I ended up at the Grand Tetons after a month and a half on the road, driving from Florida to Seattle in my tiny, two-door Scion tC, loaded to the brim with all of my belongings. Driving into Wyoming, I had so many hikes planned for the Tetons that I didn’t think I would have any downtime during my visit.
Ramen changed that.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m not talking about those cheap, packaged Asian noodles that make up the greater part of the American college student’s diet. Ramen is my cat (well, one of three, anyway), and she came into my life the same day I arrived at the Tetons.
I was heading to the train tracks that cut across the Great Salt Lake while on my way up to Wyoming. About an hour away from any sign of civilization, I pulled over to admire the sunrise peeking over the desert. I got out of the car and sat in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the view.
Suddenly, I heard a high pitched screech coming from the brush behind the car. Curious as to what was making the sound, I waited patiently until a tiny, tan creature quickly darted under the car. Not sure what to make of the little animal, I bent down to check it out. Convinced I stumbled upon a baby desert fox, I peeked my head under the car just as a tiny Siamese kitten came running out into my arms.
Covered in cuts, the tiny kitten, then only six weeks old, nestled into my arms and began to purr. I hopped back in the car, and cracked open a ramen noodle soup to eat for breakfast. The kitten came up and started eating the noodles, and thus I named her Ramen. Luckily, I had one last can of tuna in the car. I opened it and little six week old Ramen finished the entire can within a matter of minutes!
Being the crazy animal lover I am, I adopted her into my life and she continued out the last three weeks on the road with me (after getting the OK from the vet, of course).
Although traveling with a six-week-old kitten made it impossible to do many of the hikes I had planned on the trip, I kept this 5-day itinerary I originally set out to accomplish. Thus, I hope you enjoy this itinerary from my favorite National Park!
Arrive in Jackson Hole
Take a ferry (or hike) at Jenny Lake
Head over to Jenny Lake, one of only two lakes in Jackson Hole that allow motorboat access. For $15 round trip, or $9 one way, you can shuttle across Jenny Lake, taking in some truly breathtaking views along the way. The shuttle takes you to the head of the Cascade Canyon trailhead, eliminating the two-mile hike (each way) around the lake. From this point, you can head to Hidden Falls (0.5 mi each way), Inspiration Point (1 mi each way), or Cascade Canyon, towards Solitude Lake in the North, or Schoolroom Glacier in the South.
You can also hike around the lake to your destination, and take the ferry on the way back. Not only will you get some unique perspectives of the area, but you’ll save time and energy on the way back. There’s no need to purchase a ticket in advance, as they are sold at the East dock and run every 10-15 minutes. If coming back from your hike on the West side of the lake, you may hop on the ferry and just pay at the East dock station after the ride.
Here are outlines for the hikes available on the West side of Jenny Lake:
- Hidden Falls: Great for families with children, this 1-mile roundtrip hike will lead you to a beautiful, roaring, alpine waterfall.
View this post on Instagram
Hidden Falls. Not all hikes have to be strenuous to find beauty at Grand Teton National Park. We opted for a boat ride on Jenny Lake and hiked to the falls pretty quickly. We saw a bear right off the trail munching on huckleberries. (Scroll down in my feed to see the bear.) Can’t blame him. We’re addicted to the huckleberry licorice!
- Inspiration Point: This 2-mile roundtrip hike is more about the hike itself than the actual view. As you approach your destination, you ascend a rocky cliff face looking away from the mountains over Jenny Lake. On a clear day, it’s as if you’re looking across the world to the ends of the Earth!
- Lake Solitude: From the Cascade Canyon Trailhead, this hike is 15.3 miles round trip. It passes by Inspiration Point at mile 1. For a detailed outline of the hike, check out Teton Hiking Trail’s website here.
- Schoolroom Glacier via Hurricane Pass: This strenuous 10.9-mile hike (one way) is a great overnighter. You’ll get up and close to Schoolroom Glacier, a small glacier near South Teton, and its beautiful blue alpine lake. Just don’t climb on the glacier, as it is very dangerous and can result in severe injury or death. You can apply for a backcountry camping permit here.
Sunset at Cascade Canyon Overlook
Before you leave Jenny Lake, take a drive to the Cascade Canyon Overlook by following the signs at the North Jenny Lake Junction. This will bring you along a narrow, one-way road to the overlook, where you’ll stop and admire some seriously breathtaking views of the Canyon before continuing along the road to South Jenny Lake Junction.
Schwabachers landing for sunrise
If you’re a photographer, or even just planning on taking pictures at this popular location, you’ll want to arrive early. If you show up 5 minutes before the sun rises, then you may be stuck behind the row of photographers lining the bank, all trying to get that perfect picture of the Tetons reflected in the still water.
Pro Tip: As you pull up and approach the path to the landing, you’ll notice a trail branching off to the left. This brings you to another lesser known but just as beautiful spot along the river, where you won’t have to fight with dozens of other photographers for a spot. In fact, when I visited, there was only one other person here. Also, during the summer the Milky Way rises directly above the Tetons from this location!
Hike Up To Delta Lake
This strenuous, 9-mile hike can be done as an overnighter, or as a day hike for very experienced hikers (just make sure to apply for a backcountry camping permit if staying overnight). Be forewarned: this hike requires route-finding skills, as well as a steep ascent up a boulder field and is not recommended for beginner hikers or young children.
That being said, it is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Tetons and should not be missed. Free Roaming Hiker has a great trail outline to help you stay on track and not get lost. I recommend screenshotting this article before the hike.
Antelope Flats Road & Mormon Row for sunrise.
This scenic drive is a must do for those visiting the Grand Tetons. See the six remaining Mormon homesteads with the Tetons towering behind them in the background. Drive slow and have your camera ready, as there’s a ton of wildlife in this area. Pronghorn, bison, moose, elk, and coyote are just a few of the animals you might see on your drive down Antelope Flats Road, so keep your eyes peeled!
Moose-Wilson Scenic Drive.
Unfortunately, this road was closed due to construction when I visited. However, I hear it’s the place to be for wildlife. Get your camera out and drive slow. Look for owls in the trees, about 10-20 feet off the ground. I recommend doing this drive midday. Whereas it is too bright to shoot in wide open areas during this time, this road is forested and shady, providing nice lighting even on harsh sunny days.
Oxbow Bend for sunrise.
Upon reaching Oxbow Bend, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a dream. It is one of the most stunning sights we’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. The turnoff is located on the north side of the park, between Jackson Lake and the Moran entrance station. Make sure to arrive early. Just like Schwabacher’s Landing, this spot gets crowded with photographers very quickly!!
String Lake relax day
View this post on Instagram
#funfact : String Lake, located in Grand Teton National Park, is a natural lake located at the outflow of Leigh Lake. A small wetland area on the northwest side of the lake and is prime moose habitat. 😍 . . . 📍String Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole. . . . . . (Fact via : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_Lake) . . . . . . #wildlifecrystal #wildlife #wildlifeig #photography #photographer #wildlifephotography #nature #vegan #canon #canonphotography #sigma #natgeoyourshot #picoftheday #photooftheday #王鹤棣 #natgeoadventure #compassion #conservation #wildlifeconservation #animals #adventure #explore #education #activist #lake #jacksonhole #mountains #grandtetons #wyoming
String Lake is the perfect place to relax and cool off in the warmer months. Located near Leigh Lake, String Lake Loop Trail brings you on a 3.6-mile loop around the lake and gives you some seriously stunning views of the mountains. Hike the loop and relax along the shores of the lake, taking in all of the beautiful mountains around you.
Photograph sunrise at Snake River Overlook.
This historic overlook is where Ansel Adams took his famous picture of the landscape back in 1942. Although trees are blocking much of the view of the river now, it is still a beautiful scene not to be missed on your trip through the Grand Tetons.
See Moose at Gros Ventre Campground.
If you’ve gone all this way and still haven’t seen any Moose, this is the place to see them. Drive slow on the road approaching the campground, as you can see them along the side of the road here and past the campground entrance. Head over in the afternoon for the optimal time to see the Moose in this area. Although these Moose spend much of their time around humans, beware that Moose are still wild animals and are known to be aggressive, so keep your distance.
Where To Stay
Curtis Canyon free camping near the National Elk Refuge has a bunch of free campsites. This is where I stayed during my entire visit, and It was one of my favorite free campsites I stayed at during my entire 2-month USA road trip. Follow the rocky road past Jackson Hole and up the mountain overlooking the town, with the Tetons as the perfect backdrop. There, you’ll find beautiful, free campsites perfect for camping in the summer. If all sites are taken, there is a Curtis Canyon paid campground nearby, as well as more free campsites up Sheep Creek Road.
If you prefer not to rough it camping, but still want the privacy of having a home all to yourself, check out the following spots on AirBnB that will have you dreaming of your say at Jackson Hole:
- This adorable 2 bedroom log cabin!
- This luxurious condo with a rooftop hot tub!
- Fit the entire family in this condo with 6 beds, plus a hot tub!
- This cabin that sleeps 6 with spectacular views of the Tetons for under $100!
Not on AirBnB yet? Sign up with my referral link to get $40 off your first booking of $75 or more!
Jackson Hole runs on tourism, meaning hotels are typically more expensive in the summer (high season) and less expensive in the winter (low season). However, budget travelers don’t fret! There are plenty of Motel 6’s and Super 8’s where you can get a room for under $100/night.
Trying to splurge a little? If mountain views and luxury rooms are more your
How To Avoid The Crowds
Get out early. I mean before the crack of dawn early. Getting an early start while everyone else is still in bed means fewer crowds.
Avoid the high season. Summertime is the time to travel in the states (hello USA road trips!). Therefore, if at all possible, aim for going in the spring or fall. Not only will there be far fewer people, but spring brings fields of wildflowers, and autumn brings beautiful foliage, giving this breathtaking landscape a unique pop of color!
Find hidden gems. I always ask the locals about their favorite, more secluded spots. Take a trip to the ranger station and ask them which hikes and activities they recommend that are less busy during the time of year you visit.