Teton stop, as we had to leave early the next morning. Next up, though, I’ll have a review of Colter Bay RV Park, and that will involve adorable baby animals (I didn’t get pictures of the adorable babies, I don’t think, so don’t be TOO excited).
maybe you would like to pin this?