Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

oxbow bend overlook - Tetons

What amazes me most about the Tetons is the way they just jut up out of the plains to almost 14,000 feet with no foothills to hide them.

I camped there with my family and my brother’s family a few summers ago. I wish I could go back for a month! What a beautiful area.

(I visited them the first time when I was in my 20s…on a ski vacation with some friends. I’m not a skier, so going down those steep mountainsides was terrifying! I managed to live to tell about it though.)

Some highlights for us:

Jackson Lake

We stayed at the large public campground next to the lake, Colter Bay. We couldn’t see the lake from our site, but a 5-minute walk brought us to the shore. We’ve got thousands of beautiful lakes in Minnesota, but none with 13,000-foot mountains behind them! Pretty spectacular.

The lake is 15 miles long and 7 miles across at its widest. There apparently was a natural lake there originally (fed by the Snake River), which was enlarged by a dam built about a hundred years ago (for irrigation).

jackson lake and tetons

Jenny Lake and Cascade Canyon

Much smaller than Jackson Lake, but literally right up there at the base of the mountains. Super picturesque.

One of the most popular hikes in the Park is the one at Jenny Lake up to Inspiration Point — about 700 feet above the water. We opted for the ferry ride across to the trailhead to shave off a couple miles each way, which was a good idea.

The hike winds along a river with the 200-foot Hidden Falls, then up to the Point. Most people stop there, take a look and go back down. A handful of us decided to take a friendly stranger’s advice and head into Cascade Canyon a little ways. Stunning!

Cascade Canyon hike

String Lake

string lake

We had a picnic lunch here after the Jenny Lake hike, and jumped in for some swimming. Well, some of them jumped in — the water was freezing! It was the first week of July, and there had been tons of snow in the mountains that year, so the snow melt was still feeding into the lakes. Brrrr!!!

Again…a little bitty lake that’s right at the base of these huge mountains. Very cool. This was the only place in both Parks we saw anyone swimming (besides us). A little odd for us Minnesotans, but there you have it.

The wildlife

Both the Tetons and Yellowstone are known for their abundant wildlife. We saw some of the local deer, elk, fox, pronghorn, bison and, yes, bears.

I’ll admit I was heading into this trip with some misgivings about the grizzlies. The Park Rangers do a great job of keeping campers strictly observing the rules about using the “bear boxes” (heavy metal boxes with bear proof handles for storing food) and not leaving anything laying around the campsite (even empty water bottles).

We knew we weren’t going to head into the back country for any serious hiking, so didn’t get bear spray. But — very sadly — the week we were there, a hiker was killed by a grizzly up in Yellowstone. They’re nothing to mess around with.

Grizzly mama and cubs

Jackson

The valley where the town of Jackson is located is called Jackson Hole. The town itself is just Jackson. We spent an evening there wandering around, looking through the (very expensive) gift shops and enjoying the Western flavor of the town.

Every night in the summer the local theatrical group does a fun Shoot-Out melodrama type of thing on the street corner. Hundreds of people (including us) were out there watching.

Of course in the winter Jackson is a major ski town, with the Jackson Hole Ski Resort just up the road.

* * * *

Some of the most photographed places in America are in Grand Teton National Park. I think that may be what the Park is most known for — its beauty.

We liked it for all of the above reasons. And because it’s adjacent to Yellowstone  we were able to get two-for-one (literally, the park passes included both parks). Not nearly enough time in either one, but what a great trip for outdoor lovers.

(PHOTOS: 1 – Mt. Moran from the Oxbow Bend Overlook; 2 – my son in Jackson Lake; 3 – me in Cascade Canyon; 4 – a kayaker in String Lake; 5 – grizzly mama with her twins)