Why Jackson Hole & Grand Teton Nat'l Park is everything & more
It's that time of year again where cabin fever has set in strong and I'm dreaming of warm weather and past vacations. Growing up, our family loved to go to state and national parks to camp and spend time together outdoors (think the typical Midwestern family with a loaded down minivan traveling all over the place with pop-up tents). Looking back, those trips hold so many of my favorite family memories and my biggest laughs. Luckily for me, I married a man who loves hiking and national park vacations as much as I do, and we plan to explore as many as we can! So last summer we traveled out to Jackson Hole, WY to explore Grand Teton National Park.
As much as I'd love to, I can't take credit for the idea to visit the Teton's. Actually, my dad has always wanted to go back because he remembered loving it when his parents took him as a young kiddo. So along with my parents, we spent a few months pouring over books and blogs about the park and planned it all out. At this point, I had seen enough photos and reviews that I knew it would be a beautiful vacation, but my expectations paled in comparison to what we saw when we landed in Jackson Hole.
From the moment you begin your descent into the little tourist village of Jackson Hole, you are surrounded by the gorgeous, towering mountain range of the Tetons. I honestly took photos out the windows of the airport because I thought "surely this is an incredible view of the mountain range", but it only got better from there.
We spent the first 4 days of our trip exploring the town of Jackson Hole and the lower portion of Grand Teton Nat'l Park (GTNP) and stayed in a condo in Teton Village (an absolute must if you have young kids). Then, we packed up and spent the last few days in the more northern portion of the park up in Colter Bay. Here are some of our favorite spots from the vacation:
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar: famous for hosting big name singers, it's a great place to stop and grab a drink, and a great photo-op with the saddle seats at the bar!
Jackson Hole Rodeo: to get a taste of the true western life, you've got to check out the Jackson Hole Rodeo on the outside of town! You get to enjoy some seriously exciting bull rides and relax with some good drinks.
Town Square: I think it's mandatory upon arriving to Jackson Hole that you get the famous photo under the antler arches in the town square, and you won't regret it! Then there's the local shops and restaurants that surround the square selling everything from boutique cowboy hats, to handcrafted wooden furniture, to true western general stores.
3. White Water Rafting: okay, so I can't really speak to this too much. I was pregnant on our trip last summer, so I skipped the white water rafting. BUT, my parents went and highly recommended it. The Jackson Hole River is a level 3, making it exciting and fun, without too much threat for the first time rafters.
LOWER GRAND TETONS
Moose-Wilson Road: one thing this vacation taught me is that no matter how old you are, you're never too old to stop going on bear hunts. And Moose-Wilson road is the perfect place to do that! It's about a 10mi stone road that leads you into the GTNP on a much less traveled route and is known to be a great place to spot wild life. Our first night in the park, we drove the road a dusk and saw a huge elk and several moose on the side of the road. Naturally, we continued this each night we were in the lower portion of the park and it never disappointed (plus, who isn't ready to relax on a fun car ride after a day of hiking..? ).
2. Jenny Lake: visiting Jenny Lake is an absolute must! The lake is beautiful and there are beautiful hikes right off the shoreline of the lake. I would recommend getting to the lake early and taking the boat ferry across the lake for a small fee (about $10). Once on the other side, you can follow the trail first to hidden falls which is a short and easy hike (kid friendly) with views of a beautiful cascade. If you are someone who enjoys hiking, continue on to inspiration point and to cascade canyon (this can pretty much be as long as you'd like, considering it technically goes all the way into Idaho). This hike is quite a bit more challenging with rockier terrain and steeper ascents, but the views are beautiful!
3. Phelps Lake Overlook & Jumping Rock: Phelps Lake Overlook is a quick trail just a couple of miles long that leads to a stunning view over Phelps Lake! If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can make this hike much more challenging by climbing down to the shore of the lake from the overlook, where you'll find a large rock the locals enjoy jumping off of into the lake (again, pregnancy nixed this little challenge for me:) ).
Kayaking in Colter Bay: If you are in the Colter Bay area, this is an absolute MUST! The national park runs the kayak rental station in the bay, and needless to say it's very popular. I would recommend you get to the rental station at least 30 minutes before they open to reserve a kayak as they are very limited and the line forms quickly! But, it's well worth the wait and the views from the lake right at the foothills of the mountains is absolutely gorgeous!
2. Colter Bay Hermitage Point Trail: From Colter Bay you can also explore the Colter Bay Hermitage Point Trail, which is an easy but long 10mi trail that walks along side the lake, through the woods and a meadow with beautiful views.
Anyone who enjoys life outdoors is sure to love GTNP with the perfect blend of hiking, water activities, and fun night life for adults and kids alike! Oh, and do yourself a favor and don't forget to pick up some bear spray when you arrive! You'll likely need it!