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Travel Recap: Grand Teton National Park Highlights

A large elk stands at the edge of a campsite.

If you polled our travel group of 10, half – if not more – would declare Grand Teton National Park their favorite of our three week road trip. It’s easy to see why when you consider the majestic views, fairly mild weather, and pace of the park compared to a major destination like Yellowstone. We arrived in Grand Teton National Park on the 8th day of our trip. Until that point it had been one-night stays along our route to get there. We were finally able to slow down, and we met up with our friends parents who flew in to join us for this leg of the trip.

1. Our Welcome to Wyoming

Prior to arriving at the park, we spent one night in Dubois, Wyoming, which was about an hour from the park entrance. The views as we drove into the park were breathtaking, with the mountains in the distance being clearly visible from our quiet campsite. The roads within the campground were fairly tight, but the spacing and proximity to neighbors was perfect for a quiet campsite. We also had a generous dedicated bear box at each site for some additional peace of mind.

Marmots along the path of our hike.

The ranger who checked us in informed us of the resident campground elk, Hollywood, who was known to wander through the site. We were thrilled to see on our last day in the park as we were heading out of the campground.

2. Intimate Park

It may have been the fact that we immediately followed up our trip to Grand Teton NP with a trip to Yellowstone, but it felt like a far more intimate park with less traffic and crowds. The size of the park is significantly smaller, but it was easier to find moments of solitude throughout our short (two nights, three days) stay. The visitors centers were less crowded as were the trails and parking situations. This also meant less amenities; dining options and service centers were few and far between. At one point, we had brought plenty of snacks but realized we wanted a ‘real’ meal. We stopped at a lodge with a restaurant, but it was in-between meal times. Luckily, we found food at Jenny Lake, but there was a touch-and-go hangry moment with the crew while we evaluated options and coordination of activities.

During our visit, we had a general game plan of sites and activities that we wanted to participate in. The size of the park made it easier to try out different options and adapt them as needed. For example, we had originally wanted to explore the trails around Colter Bay Village, but after chatting with the rangers we discovered that one of our intended trails was closed due to nesting swans. Instead, we spent time talking to a ranger who was displaying various native animal hides and horns. The kids spent time working on their Junior Ranger workbooks and the adults looked at the mountain ranges beyond the marina. We walked through the Indian Arts Gallery and then made our way to the Willow Flats Overlook.

3. Something For Everyone

Standing at Inspiration Point, overlooking Jenny Lake.

Our favorite activity in park was our afternoon excursion to Jenny Lake. We purchased a boat shuttle pass which dropped us off at the Cascade Canyon Trail. From there, we made a short hike to Hidden Falls. The adults admired the beautiful waterfalls, took photos, and the kids played around various downed trees. Then, it was an uphill journey to Inspiration Point. We had a few ‘is this it?’ moments until it became very clear that we had made it. The sign also helped. The views were, in fact, inspiring. We spent some time soaking in the different vantage point of Jenny Lake far below, and headed onwards to check out the snow covered peaks in the distance. We swore we saw someone who appeared to be skiing… albeit unsuccessfully. The boat driver told us that people can get dropped in to the ranges for climbing and other sports.

After we had our fill of the views, and mindful of the time of the last boat shuttle, we made our way back to the dock. If we missed the shuttle, there were hiking trails back towards the other side of the lake. Dinner was calling and we weren’t in the mood to delay it.

Downed tree by Hidden Falls.

If hiking isn’t your thing, Grand Teton National Park also has water options that you can enjoy. You can rent kayaks and paddle-boards, or bring your own.* This was in complete contrast to Yellowstone that did not allow personal watercraft or swimming in their water features (aside from one or two that specifically allow it).

*I believe your personal boats need to be evaluated before they can go into the water.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we agreed that it was worth another visit to see even more of this unique park. I would be tempted to take another trip that is equally as long as the time we spent in Yellowstone, just to enjoy the slower pace and the beauty of the environment. I think the kids also enjoyed the Grand Teton more as it felt like less of the park was trying to kill you. (Kidding, but seriously… nature is wild). The adults in our group were less on edge and didn’t have to worry about a lurking thermal pool or bison herd to the same extent as we did in Yellowstone.

If you’re making a trip to Yellowstone, I’d highly recommend adding Grand Teton National Park onto your agenda. It was just a short drive from the southern entrance of Yellowstone. If you’ve been to Grand Teton, what was your favorite feature of the park?

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