While I was in western Wyoming enjoying Yellowstone National Park I thought it was a two-for-one treat to be able to also explore the Grand Teton National Park. After leaving Yellowstone National Park’s South Entrance is a short drive of only ten miles along the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway to get to Grand Teton National Park. The Parkway managed by the National Park Service connects the two parks.
The Grand Teton National Park is comprised of most of Jackson Hole valley that runs north and south with the vista of mountain peaks of the Teton Range that make up the western flank of the Park and to the east lies the Teton Wilderness and Bridger-Teton National Forest. The Grand Teton National Park has wide-open expanses along the Jackson Hole valley with the Snake River’s meandering flow through the valley and is dotted by glacial lakes and the soaring peaks of the Teton Range of the Rocky Mountains. While the summer is the peak tourist season to visit Grand Teton National Park, the Park did not feel crowded or have the traffic the way Yellowstone does during peak season. I think the landscape lends well to spreading out the actives to enjoy the Park as to not concentrate them into a few areas.
As with most National Parks during peak season overnight accommodations can be a challenge to find but I was able to secure a tent cabin at Colter Bay Village. I enjoy rustic accommodations and this certainly fits the bill. The cabin tents have two walls constructed log cabin style with hanging bunks and shelves for your gear; the other two walls and roof are tent style canvas with a porch awning for a picnic table and the ubiquitous bear box. There is a small wood stove in the tent cabin for those cool nights even during the summer. I put that stove to good use as the nights were much cooler than I would expect in the middle of July. Wood for the stove was available at the camp office/store where the staff was always helpful and was willing to strike up a conversation. You could bring your own food and prepare it at the tent cabin camping style if you are prepared. I was not able to take advantage of doing that but I was able to find cafes and restaurants located throughout the park but they are spread out and the choices are limited. However, you can get meals from pizza to five-star dining. In that regard, I enjoyed a wonderful fine-dining experience at the Mural Room in the Jackson Lake Lodge. I can still remember the taste of that fine Merlot and the spectacular view of the Tetons across the wetlands of Jackson Lake from the large Mural Room windows. I was even treated to watching elk foraging in the wetlands for their own meal as I also dined.
While exploring the park my strategy was to get an overview of Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole area as I knew I would be coming back to visit in the future. There is so much to do within and around the Park like backcountry hiking and camping, biking, boating, fishing, mountaineering and, even horse riding at one of the many dude ranches. There is no shortage of activities to experience while at Grand Teton National Park. But if scenery and wildlife are your things there are self-driving tours that you can do to take in these natural sights. I found some amazing views, each with a different perspective and vistas of the Park and not two were the same. The meadows and fields around the Cunningham Cabin one of Jackson Hole valley’s few remaining homesteading structures from the late 1800s and on the National Register of Historic Places, provides breathtaking and wide-open views of the Teton Range.
Alongside the cabin are fields of a nearby dude ranch where their horses graze after a hard day’s work. A fantastic overview look at Grand Teton National Park is from the top of Signal Mountain. Signal Mountain is an isolated peak of 7,720 feet accessible by a 5-mile long road that leads to an observation area located just below the main summit. From the summit, there are sweeping views of Jackson Lake and the Teton Range, much of the northern Jackson Hole to the southwest as well as the Snake River twisting through the valley. If you are looking for an idyllic view, the glacially formed Jenny Lake is a must-see. Jenny Lake sits at the foot of the Cascade Canyon portion of the Teton Range and provides picturesque views of the Tetons and is popular among hikers, artists, and boaters. If you want to see the Teton’s abundant wildlife, I find that the time just after sunrise and in the evening at dusk are the best times to see active animals foraging in the valley but it is important to be careful as that is also when they are most likely to be crossing roads.
I enjoy seeing historic buildings and iconic structures of an area and this excursion was no different as I found the Menor’s Ferry Historic District on the southern edge of the Parks’ boundary. Menor’s Ferry Historic District contains two different opportunities to explore with the Chapel of the Transfiguration and Menor’s Ferry, both of which I covered in separate posts which I have linked too from their names. I made a brief drive through Jackson Hole but did not have time to explore; I will definitely be back to experience that famed western community. One of the adventures of visiting Grand Teton National Park was leaving the area through Jackson Hole west along Wyoming Highway 22 known as the Teton Pass Highway over the Teton Range of western Wyoming. The pinnacle of the Teton Pass is well over eight thousand feet with a maximum grade on the road of 10% providing for white knuckle driving for my first time driving over the Rocky Mountains. I would do it again in a heartbeat as it was an exhilarating road trip.