Majestic mountains. Pristine glacial lakes. 230 miles of trails. A couple days in Grand Teton National Park is the perfect complement to any trip to Yellowstone. In fact, it would be a crime to go to Yellowstone and NOT stop in Grand Teton. The two parks are separated by just 10 miles but are wildly different. While Yellowstone has the “it” attractions such as geysers, canyons, and hot springs, Grand Teton has a dramatic beauty that almost no mountain landscape can compete with.
I spent two days in Grand Teton. Sadly, the weather didn’t cooperate. I was only able to get glimpses of the incredible peaks when the rain stopped and the clouds dispersed for a short time. That didn’t take away from my time there, as there was so much more to the scenery. It allowed me to focus much more on what was immediately in front of me, such as the trees, wildlife, and human element of the park.
There are three entrances to Grand Teton – from the east at Moran Junction, from the south at Moose Junction, and from the north coming from Yellowstone. I entered from Yellowstone and there was no gatehouse or entrance fee along the road. If entering from the other two sections, the park entrance fee for a private vehicle as of May 2016 is US$30 and is good for seven days. A combination pass for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton can be purchased for US$50. If you have an interagency pass, park entrance is free.
There are three visitor centers in Grand Teton. I only stopped at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. The others are the Colter Bay Visitor Center and the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center at Moose Junction.
For accommodation, there are several options available including choices between lodges, ranches, cabins, and campgrounds. In some areas, you’ll be able to find all kinds of amenities including restaurants, souvenir shops, grocery stores, gas stations, auto repair shops, and more. There are seven options for indoor accommodation and five developed campgrounds. Availability can be an issue for popular lodges and campgrounds so book early. Check the website for details on operating seasons and prices.
We stayed at Colter Bay Campground. We arrived around noon and were able to get a great tent site. It’s easily the best site I’ve had in any national park. It was secluded, had a nice, flat surface for the tent, had a picnic table, fire pit, and its own bear box. We were a short walk from the bathrooms. As of May 2016, campsites at Colter Bay cost US$25 per night.
The campground was located at Colter Bay Village. We used the small grocery store and souvenir shop for our cookout and repair needs. There was also a decent restaurant which we used to get out of the rain and warm up. They had free wifi in the restaurant but our server wasn’t very friendly (same guy twice). A gas station, laundry, and showers were available as well.
Park rangers take bear safety very seriously. We were unlucky and didn’t see any bears, but we were warned of a black bear in our campground. Bear spray is sold at stores in the park and is recommended for hikes. Many other potentially dangerous animals live in the park other than bears, including bison, moose, and elk. It’s best to keep a safe distance from these animals as well.
Fishing, back country hiking and camping, cross country skiing, horseback riding, boating and other activities are available. Check the official website for more information on these activities and a schedule of ranger guided programs.