Grand Teton National Park is just south of Yellowstone, so we visited there next. When we arrived, there was so much smoke from wildfires in Idaho and Montana, that we could barely see the mountains! They were ghost mountains. We were questioning our decision to visit, but thankfully each day got clearer.
The Teton Mountains became a National Park in 1929, but the Jackson Hole valley next to the mountain range was not included. John D. Rockefeller Jr. bought up the land nearby, and donated it to the park service, which became a National Monument in 1943, and was added to the park in 1950.
These mountains are different from other ranges because they were created by earthquakes, which made a fault, and one side sank down (the valley), and uplifted the mountains on the other side of the fault. The mountains are made of granite and still rising, so they are very craggy and sharp. They also have no foothills, so there aren’t any roads to drive into mountains. Because of this, the beautiful mountain views are really important to the enjoyment of the park, which is why we didn’t really go crazy for this park when we first arrived and everything was a smokey haze.
One of the first things that we saw was a black bear! We had turned off the park road heading to the Colter Bay Visitors Center, and it was in the bushes and trees nearby. Later in the week, we saw two more black bears on Moose-Wilson Road, and a mama and cub in Yellowstone as we drove through leaving Grand Teton. Five bears in a week! Bears are really hard to photograph. They move quickly, and we don’t want to get too close. I know bears are out there, so the bear spray is always handy.
The most popular hikes in the park are near Jenny Lake, which is one of the glacial lakes at the base of the mountains. There is a ferry that takes hikers to the other side of the lake to cut a few miles off the hikes. On the other side of the lake is a waterfall called Hidden Falls and a deep canyon called Cascade Canyon. We decided not to take the ferry out, and hiked first to Moose Ponds, where we saw a male moose. He spent a lot of time in the two ponds with his face in the water, happily eating lake grass, and lifting his face out to breathe. We watched him for awhile, and by the time we moved on we realized we spent an hour and a half on moose-admiration!
We hiked to Hidden Falls, and from there to the boat launch (half a mile) was pretty crowded, since a lot of people take the ferry and hike to the falls. The trail that connects Hidden Falls to Inspiration Point, and on to Cascade Canyon was closed, so we had to take a detour. After we passed the boat launch the hike got steep. I struggled with this part, and I wasn’t sure if the mile-long uphill would be worth it!
Once we got into Cascade Canyon, the trail followed a river into a valley between the mountains. This was the best part of the hike (besides Moose Ponds), and I wish we could’ve spent more time there, but we didn’t want to miss the last ferry back, which left at 4, now that they are running on fall hours.
We caught the ferry, which I referred to as my rescue boat, and I was thankful that the 8 or so mile hike wasn’t longer.
Just south of the park is the cute touristy town of Jackson, WY. We went there for dinner one night, and groceries, and to check out the cute shops. Unfortunately the Airstream doesn’t have space for the bear throne.
The last full day that we were in the park, Brian got a one day Wyoming fishing license, and we hiked out to Phelps Lake and he fly fished on the north side of the lake. Bringing his waders and boots and fishing pole on the hike added a lot of weight to his pack.
When we got to the trail, there was a closure where 0.1 miles of trail was closed and there was a rerouted that was 0.6 miles. This added a mile to our round-trip hike, and it seemed unnecessary for it to be so long. The trail was nice, and we hiked next to the lake.
When we got to the north side, there was a small beach that Brian used to get into the lake, and I hung out on the beach while he was gone.
I had a traumatic experience while waiting for him to return. I saw a small object floating along in the lake. I looked closer, and it was the head of a snake, swimming effortlessly through the water! My waking nightmare.
Brian caught two Cutthroat Trout, and kept them. He generally keeps fish when it’s allowed, because we like to eat them. In Yellowstone all the cutthroat trout are protected (catch and release), but here he could keep up to three.
The hike ended up being about 9 miles, including circling the lake, finding the right spot to fish, and the (too long) trail reroute. It didn’t require much uphill hiking though, so it wasn’t too challenging. It was a great hike!
We boondocked on National Forest land, in a spot that is practically in the middle of the park. The views were beautiful. Aside from the lack of hook-ups or toilets, it was hard to believe it was free!
Brian cooked delicious meals, including ricotta-saffron pasta, wedge salads, beef cooked over the fire, and fresh-caught trout. It’s a pain to wash the dishes when we are boondocking, because we have to be careful of water use and tank space (especially since we need to shower too!), but I’m glad the propane water heater is working again.
Grand Teton National Park is beautiful, and we enjoyed our visit here. It took a few days to grow on us though, maybe because of the wildfire smoke, or the trail closures, but I think it’s mostly because Yellowstone is a hard act to follow.
Day 350 | Mile 37,234