Grand Teton National Park

String Lake hike
String Lake hike

When I was a kid, I was gifted a Sierra Club engagement calendar, a datebook with a nature photo facing each week’s grid. One week’s photo was of the Tetons, and it spoke to me so strongly that I cut it out of the book and stashed it away. I still have it! So I was a teeeeeeny bit excited to finally see Grand Teton National Park in person. Was the bar set high? Yes. Did Grand Teton still exceed my expectations? Duh.

Grand Teton National Park has it all: dreamboat mountains, lakes, wildlife, forests, meadows, and for some reason way fewer people that its neighbor Yellowstone. We spent six days near the park: two inside the park, and four in a nearby town at a commercial campground. I wrote a separate post about our out-of-the-park experiences in Jackson and Wilson and hiking in the national forest; this one will focus on what we did inside the park.

Campground

the Airstream at Signal Mountain Campground

RVers have several campgrounds available in Grand Teton, with pros and cons to each. Three are large, with lots of services and lots of RVs:

  • Gros Ventre (pronounced à la Française: “gravant”) is the largest in the park, and closest to Jackson. Some sites have power.
  • Colter Bay is close to the restaurants and shops in the main visitors’ area, which weren’t open during covid. The RV section of Colter Bay has full hookups.
  • Headwaters is between Yellowstone and Grand Teton and would be a good base for exploring both parks, although kind of a long drive to the best stuff in both parks. The RV sites have power. This campground does not get cell reception.

and two are smaller and maybe more peaceful:

  • Lizard Creek is a small, primitive campground on the northern side of Grand Teton, giving you easier access to southern Yellowstone. Max RV length is 30 feet, including tow vehicle.
  • Signal Mountain has 25 sites (of 81 total sites) with power, and a couple of those overlook Jackson Lake. All the sites are a short walk from the lake, and there’s a no-generator section. Max RV length here is also 30 feet including tow vehicle… oops, because that’s where we stayed. J is an excellent driver, but it was definitely tight driving around the loops and finding an available spot we could fit in. Our trailer is 28 feet, for reference. I didn’t realize until reading the NPS site now that the 30 foot limit included the tow vehicle!

Anyway, Signal Mountain was wonderful. It’s wooded and pretty, and with its location toward the northern side of Grand Teton, it allowed us to focus on hikes up there, knowing that we’d be hitting the southern end of the park from our next stop. Downsides of the campground are that the spots are pretty close together and not very private, and we didn’t get cell reception there. Maybe that last one should be an upside.

the awesome camp store at Signal Mountain
Bugsy at Jackson Lake

The camp store just outside the campground was fantastic, with an espresso bar and impressive food choices. The best part of Signal Mountain, though, was the access to Jackson Lake. The scenery at the lake is bonkers, and nobody else was ever there. Bugsy wasn’t there either, not ever, not at all.

Hiking

Bradley Lake hike
Bradley Lake trail

These hikes may not be at the top of the most popular, must-do lists, but that means fewer people on the trails with you! And no matter where you go in Grand Teton, it’ll be gorgeous. I recommend this site for choosing hikes based on length, location, and bang for your buck. Remember that dogs can’t hike at most national parks, including Grand Teton. We’ll tell you about some nearby dog-friendly national forest hikes in our next post.

a grizzly!

Oh yeah: pack your freaking bear spray!!! We saw this beastie from the car, so I felt sliiiiightly safer! Can you imagine running into one of these critters on a trail?

Two Oceans Lake – Emma Matilda Lake Loop

Emma Matilda lake

As described here, this is a thirteen-mile loop around two lakes with lovely forests, water views, and mountain vistas. We shortened it a couple miles by hiking along the north side of each lake, thinking that the north side of the Emma Matilda loop might be prettier than the south side anyway, based on trail descriptions and topo maps. We can’t say for sure if we were right, but the hike was great, and very unpopulated.

String Lake

String Lake

This was a lovely loop, short (under four miles) and easy with gorgeous views–and so more people. We also shared the trail with an enormous elk at one point. If you have a little more time, consider adding Leigh Lake for a total of 5.8 miles.

Taggart Lake – Bradley Lake Loop

String Lake hike

We loved this hike, but so does everyone, so go early! The parking lot at this trailhead fills up early and seemingly stays full all day. We recommend hiking to Bradley Lake first so you’re traveling in the direction of the insane mountain views. The loop is just over five miles, and is an easy hike.

Moose Pond

My number one goal for the entire trip was to see a moose, so of course we did the Moose Pond hike. It’s very short (2.4 miles) and very easy. Take your lunch and sit for a while on the rocks at the lakeshore and hope a moose gets thirsty. We saw one! Barely, through trees, across the water. But it was very exciting!

Driving

Mormon Row barn

Drive the scenic loop! It’s long, 42 miles, but holy cow those mountains. Stop at overlooks, take pictures at Mormon Row, maybe don’t bother driving up Signal Mountain.

chilling by Jenny Lake

Definitely include the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive in your loop, and definitely park at a pulloff once you can see the lake and definitely find a social trail leading down to the rocky shore and chill for a while. We went twice with a cooler and a certain forbidden friend! DO IT.

Boating

Jenny Lake

Apparently you can bring a boat to Jackson Lake, and you can kayak on the smaller lakes. We can’t tell you anything about that. What we can report, though, is that the line for the Jenny Lake boat shuttle was absolutely bananas. On our someday wishlist is to hike to Lake Solitude, which requires a boat shuttle (unless you want to add four miles to a 15-mile hike), so we’ll have to figure out how to manage the shuttle without going insane–if you have any suggestions, please let us know!

In conclusion, I LOVE THIS PARK.

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