Grand Teton National Park might just be Jessica's favorite place in the entire United States.  Jessica has visited before and raves about the beauty of the Tetons.

Dave wasn't so sure what all of the gush was about, until he got there and saw them.
Grand Teton National Park is a special place, folks.  There is simply no denying it. 

When this is your view, you're having the best kind of day.

Grand Teton National Park was our first stop following Yellowstone.  The park is not far from Yellowstone and actually backs up to the south end.  Since we were staying at the Lake Lodge Cabins by Yellowstone Lake which is just off the Lower Loop, we were only about a 45 minute drive away.

Once you arrive in the park, there's still some driving to be done depending on where you are headed.  However, Grand Teton Park is not near as spread out as Yellowstone.  Your average drive from place to place in Grand Teton is around 10-15 minutes instead of a solid 45 in Yellowstone. 

First up, we'll share about our lodging in the park.  We made reservations over a year in advance and we'd recommend you do the same if you are planning to stay in the park.  Lots of people who visit the Tetons stay in the park or in Teton Village.  There aren't tons of options so book early.

If there is one view Jessica won't ever forget, it's the view of the Teton Range from Jackson Lake Lodge.  From the moment she laid eyes on it growing up, she knew she had to stay there one day.  So, we did.  We'll warn you, the rooms are not cheap (although they also aren't the most expensive in the park).  But, they are worth it and we'd definitely stay there again.

101 Jackson Lake Lodge Road
Moran, WY 83013
(307) 543-3100 

Jackson Lake Lodge is a full-service (hello!) eco-hotel that serves as the hub of activity in the park.  The property houses several restaurants, retail shops, adventure outfitters and a heated outdoor swimming pool.  It's truly a one-stop shop for all of your needs in the Tetons.

It is the perfect place to stay if you're visiting the Tetons and want to stay in the park.  Anytime we venture to the Tetons in the future, Jessica insists on us staying here at least one night.  The lodge is typically open each season from May through October.  You can check exact dates on their website.

"Breathtaking" does not begin to describe the view at Jackson Lake Lodge.  

Room choices in the actual lodge are limited and include a room with two queen beds and no balcony (which would be more ideal for family stays) or the only two-room suite on property.

Instead, we opted for a King Patio Cottage which included outdoor seating.  If you can, splurge for a cottage with a view of the Teton Range.  Looking back, it probably would have been worth it.

When you're visiting someplace like the Tetons, you aren't spending much time in your actual room anyways.  However, the cottages with a view would be extremely ideal for an early morning cup of coffee or a late night cap.  Of course, you'd have to make sure you've got bug spray.

You'll also want to note that no rooms have a television or air conditioning.  Dave was a little worried about this one, but we survived (and didn't really need it).  The King Patio Cottage was a huge step up from the Pioneer Cabins at Yellowstone and we were so excited to have a full (separate) bathroom and a coffeemaker.  After our first four nights, this was like staying at the Ritz!

The Lodge makes dining easy with several options right off the lobby to choose from.  The Pioneer Grill is the perfect place for a quick meal.  It is a less formal setting than the others and has a classic 1950's-style service.  We stopped here for lunch and were both pleased with our selections.

We should give you full warning to save room for a milkshake after your meal here.  Grabbing a milkshake for a late night treat (with a view) is also a great option, just saying!

The Blue Heron Lounge is a great spot for lunch, dinner or a casual afternoon snack on the patio.  They have space inside, but we'd recommend sitting on the deck to take in the views.  Even if you aren't hungry then treat yourself... grab a drink and relax while taking in the stunning scenery.

The Mural Room was hands down our best meal of the entire trip.  Besides the unbelievable food, we had a panoramic view of the Teton Range while dining.  It doesn't get much better than that!

The food and the views could not have been better.  If you're visiting the Tetons, whether you are staying in the Lodge (or even the park), you need to carve out time to experience a meal here.

You can grab breakfast, lunch and dinner at any of these spots (minus The Blue Heron for breakfast) which makes dining super easy plus you've got plenty of options.  Each of these spots are unique in their own ways.  Since we were staying at the Lodge it was perfect for us to try each of them. 

There is also food served by the pool, but we didn't end up checking it out.  A pool just doesn't have much draw when you could be aimlessly staring at the Teton Range.  We also didn't have any littles along needing entertainment, which we know might have made the pool more appealing.

You can't go wrong staying at Jackson Lake Lodge, and if you don't plan to stay there then at least stop by.  You won't want to miss the views!

A lot of our entertainment in the Tetons (besides just staring at all the beauty) was hiking!  The Tetons plus hiking are the perfect mixture of two things that Jessica absolutely loves.

Dave however, would prefer taking in views while sitting in a comfortable chair on a patio sipping on a refreshing cocktail.  It has been said that Dave is not an outdoorsy person, but an outside (on the patio with a drink) kind of person.  One is not better than the other, but there is a difference.

If you're interested in hiking, there is lots of it in the Tetons.  In fact, on this vacation the Tetons were the most ideal place for hiking that we visited.  It was a good thing for Dave we were only here for a couple of days!  You can find a full brochure for suggested hikes in Grand Teton National Park here.

There can be a lot that goes into picking a trail including length, location and difficulty.  There are short hikes in the park that would be ideal for almost anyone (including littles) along with pretty strenuous hikes that can even require specific gear.  Most of the hiking maps give you good details. 

We encourage you to use the hiking brochure to map out trails that you might be interested in before your trip.  However, once you arrive, we'd recommend asking people what they'd suggest since they're more familiar with the area and will know of things that might be timely to your visit.

When we arrived and chatted hiking with folks, we found out about construction on a handful of the tails and even a couple of trails that were closed due to bear activity... like Hermitage Point.

We had NO bear sightings in Yellowstone (sigh).  After hearing that specific trails were closed due to bear activity in the Tetons we got our hopes up that we still might have a chance.  Be Bear Aware! Bear Spray! Do not approach or feed animals (duh!).  Stay at least 100 yards from wolves and bears.

These were all of the things that we were seeing and hearing.  To say the least, we had high hopes that we'd get to spot a bear in the Tetons, especially after seeing all kinds of these signs...

After all that, the only thing we saw were bison and elk.  We saw no bear and did not even see a moose.  Although we were a tad bummed, we were also glad that we didn't come across any while we were hiking.  You win some and you lose some, but we'll be back one day looking for them!

Our hikes were around Jenny Lake, Colter Bay, String and Leigh Lakes.  Each hike in the Tetons can be so different depending on where you are.  If there are specific things you'd like to see, ask people once you arrive what might be best for you.  We even switched up our plans a little once arriving.

First up on our hiking list was Jenny Lake.  There are several trails around the area.  Some hikes are shorter (and easier) and others require a little more effort.  This area was under lots of construction while we were there and portions of certain trails were actually completely closed because of this.

You can take the long way and hike around the entire Jenny Lake Loop (7.1 miles RT), or you can take a shuttle boat across and hike once you're on the other side.  To maximize our time (and keep Dave a happy camper) we opted for the shuttle boat and it ended up being a great choice!

You do have to purchase a ticket to ride the shuttle, but we thought it was well worth it.  You can check out all of the ticket options and additional information on the Jenny Lake Shuttle here.

Once we arrived on the other side, we hiked to Hidden Falls.  If you're able to, we encourage you to hike as much as possible in the park.  The views you get up close and personal are absolutely stunning!  The hike to Hidden Falls is pretty easy and only about a mile if you use the shuttle boat.

We took our time hiking and stopped several times along the way.  There are moments you must pull out your camera and there are other moments that you've just got to stop, exhale and try to take it all in.  There are times that you stop and hope that you'll remember the moment forever.

Another hike that we had our eyes on in the Jenny Lake area was Inspiration Point.  Riding the shuttle boat across the lake cut this hike down to about two and a half miles from a little over seven if you do the entire loop.  Warning: Inspiration Point is more of a moderate to strenuous hike.

Unfortunately, we reached a point (that the Park Ranger had previously informed us about) that the trail was closed due to construction.  We decided we'd go ahead and hike as far as we could and once we reached that spot, we'd turn around to come back.  Hey, isn't it the effort that counts?

If you talk to people that visit the area, lots of people will tell you that hiking around Jenny Lake is one of their favorites.  After doing it ourselves, we can see why.  There are so many different hiking options.  Plus, it's a great area to hike for different ages and capabilities with the shuttle boat option.

After our morning at Jenny Lake, we drove north to hike around String and Leigh Lakes.  There are loops around both lakes that give you gorgeous views with terrain variations while hiking.  You can begin at either trail head to make your way towards more strenuous hikes in the area.  You'll want to keep in mind that the canyon trails have more difficulty and require a decent amount of climbing.

We (more like Jessica) had her heart set on a few more trails while we were visiting.  They included areas around Bradley, Taggart and Phelps Lake with quick variations in views.  Our plan was that while we were staying in Teton Village, we would drive back into the park for these hikes.

Once we arrived in Teton Village, our plans changed.  Instead of going back into the park for more hiking, we welcomed the idea of staying put (which is not the norm for us).  We had toured, hiked, drove, explored, saw all the sights - we had done it all.  We had been waking up early and staying up late to soak in every bit of being out west and fit in as much as we could the first week of our trip. 

When we got to Teton Village, we decided to vacation.  We relaxed, we rejuvenated, we enjoyed, we were care-free, we appreciated, we laughed, we played, we rested, we loved, we vacationed.  It was the absolute most perfect way to wrap up our entire experience of this trip.

We were able to do all of this with the views, feeling and calmness that Grand Teton National Park provides.  It is such a special place and we were so thankful to get to experience it together this time around.  It doesn't get much better than being in a place that you love so much with your person.

The bottom line is to go on as many hikes as you can while you're in the Park.  We get it, hiking is not some people's thing (hello, Dave!).  We encourage you to try it.  Pick an easy trail, pick a short trail.

Just pick a trail and get out there and enjoy the beautiful nature all around you.  We'll be back one day for the trails we skipped.  Sometimes you just have to listen to what you heart needs and if you do that, you quickly realize that it's much more important than crossing all the things off your list.

Colter Bay Village was another area that we ventured to a couple of times while we were in the park.  It is close to Jackson Lake Lodge and has an onsite marina.  The view from Colter Bay is gorgeous with the water right in front of the range.  It is also the perfect outdoor adventure spot.

Although we ventured again and again, Colter Bay was our first official stop once we were in the park.  After our drive from Yellowstone, we had plans to grab lunch at John Colter Cafe Court.  We had pizza and beer which were both great.  You can never go wrong with pizza and beer.

After our not-so-fun experience rowing in Yellowstone, we decided to try our luck kayaking instead.  We had the best time!  There are daily rentals at the marina, and we'll warn you that these go fast.  We lucked out and closed out an afternoon of adventure with a couple of hours out on the water.

There are a couple of things that we loved about this experience.  First and foremost, the view.  Oh, the view.  I mean, we couldn't get over the scenery.  We were literally just out kayaking with nothing in front of us but the Teton Range.  It was so amazing that it is honestly hard to describe.

You are given a map when you rent the kayak and there are areas that you can actually beach.  This was unique and not something that we were expecting to be able to do.  Hermitage Point was off limits due to bear activity, but we were able to pull off at another spot to take some photos. 

Beaching is easy, but getting back in your kayak and going again afterwards isn't quite as easy... especially when the current has picked up and you're going against it.  We laughed so hard.

We also ended up getting pretty wet, but man we had the best time.  Our entire little kayak outing was so great.  We'd highly encourage and recommend the experience if you're visiting the park.

There are a handful of other activities to do in the park.  You can do anything from scenic rafting to horseback riding and fly fishing.  Look into all of this and do your research beforehand if there is something that you're really interested in doing.

Depending on when you are there, you might have more flexibility in being able to hold off on daily adventures like these until you arrive.

In addition to all of the activities, there are a couple of other things we'd recommend you do while in the park.  You can find sample itineraries on the park's website that were created for specific lengths of stay.  These are great to use to pick out important things to do while you're there.

Whether you're driving through the park for a day or if you're staying for an entire week, the sample itineraries are a good resource to assist you in planning.  We didn't follow any of them exactly, but we did look to compare and pull out a couple of things that seemed like "musts".

One thing you must do is visit Oxbow Bend.  This is the infamous spot where the Teton Range perfectly reflects in the Snake River.  There is a turnout with plenty of room to park your car and get out for photos.  Of course, this would be an absolutely stunning place to be at sunset.

Speaking of sunsets... it really doesn't matter where you see it from, but you must plan to see it.  We grabbed our camera to get set up with plenty of time to enjoy the sunset.  Don't get caught up in all the photos that you forget to take it all in.  There is truly something magical about the moment.

We caught the sunset behind Jackson Lake Lodge where the views of the Range are just stunning.  If seeing the sunset is important to you (which it should be), then we'd recommend making sure to steak out a spot with your camera early to ensure that there aren't other people in front of you.

Like Oxbow Bend, there are similar pull outs with views of the Tetons all over the park.  Take your time while driving and always have your camera (and tripod) ready.  It might seem like you've seen the Range from that angle and you don't want to stop and lug everything out of the car... again.

These are once in a lifetime photographs.  These are once in a lifetime views, regardless of however many times you've visited.  This place is special.  This place is magical.  Stop!  Take your time!  Take the photo again that you've already taken with the same view that you already had.  Just take it all in.

When you're hiking, wear athletic and loose fit clothing.  We even suggest wearing sleeves during the day to protect you from the sun and insects.

Try to see the Tetons from as many different angles as possible.  The different locations allow you to view completely different parts of the range.

Remember when kayaking that for as far out as you go, you must save some energy to be able to paddle back.  You laugh at this, but just wait.

To check out more about our Family Reunion in Yellowstone, click here.
To see even more posts from our grand adventure out west, see below...
Yellowstone - Upper Loop

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