3 Heavenly Days Amidst the Old Granite Cathedrals

How to Have an Unforgettable Trip in Grand Teton National Park
February 8, 2018Cari MorganLong Weekend
— Tobiason/NPS

Whether visiting Grand Teton National Park is part of a bigger national park tour, or you’re simply planning a trip to Jackson, Wyoming and are trying to figure out how to maximize your time in the park, here’s how to make the most of your visit…

Day 1: Learning, Kayaking, Camping

Lit Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center at night at Grand Teton National Park

Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center

National Park Service

Get an early start and grab breakfast on the go from Pearl Street Bagels in downtown Jackson before you make the 15-minute drive into Grand Teton National Park. Or, for a heartier breakfast with an incredible view of the Tetons, stop at Dornan’s Chuckwagon in Moose Junction for their “Secret Recipe Sourdough Pancakes.”

After breakfast, head to park headquarters and don’t miss the chance to stop at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, one of the best interpretive centers in the park system. From here, you can get to know more about the local wildlife, take a stroll along the high-definition projection of the Video Rivers, look at Native American artifacts or even watch a short movie.

When you’re done exploring the visitor center, take a quick ride up US-191 N/US-26 E/US-89 N toward Mormon Row Historic Distric to snap your own iconic shot of the Moulton Barns.

From here, you’ll be able to see Antelope Flats – a critical 640-acre tract of land preserved by the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the National Park Foundation in 2016, thanks to $23 million in donations from private park supporters. While gazing across the flats, you’ll get a deeper appreciation for the wildlife habitat, migration routes, and incredible viewsheds that were protected thanks to this remarkable collaboration.

Four people sitting around a campfire at the edge of a lake at Grand Teton National Park
Justin Bailie/O.A.R.S.

By late morning, you should be on your way to the Signal Mountain Boat Launch, the meeting spot for a guided 2-day, 2-night Jackson Lake kayaking trip with O.A.R.S., an authorized concessioner of Grand Teton National Park and a National Park Foundation partner.

If you’re skeptical about dedicating two days of your trip to one adventure, don’t be. One of the easiest ways to go off the grid and make the most of your time in the park is this boat-supported, fully-catered kayaking trip which allows you to explore the shores and endless inlets of Jackson Lake, and also offers an exclusive opportunity to sleep under the stars on Grassy Island or Spalding Bay.

After you meet your group, you’ll spend several hours paddling to a secluded campsite on the shores of Jackson Lake. At camp, spend the afternoon however you like. Fish for cutthroat trout, hike up a rushing creek to a spectacular overlook, or just relax in the shadow of majestic Mt. Moran before enjoying a guide-prepared dinner and evening around a campfire.

Day 2: Choose Your Own Adventure

A single kayak ashore at a lake reflecting snow-dotted mountain range at Grand Teton National Park
National Park Service

As you crawl out of your tent into the brisk mountain air you’ll be greeted by unbeatable views of the Tetons and the smell of fresh coffee brewing. There’s nothing for you to do but sit back and take in the sunrise and quiet as your guides prepare a hearty breakfast for you. 

Miles of shoreline beckon to be discovered today. In between paddling, you can explore hiking trails hidden along the shore, and swim or cast a line into in the sapphire waters of beautiful Jackson Lake.

Back at the camp, another scrumptious dinner awaits, before a lively evening of stories and laughter around the campfire with new friends, or perhaps a moonlight paddle. Few people get to experience the park quite like this. You’ll feel like you have it all to yourself.

Day 3: Picnic, Hike, Drive

Profile of a bull elk with large antlers in front of a mountain range at Grand Teton National Park
Tobiason/NPS

Enjoy another guide-prepared breakfast at camp before an early morning paddle back to your car at the Signal Mountain Boat Launch. Watch for moose drinking from the shallows, an eagle perched in a nearby aspen, or a family of deer quietly foraging in the woods as you silently glide past the shore in your kayak. 

After arriving back at your vehicle by late morning, you’ll still have a full day for seeing other parts of Grand Teton National Park. Make your way to Colter Bay Village. Here, you can take a leisurely stroll on the paved trail around Colter Bay to stretch your legs before grabbing a casual lunch at John Colter Café Court or stock up on a few lunch staples at The General Store and look for your own personal picnic spot with a view.

After lunch, follow Teton Park Road back to the Taggart Lake Trailhead and tackle the moderate 4.7-mile Taggart and Bradley Lakes loop hike, which offers expansive views of snow-capped peaks before taking you to two stunning glacial-formed lakes at the base of the Tetons. Both lakes will beckon you for a dip. Go for it. And if you’re short on time or energy, opt for the shorter 3-mile round-trip hike to Taggart Lake instead.

Not up for an afternoon hike? Instead, head to Moran Junction and take a scenic drive along the Snake River on Highway 191/89/26. Watch for Bison and other wildlife, take in the sweeping views from the valley and explore the many scenic turnouts on this route as you leisurely make your way back into downtown Jackson.

In town, don’t miss your chance to grab dinner at the Snake River Brewery and dessert at Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream before snapping a selfie in front of the iconic antler arches that frame Jackson’s town square. Then settle in for the night at a local hotel.

Clear, still waters of Colter Bay at Jackson Lake reflecting green treeline and the rocky mountain range behind at Grand Teton National Park

Colter Bay

C. Adams/NPS

Insider tip: If you’re traveling to Jackson and Grand Teton National Park during peak summer season make your travel plans at least six months in advance and be prepared to share the roads, restaurants and trailheads with plenty of people. Additionally, Jackson Lake kayaking trips book up fast and are limited to no more than 12 people per trip. There’s enough park to go around though, so don’t let this deter you from a visit.

Looking for more long weekend ideas in your national parks? Be sure to get your copy of “Road Trippin’” – a free downloadable guide filled with 15 different itineraries for the perfect #FindYourPark/#EncuentraTuParque adventure.


Travel idea provided by O.A.R.S. West Inc., an authorized concessioner of Grand Teton National Park.

Comments

These indeed are our National treasures that are so often missed in a lifetime, bc of air travel or destination itineraries and time restraints. We have visited the Grand Tetons on our honey moon, but only as a drive thru... Bc of your article next time we will explore and breathe in more of its beauty. Thank you for the light to ignite our next stay there.
Diane
Weygandt

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