I was awe struck when I first caught sight of the Grand Teton range from U.S. HWY 26. One instant I’m driving along looking at a forest of pine trees and the next I was looking at mountains so massive I literally thought I was seeing a mirage.
Grand Teton National Park is the first of four National Parks that I visited during an epic 2 week road-trip this August (2017). Grand Tetons National Park was established in 1929 and completed in 1950 when the Jackson Hole National Monument along with land donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. were added to it.
Grand Teton is the tallest of the three Tetons at 13,770 feet. The other two are named Middle and South. They get their name from French fur trappers who called the three mountains Les Trois Tetons which translates “to the three breasts.” That’s the French for you.
There are multiple entrances to the park. I entered from the east at Moran Junction and drove the Teton Park Road to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. The actual visitor center is being redone so right now a mobile trailer is being used.
There is the option of taking a shuttle boat from the Jenny Lake Visitor Center across the lake to the Hidden Falls / Inspiration Point / Cascade Canyon area. Duringthe summer operating season, the first shuttle leaves at 7am and costs $5. After that is is $15 road trip or $9 one-way. (hours change depending on the season – check the national park website for up to date information)
Park Rangers often lead groups to Hidden Falls and Lower Inspiration Point. They start with a talk about the area and best practices for hiking in bear country, then they take the shuttle boat across the lake and talk about Hidden Falls. From there you have the option of ridding the shuttle boat back across the lake or hiking the two miles around the southern part of Jenny Lake to the visitor center and parking lot.
I chose to hike all the way around Jenny Lake. Read more about that adventure here.
After the hike I spoke to a Park Ranger about what she suggested seeing. She gave me some great tips on things to see that hadn’t come up in my research about the park.
The next morning I woke up at 5am since I was still on Indiana time. I decided to drive up Signal Mountain Road to the peak of Signal Mountain (on the Park Ranger’s list of Must Do’s) and watched the sunrise. It was gorgeous and there was only one other car on the mountain!
See more pictures from Signal Mountain here.
Afterwards, I went back to my Tent Cabin to make breakfast and get dressed for the day.
I stayed in the Tent Cabins at Colter Bay Village in Grand Tetons National Park for two nights. I had never heard of a tent cabin before so I thought I better check it out.
Learn more about the tent cabins and Colter Bay village here.
Staying at the Tent Cabin was my first taste of “camping” by myself and to be honest it was rather boring. For me it is the people one is with that make for a great camping experience. I ended up purchasing a Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Park activity book and colored pencils from the Colter Bay Visitor Center to keep me occupied.
After I got ready, I drove to Taggart Lake trail-head and parked near a 4th generation and 2nd generation 4Runner. Addie, a 5th generation 4Runner, felt right at home. Read more about my hike to Taggart Lake here. Spoiler alert: I saw a bear!
The Park Ranger had also suggested checking out the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center at the south end of the park. To get to the center you have to drive a narrow, dirt road. There’s a couple trails through the nature preserve and the Phelps Lake trail-head is also located near the center. I arrived about 11 am and was told by a Park Ranger that they were estimating it would be an hour before I could get a parking spot. They required that at least one person stay with the vehicle and as I was the only person in the car I could either sit and wait till I got a parking spot to check out the Preserve Center or turn around and leave. I decided to turn around.
Instead, I went to the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center at Moose Junction. I definitely recommend stopping here. The building itself is awesome from an architectural design standpoint and I am bummed that I forgot to take a picture of it. There is a bookstore selling all things Grand Teton, a counter to ask Park Rangers questions, a museum section that talks about how the Tetons were formed and the first settlers. The center also shows a great video about life in the park called Grand Teton National Park: Life on the Edge. It is 24 minutes long and very interesting.
I then took Hwy 89 back up to Moran Junction in order to see more of the park. The Park Ranger I spoke with recommended seeing Schwabacher Landing. It is a spot in the Snake River where beavers have built dams and turned the river into more of a serene pond. It is a really peaceful spot and I enjoyed hanging out there. However, I was disappointed I didn’t see any beavers or moose.
Overall, it was a great 2nd trip to Grand Teton National Park.
- See a moose
- Teton Crest Trail – a 5 day 35.4 mile backpacking trip
- Paintbrush Divide Trail – a 2 day 20.1 mile backpacking trip
- Lake Solitude Trail – 15.2 miles
- Death Canyon Trail – 18.6 miles