The National Park Service is hosting a campaign this year to Find Your Park. Twenty years ago, as a little girl on a family vacation, I found my park. It most definitely is Grand Teton, and I have been back to visit almost every year since. Seeing those mountains on the horizon lifts my spirits and cleanses my soul. It may sound a little cheesy, but I don’t know what I would do without the Tetons in my life.
You can imagine my complete elation when I was offered a job as a Park Ranger at Grand Teton National Park. I lived in the shadow of the Grand for six glorious months and had the experience of a lifetime. Driving through a herd of elk almost every day on my way home from work, watching bears play in the meadow behind my house, and trekking to the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen became a normal way of life for me.
I love Grand Teton National Park so much that if I find out a friend hasn’t been, I personally take them on a weekend trip to show them the sights. Obviously I cannot do this with all of you, but consider this my attempt to offer myself as your personal tour guide! It was difficult to cut my list down to 5 so if you would like more ideas, please click here!
1. Hike to Phelps Lake on the Lake Creek Trail
Phelps Lake is a sparkling blue natural alpine lake that has gorgeous views of Death Canyon and the Teton Range. The Lake Creek Trail is one of the newest trails in the Park. It is a beautiful trail that follows water for most of the way and twists among the trees.
What You Need to Know
The Lake Creek Trail and the Woodland Trail form a loop so I usually end up taking the Lake Creek up and the Woodland back. The trail starts from the Laurance Rockefeller Preserve, which is an experience in and of itself. It has an incredible sound room and a beautiful picture display.
The thing about the Laurance Rockefeller Preserve is that it has extremely limited parking. I mean EXTREMELY. I have waited for 45 minutes just to get a parking spot. I know I say this a lot, but get an early start and get there as soon as you can. This is one that you will not want to leave to chance. RV’s are not permitted in this area.
The alternate is to drive to the Death Canyon Trailhead (high clearance needed) and hike to the Phelps Lake Overlook. You won’t be right on the water, but you will get a stunning view!
One last thing, Phelps Lake has an epic jumping rock. It’s about 30 feet high and so much fun! I once did a midnight hike there with a bunch of friends, and when we got there we encountered three drunk, naked men playing banjos. So there you go. Another story for another day. But really, if you are interested in jumping off a rock into a lake, contact me.
The Lake Creek/Woodland Trail loop is 3 miles round trip and is a great family hike.
From Jackson, head north on US-191 and turn left at the Moose Junction. Pass the main Visitor Center. Across the street from the Post Office, and before you hit the entrance station, you will see the Moose-Wilson Road on your left. Turn here and travel on this road until you see the turnoff for the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center on your left.
2. Hike (or Ski) to Taggart Lake
The hike to Taggart Lake is a great introduction to the lakes and views that Grand Teton has to offer. It sits at the base of the range with spectacular views of the Grand. I often see bears and moose on this trail as well, so if you are looking to see some bigger critters, this is a good place to start.
What You Need to Know
Taggart Lake is a busy hiking area, although once you get to the lake there is plenty of room to spread out and find solitude. The hike itself is gorgeous and features several unique landscapes along the way. This is a great family friendly hike. It is also one of my favorite trails to cross-country ski in the winter.
The trail to Taggart Lake is 3 miles round trip, with the option to continue the loop to Bradley Lake which makes it 6 miles round trip.
From Jackson, head north on US-191 until you get to the Moose Junction. Take a left at the junction, pay the $25 entrance fee at the entrance station, and then continue on for 3 miles until you see the Taggart Lake Trailhead on your left.
3. Boat Across Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls
The Jenny Lake and Hidden Falls areas are probably the most popular spots you can find in Grand Teton. The Falls are beautiful, surrounded by trees and as they spray glacier-cold water on your face. This area can be accessed by a trail that circles Jenny Lake, or you can take a shuttle boat across Jenny Lake and get awesome views of the Teewinot Mountain.
What You Need to Know
The Jenny Lake area and I have a love/hate relationship…..mostly hate. It is beautiful but the crowds are overwhelming. In my opinion, there are so many better places to go in the Park. That being said, you need to visit Hidden Falls once. The waterfall really is nice and the boat ride is fun for the whole family. Check out this website for more information about the shuttle boat.
Beware of the squirrels and chipmunks in this area. They have become so dependent on humans, they have no fear. Your lunch will get snatched in the blink of an eye if you are not careful!
The trail to Hidden Falls is 1.1 miles round trip if you take the shuttle boat, 5.2 miles if you hike around the lake. If you are feeling really adventurous, continue on the trail to Inspiration Point. The best part of this area, however, is beyond Inspiration Point and into Cascade Canyon.
From Jackson, head north on US-191 until you get to the Moose Junction. Take a left at the junction, pay the $25 entrance fee at the entrance station, and then continue on for 9 miles until you see the turnoff for South Jenny Lake on your left. Turn here and follow the road to the parking area. Walk on any sidewalk that heads toward the lake and you will be led to the shuttle boat service on the dock. Continue past the dock if you are going to hike around the lake.
4. Swim in String Lake
String Lake is the best place to get your feet wet in the shadow of the Teton Range. I love String Lake! The water is so shallow (especially in the northern part of the lake) and in some parts you can walk all the way across to the other side. The bottom is sandy for the most part so it really is the perfect spot for kids to splash around. Every time we go on vacation as a family, we bring our blow-up pool loungers and just relax with the most beautiful view before us. It is also a great place to bring a canoe or a stand-up paddleboard.
What You Need to Know
The secret to String Lake is to hike up the trail toward Leigh Lake until you find a great sandy beach. My favorite spot is about 0.5 miles up the trail in an area where the trees open up to the lake and there is a bench. It is always my go-to. And yes, I have been spotted making the hike in my swimsuit and flip-flops carrying a bunch of pool toys.
If you opt to stay closer to the parking area, there are some picnic tables and sandy areas (though not as shallow) that you might be able to snatch up. This area is popular for a reason, and it can sometimes be difficult to find a parking space.
From Jackson, head north on US-191 until you get to the Moose Junction. Take a left at the junction, pay the $25 entrance fee at the entrance station, and then continue on for 10 miles until you see the road to North Jenny Lake on your left. Turn here and take a right at the stop sign to follow the road to the String Lake area. Do not park at the first parking lot you get to and continue on to the end of the road. If the parking lot at the end of the road is full, you may need to backtrack to the other parking area that you passed on your way in.
5. Snap a Photo at Oxbow Bend
Oxbow Bend is one of the most picturesque places to snap a photo of the Teton Range. I love how the beautiful Mount Moran is reflected in the still waters of the Snake River. Often times you will see river otters splashing around in the water. Occasionally you will find a moose grazing along the shoreline.
What You Need to Know
From the parking area, take a very short hike down a steep hill to get to the water. This is the best place to get a great picture. If you want the best chance of seeing wildlife, get here early in the morning or at dusk.
From Jackson, head north on US-191 for 30 miles until you reach the Moran Junction, US-287. Turn left and stop at the entrance station to purchase a $25 entrance pass. Continue on US-287 for 3 miles and you will see the Oxbow Bend turnout on your left.
Wow! That was hard to narrow down! Have you been to Grand Teton National Park? What is your favorite spot?
Check out my other posts on Go Adventure Mom!
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