A Week in the Mountains: Exploring the Tetons
AniGraham Travels has had the opportunity to visit some of the nations' most beautiful national parks and in our opinion, we thought we knew which one was number one. We thought Yosemite was number one on our list up until this past week when we called Colter Bay Campground in Grand Teton National Park our home. During this time, we spent every day in the Tetons other than one magical day in which we drove to Yellowstone (a must do for at least a day).
Grand Teton National Park had everything we could ever ask for in a park including mountain hiking, lakes for swimming, wildlife, whitewater rafting, and plenty of star gazing. Our journey started from Cincinnati International Airport, and we took a direct flight to Salt Lake City then rented a car and drove 5 ½ hours to the park. The drive itself was a journey and we never thought that Idaho could be such a beautiful state. We made a pitstop in Jackson, Wyoming to get a few supplies before heading into the park to set up camp.
Our first full day in the park was Sunday and we started the morning off early with some scrambled eggs and sausage made using out Jetboil system as we looked at a park map to plan out our day. We decided that we would start off big with one of the most popular hikes in the park. Jenny Lake Loop took us approximately 7.1 miles around one of the most beautiful lakes in the park. For those interested in this hike, we recommend getting their early as the parking lot fills up fast. Early into the hike, with a short detour to Moose Pond, we were welcomed by a giant male moose with huge antlers having his morning breakfast of aquatic vegetation. We stopped at Hidden Falls for lunch before continuing the rest of the way around the lake. At the halfway point, we were greeted by another moose, who was grazing on some lake critters as we watched safely from above on a cliff. The last mile of the hike is when things really started to get interesting as a decent size black bear was making its way up and down the trail, making it the one time I really thought we were going to need to use our bear spray! Thankfully she or he wondered down closer to the lake to eat more berries.
Monday brought sleeping in and only a small hike as we were preparing our bodies for the 15-mile hike we elected to do the following day. Instead of doing the full loop of Phelps Lake, we decided to do half and then return for an evening in Jackson. What we really liked about this trailhead was that the parking lot was very small, and rangers created a one in and one out situation to limit people on the trail. We met some cool people along the way who recommend other parts of the world to visit such as Iceland in the shoulder months. The best part of the hike was watching a bald eagle dive into the water, shattering its glass like appearance, and leaving with a fish. The evening was spent doing some shopping in Jackson and enjoying pizza at Hand Fire Pizza, which we highly recommend.
Tuesday brought the big day, the day that we chose to tackle Lake Solitude through Cascade Canyon. All hikes over 13 miles we have dubbed "teeners" and this teener was at a little over 15 miles. We started off the day early to catch the Jenny Lake Ferry to the trailhead (doing this both ways is important because if not the hike is about 20 miles). Once we landed, we hiked up a mile to Inspiration Point, which provides panoramic views of Jenny Lake and then headed deep into the canyon. Along the 3.7 miles of the canyon, we saw both a grizzly bear and a moose, both from a safe distance of course. Once we reached the end of the Cascade Canyon Trail, we took a right to finish the 2.7-mile climb to Lake Solitude and boy was it a climb! We climbed through a boulder canyon that was tough on the ankles and any time we needed a reminder of why we were doing this, we simply turned around to bask in the beauty of the Teton Mountain Range. Just as we thought we didn't have any fuel left in the tank, we stumbled upon Lake Solitude, which sits right at the base of a mountain peak, tucked in between the Tetons. The hour we spent there wasn't enough, but we had to make the ferry back or we were extending our trip.
Wednesday was a rest day as we allowed our bruised and battered bodies to rest from the hike before. We slept in as long as the sunlight would allow us and then we spent several hours laying out on the banks of Jackson Lake watching the photo-like reflection of the Tetons on the glassy water. Lunch with a view was nice as well! Once we got tired of the sun, we packed up, showered, and headed back into Jackson for some shopping and some real food! For anyone who loves and appreciates photography, we highly recommend stopping in at Images of Nature by Thomas Mangelson. My husband purchased a beautiful photograph of the Tetons from Schwabacher Landing printed on canvas that we should have in a few weeks. After that, we visited JC Jewelers, where I bought earrings with the Tetons etched in them and a stackable ring that is the Tetons as well. For dinner, we had stopped in to Liberty Burgers, which was some of the best burgers we had ever had!
If you are spending time in Grand Teton National Park, it only makes sense to spend at least some time in Yellowstone as they are so close together, which is exactly what we did on Thursday! We got a little bit of a late start to the morning but drove through the southern entrance at about 10:30 am. We decided that since we only had a day and since the park was so big, that we would hit the highlights of the southern loop. We started off with Old Faithful (which we got to see erupt!), Upper Geyser Basin, and the Old Faithful Lodge. After that, we started around the southern loop when Black Sand Basin caught our eyes from the road, and we pulled a safe U-turn. Highly recommend stopping here as the colors of the geysers are amazing! We then drove to Midway Geyser Basin, which is where Grand Prismatic Spring is located (my number one to see!). We back tracked around the loop to Thumb Geyser Basin, which is located right on the coastline of Yellowstone Lake so offers beautiful scenic lake views as well! After that we called it a day and headed back to our campsite for dinner and a campfire.
Our last day in the Tetons was spent checking off some tourist items, packing and watching the sunset. Our first stop was the iconic Mormon Row, which includes two picturesque barns built by settlers John and Thomas Alma over 100 years ago. The John Moulton barn, with the Teton Range in the background is one of the most photographed barns in the United States. Our next stop was to visit Schwabacher Landing, where the photograph printed on canvas Graham bought was taken from. The photo really does do the location justice, which never happens in national parks. We stopped for lunch at the Signal Mountain Lodge, where we had great burgers yet again. After packing and showering, we headed back up to Signal Mountain to watch the sun set behind the Tetons. On the way up, we got to see yet another bear (from a safe distance of course) and on the way down, we saw a herd of at least 40 moose crossing the road. What a sight to see on our last night!
Saturday was a day of mixed emotions as a week in the mountains was not enough and we also missed the comforts of our home. The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks had a little bit of everything for everyone and while they were only our home for a week, their home in our hearts will last a lifetime.