A Perfect Day in the Tetons
After a quick two days in Yellowstone, we headed south to the Tetons for the second leg of our whirlwind trip. Unfortunately, since we had a flight to catch out of Salt Lake City, our time in the Tetons was limited to 24 hours. We could have maximized our time by scheduling our return flight from Jackson Hole rather than Salt Lake, but those flights were egregiously expensive. One day is not nearly enough time to dedicate to Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding area, but it’s all the time we had so we made the most of it. To be completely honest, we preferred the Tetons to Yellowstone even despite the limited time we spent there. Make no mistake, Yellowstone is an incredible park, but the crowds did detract from the experience to a certain extent. That’s not to say that the Tetons and Jackson were devoid of crowds, but in comparison it felt like we had the whole park to ourselves. Despite being such a beautiful park, the Tetons lack the geysers, waterfalls, and ubiquitous wildlife that makes Yellowstone such a household name, so you’re not forced to share the space with as many selfie-hungry tourists.
Grand Teton National Park is separated from Yellowstone by the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway and it’s only about a ten minute drive from Yellowstone’s south entrance to the northern entrance to the Tetons. Given their proximity, it makes a lot of sense to combine the two parks into one trip.
The panoramic mountain views in the Tetons are as good as they come. Denali might be the most impressive single mountain we’ve seen, but we’re not sure we’ve seen another mountain range as spectacular as the Grand Tetons. As you traverse the park by car, the temptation is to pull over at every opportunity because every view is more jaw-dropping than the last. Even driving outside the park boundaries on Highway 191 provides some of the best mountain views we’ve ever experienced.
There were a few fields of wildflowers along Teton Park Road…Needless to say we stopped at all of them.
Canoeing on Jackson Lake was the highlight of the Tetons, and quite possibly the highlight of our life. We rented a canoe at Colter Bay Village for $20/hour and it was worth every penny. The mountains rise above the lake and were a constant backdrop as we paddled around. We stopped briefly on one of the nearby islands to take in the scenery from shore, all the while remaining cognizant of our surroundings since we were warned that grizzlies occasionally swim to the islands. Luckily we managed to avoid getting eaten by bears, but it would have been nice to see one from a distance; the only wildlife we saw in the park was a deer and an elk.
We did a poor job of documenting our time in Jackson, but we loved it. It was obviously a touristy spot, but much less tacky than most other tourist towns that we’ve been to. There was a seemingly endless array of good restaurants and shops, incredible scenery, and it still managed to cling to some semblance of the old western feel. We had dinner at The Merry Piglets the night we drove in from Yellowstone and had a late lunch at the Town Square Tavern before heading to the airport the following day. Both were excellent. Despite not being big skiers, a return trip to Jackson in the winter will almost certainly have to happen sometime in the near future.
In conclusion, Grand Teton National Park managed to earn itself a guaranteed spot on our “Mount Rushmore” of US national parks over the span of a mere 24 hours. It’s in the running with Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias for #1 on our list of favorite parks. Obviously if we had more time we would have done a lengthy hike, gone horseback riding, and probably done some fishing, but we didn’t have the luxury of time. One day was much too short, but it was an incredible day that we won’t soon forget.