Grand Teton National Park Guide

(This post is part 6/6- make sure to read the others. While you’re reading, click anything blue and you will see I attached links and additional images for more information!)

Well, we hit the end of our trip with the last stop being at Grand Teton National Park. We were so excited to finally get here after spending all day in the car (10 hours) from Bryce National Park. Continue reading to see how we felt and how we filled the last few days of our honeymoon.

*All times included time spent taking pictures/enjoying the views.

* We visited towards the end of June

Day 1- Thursday

As I mentioned above, we spent a large portion of the day in the car traveling from Bryce National Park. Although a long day in the car wasn’t ideal, the scenery the entire time was beautiful! A lot of the campgrounds at Grand Teton National Park are first come first serve which scared us a little, but we were luckily arriving on a Thursday night and were told we would most likely be fine. When we were about 2 hours out, I called the Signal Mountain Campground and they informed me that there were three hook up spots left- when we arrived we found one! The campground has electric hook up only. Dump station and water station available at all times, laundry, post office, general store, restaurants, bar, tours, water views, and is $55 a night (may be cheaper for tent but I am not sure). We were going to stay at another first come first serve campground with no hookup but the forecast predicted temperatures in the 20’s overnight and we knew we would need to run our heat which is why we chose Signal Mountain. After we got all checked in, we went to the Signal Mountain Lodge Restaurant for dinner. Our food was SO GOOD and we had views of the water/mountains the entire time. Definitely check this place out even if you are not staying there. We ended up doing laundry after dinner as it would hold us over for the next few days. Our wash was $3 for a small load and $5 for a large load, the dryers were $1.

Day 2- Friday

Greg and I woke up without alarms again today! It felt so good to sleep in… until 9:15. We woke up and got ready for our exciting day on the water through the Grand Teton Lodge Company. Before our trip, we had a few minutes to spare so we checked out the Jackson Lake Lodge which was amazing- they have gift shops, cafes, and great views of the mountains while you sit by the fireplaces.

Grand Teton Lodge Company – Lunch, Wild and Scenic River Raft Trip

We knew we needed some sort of adventure on our trip so we booked a lunch raft trip (Click HERE for more information). We departed from the Jackson Lake Lodge at 11:30 and around 12 we arrived at a private (well 9 of us private) outdoor lunch area right on the water. They offered burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, cookies, tea, hot chocolate, coffee, lemonade, and water. We were accompanied by a nice fire because of how cold it was. After we ate, we all got in the raft and enjoyed a 10-mile scenic view down the snake. Our guide was great and pointed out the names of the mountains and the various wildlife like bald eagles, osprey, moose, geese, ducks, racoons, etc. over the 2 hours we were rafting down the river. We had a great time and would definitely do this again if we were to visit. It even snowed for about 20 minutes which was funny because it was the first day of “summer.” The cost of the trip was $90 a person- food/drink included.

After our lunch trip we decided to check out the visitor center to stamp our passport and add to our patch collection. As we were walking out, we noticed a sign that showed a free ranger led hike that was going to start in 15 minutes, perfect timing! The hike was for the Swan Lake Heron Pond Hike.

Swan Lake Heron Pond Hike

Distance- 3.8 miles

Time- 3 hours – longer time due to frequent stops filled with education from the ranger

After completing a ranger led hike, Greg and I would recommend you complete it at least once. You learn more about the park and they point out which wildlife you would be seeing along the way. We were led by Ranger Jim who was so great.

We finished right around dinner time and headed to the Ranch House which is located next to the visitor center. We both enjoyed our meals and the pricing was not bad. Our total was $47 for 2 soup/salad buffets, 2 beers, and an appetizer.

Day 3- Saturday

Today was such a fun and different day. I read online about a 42-mile scenic drive around Grand Teton that was recommended so that is what we decided to do.

42 Mile Scenic Drive

Distance- 42 miles (can be longer if you decide to go to all of the lookouts)

Time- As long or as short as you would like

This drive took us 6 hours because we took our time at each of the viewpoints we visited. We also stopped at Taggart Lake Loop and completed their 3.8-mile hike. The following is what you will see if you complete this drive from North to South and then back up:

  1. Colter Bay Visitor Center: Enjoy the all new American Indian arts exhibit or meet a guest artist. Take a short stroll on one of the trails along Jackson Lake. Ask a ranger about what to see and do in the park or join a ranger-led activity.
  2. Jackson Lake Dam: One mile west of Jackson Lake Junction, Jackson Lake Dam raises the level of Jackson Lake a maximum of 39 feet. Enjoy the views of Mt. Moran.
  3. Signal Mountain Summit Road: This 5-mile drive turns east 1 mile south of Signal Mountain Lodge. This windy road climbs almost 1,000 feet above the valley floor to the summit. Two overlooks provide panoramic views of the Teton Range and Jackson Lake.
  4. North Jenny Lake Scenic Drive: Turn west at North Jenny Lake Junction onto a 4-mile, one- way scenic drive.
  5. South Jenny Lake/Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point: Hike around Jenny Lake and up to Hidden Falls. Enjoy the shuttle boat or scenic cruise (fee charged).

Taggart Lake Loop

Distance- 3.8 miles

Time- 2 hours

We enjoyed this hike very much, although we were a little on edge the entire time because we did not have any bear spray. The loop on this hike has many different views and is good for all skill levels.

  • Menors Ferry & Chapel of the Transfiguration: Turn east ½ mile north of Moose. Stroll through Menors Ferry Historic District to explore homestead and pioneer life in Jackson Hole. Visit the Chapel of Transfiguration where the altar window frames the tallest Teton peaks.
  • Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center: Watch the film and explore the interactive natural and cultural history exhibit.
  • Mormon Row Historic District, Antelope Flats/Gros Centre Loop: Mormon Row is 1.5 miles east of the highway. Tour iconic historic barns and homesteads. Look for pronghorn, deer, moose, bald eagles, and bison.
  • Snake River Overlook: Stop at this turnout for spectacular views of the Teton Range. Ansel Adams took his icon photo of the Snake River and Teton Range from this site.
  • Cunningham Cabin Historic Site: Take a self-guided walk through the oldest historic building remaining in the park. Look for badgers and coyotes hunting in the nearby meadow.
  • Oxbow Bend Turnout: Located 1 mile east of Jackson Lake Junction, a meander of the Snake River attracts wildlife. Mount Moran provides a backdrop for a classic photo opportunity.
  • Willow Flats Overlook: Stop at the turnout 6 miles south of Colter Bay for a view of extensive wetlands and meadows.

OTHER PARK INFORMATION

SHUTTLE SYSTEM– We did not use the shuttles here and believe you can only use it if you are staying at a lodge… not sure on how accurate that information is.

VISITOR CENTER- Definitely make a stop here, the rangers can provide you with any information or questions you may have, you can buy souvenirs at the gift shop, grab free maps (we lived off of using ours), and get a stamp for your National Park Passport! We added to our National Park patch collection here.  

SERVICE- We had limited service and WiFi at our campground and some while driving through. 

FOOD- We packed a lot of snacks for our hikes including trail mix, crackers, etc. Having the RV available after each hike was very convenient for meals as well. There are many restaurants located in the park, just ask around for recommendations.

LAUNDRY– There was a laundry facility at our campground.

WEATHER– It was cold! It snowed on the first day of summer here which was crazy to see coming from Florida. Definitely look up the average temperatures before you visit and plan accordingly.    

TRAILS- If you are limited on time, plan out your top trails and do them first; you might be surprised that you have extra time in the day that allows for more adventures.

FIREWOOD- You are not allowed to gather branches for firewood, it must be purchased.

GAS- There were gas stations inside the park and were much cheaper than ones outside the park, fill up whenever you can.

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDATION– Book something other than a hike!

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDED HIKE- Taggart Lake Hike

After the scenic drive, we drove to spend the afternoon in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We ate Liberty Burger for lunch and enjoyed our meals and a milkshake for dessert! We had to wait about 15 minutes after arriving because it was a busy spot for lunch.

Before the trip even started, Greg and I knew we didn’t want to spend our last night in Wyoming as we had to drop the RV off in Salt Lake by 11:00am the next morning. In order for this to happen, we would have had to wake up by 4:00am and get on the road. We decided to look for free places to park for the night closer to Salt Lake. Online we found Cabelas, Bass Pro Shop, REI, etc… any outdoor shop will let you park in their parking lot for free! We ended up finding a Cabelas in Idaho but after arriving, we realized we were only 2 hours away from the Cabelas in Salt Lake. We decided to make the drive so we could sleep in even longer tomorrow. Our last night consisted of packing up and watching Netflix.

We woke up and headed to the Salt Lake City Cruise America location- the return process took about an hour but was relatively easy. From there, we got an Uber and headed to the airport which meant our honeymoon was officially over.

Greg and I had the time of our lives and we are still so happy we decided to do this trip. We were already planning our next route in as we waited at the airport. Our only regret was not taking the next day off of work. Our flight landed at 11:00pm and by the time we got home and in bed it was 12:30am. Work the next day was TERRIBLE.

So, how do you think we did on our miles? Do you think we hit our goal?

Unfortunately, we did not hit our goal of 100 miles but we came so close….. 96 miles!! 96 miles by foot on our honeymoon is amazing and we would do it again tomorrow if we could!

Let us know what you enjoyed most while reading through our posts. Is there anything we didn’t cover that you would like to hear about? Let us know! As always, feel free to reach out if you need help planning a trip or have any further questions!

Planning a National Park Honeymoon

Planning a trip to a National Park or planning your honeymoon, I am here to help! I have already done the work and hope you can take something from this. Be aware, this is long but can be helpful!

Greg and I have always loved to travel, especially together- we met in Europe, vacationed in the Bahamas, traveled back to Europe together, and went on many local weekend trips together. While talking about our honeymoon we realized we have seen more of Europe than the USA. We decided our honeymoon would consist of renting an RV and traveling to various National Parks out west.

I am writing this before we go on our honeymoon- this was the planning process and our itinerary, I will write another post after the honeymoon regarding tips, things I wish we knew, what I would do different, etc. (Stay tuned!)

The first part of our planning process was deciding when to visit. We knew we wanted to visit during the warmer season but also had a lot to think about: summers at the National Parks are crowded (people have said they felt like they were at Disney, not appealing to us!), some parks remain closed up until the end of May or beginning of June due to the snow not melting, traveling during a holiday probably isn’t the best idea, and deciding when we could afford to take 3 weeks off work was huge. After much talk, we decided our trip would be June 2019.

Second. We have set the dates, now what? Where do we want to go?… or should I say where can we really go during our 18 days without being on the road every day and being able to relax… I mean this is our honeymoon. We looked at a map and realized in order to get the most out of our days, starting in California will be best.
After researching multiple parks, we decided our trip will include: Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Grand Teton while making a day stop at Horseshoe Bend (20-minute detour while traveling from Grand Canyon -> Zion). Now, if you are reading this thinking “What, why aren’t they going to (INSERT PARK HERE)?!”, listen, if we could, we would literally quit our jobs and visit every park but that is not possible right now… we will visit every park, just give us time; our 2nd trip is already in the works.
Thanks to Google Maps, we were able to see the distance between each park and plan how long we could stay to make the best out of our time. Planned is: 10 days of no driving AT ALL and 8 days that requiring driving (average of 3 hours with 2 days that have a 10-hour drive).

Third. How do we get around? Okay this process was much more stressful than anticipated mainly because we were not planning a “round trip”, we knew we wanted to start in 1 state and end in another. CRUISE AMERICA offered this option but we had to get special permission as they must keep specific inventory at each one of their rental locations (this is much more complicated than “special permission”, it required us to change our trip about 10 times… no lie, before they gave us permission). Their cheapest RV to rent was the 7 passenger RV but that was 1: way too much space for the two of us and 2: way too big of an RV for us “first time RV drivers” to drive. The rental we ended up booking was the 19-foot compact RV that holds up to 3 people (much more expensive than the 7 passenger- around $2,000)- don’t worry, it has a shower, a toilet, and a small kitchen!

Fourth. Yay, the “when and where” is booked, now time to book the flights. Let me tell you, the app SkyScanner is AMAZING. Enter your: From/To locations and your travel dates and the app will do the rest including: tell you when prices are expected to rise/go down, and give a 1-10 point rating based on details such as when you will arrive, if there is a layover, price, etc. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
For our trip, we will be flying from Tampa to San Jose and then Salt Lake City to Tampa (we got our flights for $193 each heading to San Jose and then $177 each heading home to Tampa).
Our flights also were based on where rental locations for Cruise America were located (Newark, CA and Salt Lake City, UT). 

Wait, where are we going to sleep?  Yes, we have the RV but where will we park? The fifth part was booking RV sites. If you are reading this and plan to travel within the next 6 months, book now, Yosemite National Park fills up the day they open reservations!!! For real, call or look on RECREATION.GOV for more information- we found it was way easier to call rather than look on the website (877- 444-6777), you can talk to someone who knows more about the area and they can do a search of multiple campgrounds at once. We booked our trip 6 months out and only got into 2/4 National Park Campgrounds, Lodgepole Campground at Sequoia for $22 a night and Mather Campground at Grand Canyon for $18 a night (they are much cheaper than regular RV parks and campgrounds so we would have liked to get in more- Bryce National Park and Grand Teton are “first come first serve” so we will be heading there… still unsure of where we will sleep if they are full).
** Call the number above even if it says the campground is full, especially if you are staying more than a night. We have to change campsites at one location but we are able to be in the park.
** Make sure you research the rules of the campground ahead of time and plan, most do not let you run an RV generator during the night.

Sixth. The big details are done but now, what are we going to do to fill our days? How are we doing to enjoy the parks in the time we have?
So… I am a planner, I like to do my research, and spend way too much time looking up information but can you blame me? I want to make sure we are making the most out of our time. I wrote down each park name followed by certain information including: best time to visit, average temperature in June so we know what to pack/wear, common attractions, best things to do, where to stay, tips, things to remember, etc. (Greg and I also bought a National Park Adventure Guide off of Amazon that has the “Top 10 Things to Do” in each park, find it here -> NATIONAL PARK GUIDE BOOK).
Here is what we have planned at each park knowing this will not take up our entire time but will allow for free time to explore and get recommendations from locals:

  1. Yosemite National Park- Mirror Lake Trail, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Loop, Tunnel View
  2. Sequoia National Park- Moro Rock Trail, Congress Trail, Big Tree Trail, Tunnel Log, Topokah Trail
  3. Grand Canyon National Park- Ooh Aah Point/Cedar Ridge, Bright Angel Trailhead, Mule Barn, Grandview Point Lookout
  4. Horseshoe Bend- Sightseeing
  5. Zion National Park- Narrows Hike, Angels Landing, Emerald Pool Hiking Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail
  6. Bryce National Park- Navajo/Queens Garden Loop, Sunset Point, Tower Bridge Hike
  7. Grand Teton National Park – SNAKE RIVER LUNCH RAFT TRIP, Colter Bay Village Marine kayak/boat rental, 42 Mile Scenic Route.

** Greg and I have done some leisure hikes while we lived in NJ so all of these listed above are at most considered “moderate”, like I said I will be writing another blog about our trip/hikes once we return.
** Some hikes in the park require a permit, do some research before you go… none of these require a permit.

Seventh, packing list. I think this is the worst part, right? Each park has a different average temperature listed in June so I know I am going to over pack, not like anyone ever does. Other than clothes, here are some essentials: backpack (preferably one with a water bag to stay hydrated), hiking shoes, bug spray, flashlight, copy of you license, rain jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, portable battery pack, medication (you don’t want to get a headache or feel sick while you are on a 6 mile hike), National Park annual pass (worth it if you plan on going to 3 or more parks in a 1 year period), snacks, first aid kit., etc.

Eighth. RELAX BECAUSE YOUR TRIP IS PLANNED AND START A COUNTDOWN!

Things to remember: make sure someone has a copy of your exact itinerary, you’ll want to plan on checking in but be aware you may not have service everywhere you plan to go, let them know!