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A Day – or 2 – in Grand Teton National Park

As I sit down to write about visiting The Grand Tetons this summer, it immediately takes my breath away thinking about how beautiful and serene the experience was. It’s far less crowded than Yellowstone and more people should be talking about what a wonder it truly is. We were fortunate to spend a few  nonconsecutive days in the park and here’s how we chose to spend them. Hope you find it helpful when planning your trip!

Our vacation was centered around a trip to Yellowstone and our adventure through Yellowstone began and ended at the South Entrance, so we thought it would be nice to drive by the Grand Tetons on the way. Ha! We were not satisfied with a “drive by”. Upon arrival, we quickly realized that we needed to carve out more time to take in this beautiful park. We’d heard so much about Yellowstone and, granted, it was amazing, but I think for those who are visiting Yellowstone (especially from the South), you’re really leaving a lot on the table if you don’t spend a few days in Grand Teton National Park. The 2 parks have entirely different landscape and “must see” features and we were thrilled that we got to see both parks in one trip.

On Day 1 in Grand Teton, we really spent our time seeing as much as we could from the car, stopping at the Craig Thomas Discovery Center (which is before the ticket both for the park) so the kids could pickup their Jr. Ranger packets, and deciding what more we wanted to do with our time there. The kids completed their “ranger led activity” at the center, then we set off to see as much as we could on the way to our next destination and make a plan for another day in the park. We travelled along Teton Park Road which proved to be a rewarding experience for first timers. There are animals grazing, massive mountain caps with beautiful glaciers, lake scenery and the park was not crowded at all. The weather was goregous and we left excited to return in a few days. Click here for the GTNP pass fee schedule.

Day 2. We were super lucky to book a room at Jackson Lake Lodge that we absolutely loved. It was a cottage within easy walking distance to the main Lodge, very quaint and newely renovated. Again, super lucky to book a spot on a guided Snake River rafting tour and it was a nice way to catch our breath, take in the beautiful scenery, and recharge for the 2nd half of our 2 weeks in WY. We booked the trip through the hotel (you can book excersions whether or not your staying at the Lodge) and the guide was Amazing! He was very friendly and knowledgeable about the park since he had grown up there as a kid! And it seemed as though all of their guides are equally amazing. They have a great excersion program. After the tour, we grabbed some delicious nachos at Trapper Grill (Signal Mountain Lodge) overlooking Jackson Lake and then drove to the Top of Signal Mountain to grab a quick 1 mile hike to the tip top and take in the vistas (because 2 days without a hike is too many).

Day 3. The crowds were low at GTNP and we had lucked out on last minute room and tour bookings, but we knew that hiking Jenny Lake would not be as forgiving to lack of planning. We booked it there first thing in the am – 8:00 – to find a parking spot in the lot and enjoyed most of our day hiking this area. The hike around Jenny Lake is mostly easy for the kids, the views are varied and amazing, and we continued our hike on to Hidden Falls and then around to the entrance of Cascade Canyon. The Canyon hike gets to be a bit more difficult, but most the hike around the lake is easy to moderate and there are plenty of natural opportunities to stop and catch your breathe if needed. There are some areas that are moderately steep and rocky, but over all doable for sturdy kiddos. Flat and paved, it is not. But gorgeous, it is!

The kids received their Grand Teton Nation Park Jr. Ranger badges at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and, after the 14 miles we had hiked that day, it was time for us to set off to Yellowstone. In total there are 6 Visitor Centers in and around Grand Teton Nation Park and, if time allows, you can stop to get your national parks passport stamped at each of them.

There are several amazing hikes that we would like to return to GTNP for – and there are also rock climbing opportunities. I’ve heard great things about the hike around Taggart Lake, so if the Jenny Lake area is full or too crowded, this is a great alternative. Let us know if you have specific questions about our time in GTNP or would like more tips about planning your trip!

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