Grand Teton Vacation Highlights
Deciding to add the Grand Tetons to a trip to Yellowstone with the family is a no brainer. They are so close to each other, and you’ve already traveled a fair amount to get to this region of America. I’ve already shared the planning and highlights of our Yellowstone trip. We decided on a group trip, but you could plan ahead and take part in some of these amazing activities on your own. So now I’ll fill you in on the highlights of our time in the Grand Tetons, to help you do just that.
As a whole, the Grand Tetons are less crowded than Yellowstone. It seems like it is a world away due to the quiet majesty of it all. There is a reason for this. The Grand Tetons are very strict about issuing new permits for tour operators, etc. and there are fewer animal jams (traffic jams caused by wildlife). I think the contrast between the two parks makes visiting them in one vacation a perfect idea.
For the Grand Tetons, our jumping off city was Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We stayed in a Hampton Inn with free breakfast and it even had a fireplace in the room. You can check out my previous post about my sticker shock on Jackson Hole hotels. Our group camped in the Grand Tetons at Colter Bay Village Campground. This campground was magical. The first morning as we were eating breakfast at the provided picnic tables, I looked over to see a deer only 10 feet away in the trees. The boys thought that was so cool. We didn’t feed her, as that is strictly forbidden in all of the parks, but it was a nice start to the morning.
Hiking: My favorite hike in the Grand Tetons was the Emma Matilda Lake view hike. Almost 7 miles of hiking and we didn’t see anyone until we got within a mile of Jackson Lake Lodge. The beginning of the route seemed like a great hike with aspens, meadows of wildflowers, etc. About halfway through, the hill and meadows open up to a picture postcard view. We just couldn’t stop staring. It was incredible and awe inspiring. While I think teens could tackle this hike, our boys chose to go horseback riding from Jackson Lake Lodge instead. Their review of horseback riding was, meh. If you are a big city family and don’t see horses much, your kids might like it more than mine did. But I’m glad the adults did the hike.
Boating: There are two lakes that allow boating in the Grand Tetons. Visitors can rent canoes and kayaks to enjoy what Jenny Lake has to offer. The only boating we did in the Grand Tetons was on Jenny Lake. We took the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake to the base of Mt. Teewinot. Reservations are not required, but you might have to wait in line for the boat for a few minutes. From the bottom of Mt. Teewinot, you can hike to Hidden falls (0.5mi), up to Inspiration Point (0.5mi), and even take the long way back (2mi instead of the boat shuttle return) around Jenny Lake to your original starting point. Because of the short hikes and easy access, there were lots of families on this hike. It was the most crowded hike we took. Of course, it was the summer high season too. The view from the lake of the Tetons jutting up behind the water was the main draw here.
Biking: Due to the limited number of tour permits allowed in the Grand Tetons, even our group trip used a company called Teton Mountain Bike Tours. The boys favorite one was the Antelope Flats tour. With the flat description right in the name of the tour, you can guess that there wasn’t that much of an incline. This was actually the first bike ride of our entire trip, so biking at what felt like the base of the Grand Tetons was exhilarating. The guides know exactly what routes to take that still give you the scenery without being on a main highway with cars whizzing by. The support vans give you a great sense of security in case you are just not feeling it that day. There was always a guide in the front and back, so no one felt rushed or held back. Major turns were usually marked by the support van in some way.
When I look back at the pictures of our week in these amazing national parks, I can’t stop smiling. We didn’t just drive by in the car, stare at something for 10 minutes and move on to the next thing. Our active adventures made us a part of this land. Not to mention that cell service was spotty most of the time, and it was great to sort of unplug for the week. It’s hard for the boys to do the iPhone prayer (bowed head, playing on the device) when they’re biking, hiking, boating, and camping. Whether you do it on your own, or with a group like we did, you’l still need both hands free to keep up!