The sheer grandeur of the Teton range has to be seen to be believed. Grand Teton National Park is truly a spectacle of the natural order. These jagged peaks, lakes and forests defied our expectations and (though it won’t stop me from trying) any writing or photos cannot do the beauty of this place complete justice.
Just about an hour south of the wonders of Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park commanded our attention all its own. The park’s mix of great hikes around beautiful lakes under towering peaks along with fun relaxing on lakeside beaches or in Jackson Lake Lodge’s grand lounge was a real treat.
The other highlight was spending an afternoon and evening relaxing on Colter Bay’s pebble beach. Sitting out in the sun, we had a picnic lunch and then dinner as the waves rolled in before a backdrop of the Teton mountains. And we stayed into the evening to watch the sun set over those same mountains. We had such a great time here we came back twice more to enjoy the same beach.
Another fun thing to do in GTNP is get up early to watch the sun rise! As the sun rises, it hits the high peaks of the Tetons first, casting a striking red glow that grows downwards and across the mountains, changing from pink to red to orange. There are lots of good spots to view this spectacle, but a couple of the best are from Jackson Lake dam and from Oxbow Bend.
The only downside to Tetons is the campgrounds - they’re all privately run, meaning they’re all expensive. There’s no camping in the park for less than $20/night. This was not in our budget, but we were lucky enough to have heard about a great free camping option from Deana, the camphost at the Tower campground in Yellowstone. Just north of the park’s northern boundary, there are free (14-day limit) campgrounds along the snake river. There’s no running water, but there are picnic tables, firepits and clean-enough vault toilets. (Happy to tell you more about finding these if interested - just send us a note!) So we stayed outside the park and drove in everyday, which was kind of nice because it kept us out and about much more than otherwise, and the considerable campground savings more than made up for the cost of extra gas.
Grand Teton National Park is a gem of the National Park system, holding its own in a crowded field. It’s no wonder Horace Albright and John D. Rockefeller worked for years to buy up and secure the lands around here to create a national park. We’re all more fortunate for their efforts to have this amazing place protected as a national park!