Grand Teton National Park, WY
Grand Teton National Park (Adobe stock image)
By Nushin Huq
Between 2 Pines Magazine
Grand Teton National Park is located just south of Yellowstone National Park, close to the town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s a smaller park than Yellowstone, but plenty of great hiking trails, float trips and horseback riding make it a great park for the entire family.
WHAT TO SEE
Camping on the foothills of the Teton Range is an experience like no other. If you arrive from Jackson Hole in the south, you’ll pass the Jackson Hole airport, the only airport in a National Park. The first major intersection is called Moose Junction. To the left is Craig Discovery Center, the park’s main visitor center. Past the visitor center you’ll arrive a Jenny Lake and later, the larger Jackson Lake. Both with a number of great hiking trails. Jenny Lake visitor center has a boat dock. You can take a shuttle boat ride across the lake to Inspiration Point, a good idea if you have small kids. Another option is to hike around the lake; you might spot a moose. Just south of Colter Bay visitor center, off of Lake Jackson, is the turn off for Signal Mountain, a great place to watch the sunrise.
Take a right at Moose Junction and you’ll find yourself at Mormon Row, a set of old barns and homes, made famous in photographs of the park.
Return to the main road, HWY 89, which meanders along the Snake River and has a number of beautiful pullouts and scenic overlooks.
WHERE TO STAY
Grand Teton has lodging’s to fit all types of budgets, including the famous Jenny Lake Lodge, which is the most expensive lodging in the National Park system. At the other end of the price point spectrum is the American Alpine Club Climber’s Ranch, which caters to rock climbers.
In addition to hotels, there are cabins families can rent. The Colter Bay Cabins are charming. They are clean and nicely furnished. Families can rent cabins with bathrooms or semi-private cabins with shared bathrooms. Note, that these rustic cabins do not have kitchens.
If Jenny Lake Lodge is out of your budget, consider camping at Jenny Lake. Compare paying $600 a night for a room at Jenny Lake lodge compared to under $30 a night for a camping spot. Both options provide great views of the Teton Range. One thing to note is that camp grounds at Jenny Lake cannot be reserved ahead of time and the the grounds fill up fast and will require an early morning arrival. Signal Moutain also fills up quickly. An easier option might be the Colter Bay campground. With over 300 sites, it doesn’t fill up and there are public showers and laundry available there. There are also numerous primitive campgrounds throughout the park as well as an RV park in Colter Bay.
WHERE TO EAT
There are a number of restaurants in the park, mostly open only during the summer season. Like lodging, the restaurants range from high end fine dining to casual coffee carts. There is also a general store in Colter Bay where you can pick up small groceries. A fun place to visit with kids is the Pioneer Grill in the Jackson Lake Lodge. It is a 1950s style diner. It has one long counter that snakes around the room. Another perk of visiting the diner is it’ll give families a chance to visit the lobby of the Jackson Lake Lodge. The lobby has large windows providing an excellent view of the Tetons.
If a picnic is more your family's style, there are a number of picnic areas in the park. The city of Jackson Hole also has a grocery store, where visitors can buy food for a picnic or groceries to make a meal at their campsites. Just remember, this is BEAR COUNTRY! Pack and store all food in bear boxes.
BEST HIKES FOR KIDS
A popular hike and one that is great for kids is the hike to Hidden Falls and up to Inspiration Point. The trailhead is at Jenny Lake. You can hike around the lake, but that adds a lot of miles if you have young kids.
A better option with small kids is to take the ferry across the lake. You’ll save energy and enjoy beautiful views. If you have teens who love to hike, you should consider hiking around the lake at least one way. This hike is very popular and can get crowded to start early. The nice thing about this hike, is that families are rewarded with a view of Hidden Falls at the end of the hike. It’s the perfect carrot to keep the kids going. Once you arrive at Hidden Lake, assess energy levels. Continue on to inspiration point if family members have the energy. You’ll be rewarded with great views!
BEST TIPS FOR KIDS
Grand Teton has a junior ranger program. Parents can pick up guides at the visitor center. When at the visitor center, remember to check out schedules for ranger talks. Some of them are aimed especially for kids, but even the ones that aren’t, are usually kid friendly.
Grand Teton has a number of scenic drives that have pullouts where you can safely get out and enjoy the view, both the scenery as well as wildlife. Besides the main park road, another one to consider is Signal Mountain Road. Drive up to the summit for a beautiful sunrise.
Other activities in Grand Teton NP include fishing, boating, float trips and canoeing, horseback riding and climbing. There are a number of regulations around each of these activities, so check park website before making plans. There are also a number of approved concessioners providing guided activities. These are also found on the park website. Note that some programs, such as horseback riding and float trips often have minimum ages.