I love Grand Teton National Park. I mean, seriously, I have fallen in love.
But it wasn’t always that way. I had not visited a National Park in well over a decade. Even then, I’ve only driven through Yosemite quickly. I am a National Park Service newbie, and vacationing at a National Park seemed like an unusual concept to me (strange, but true).
A visit to Grand Teton National Park this year was a spur of the moment decision. We’ve been wanting to go to Yellowstone for years. After the second year in a row of finding out that no hotel rooms were available in that national park (you MUST book in May the year before), I got frustrated. Then I started looking at this other National Park that was close by that seemed to have some great reviews – Grand Teton National Park.
Yeah, I am so thankful that I did.
We looked into rooms in the national park and found that Jackson Lake Lodge had availability right as their season opened. I was going to be in Salt Lake City (5 hours away) at the same time for a conference, and decided to extend my stay and plan my first ever National Park vacation.
(Insert trumpet music and horns blaring here.)
As my Instagram feed blew up with people liking the photos as I was posting during my Grand Teton National Park stay, I could see that there is way more interest and excitement about visiting America’s National Park System than I ever realized.
There was a lot to enjoy, and more than enough to fill several trips back to the Grand Tetons. These are the 11 Amazing Things about Grand Teton National Park and why you should go!
If there is one view that can literally take your breath away, I’d say it’s the mountain range in Grand Teton National Park. I could sit for hours just watching the mountains. And I did.
As you drive through Grand Teton National Park, there are many pull out stops where you can take amazing pictures of the Teton mountain range. They are all amazing, trust me. Yet during our stay, I found that some of the best views were on our hikes – and they weren’t even strenuous hikes in remote locations. (Check out where we hiked in this blog post)
Jackson Lake Lodge
This National Park lodge is a stunner. An absolute stunner. It is expensive, but it’s not as expensive as I’ve seen chain hotels in some other not so desirable locations with far less quality. We stayed in the Mountain View Cottage, a collection of hotel rooms removed from the main Lodge.
These clusters of three buildings with unimpeded views of the Teton mountain range come with balconies in which you can just sit all day and watch wildlife (a momma Moose actually bolted in front of our patio as she was protecting her baby who was laying down in the parking lot just a few feet away. It was a definite adventure that the whole Lodge was talking about the next day. We saw how NPS immediately came in to protect the perimeter of the Moose and her baby and keep stupid photo-taking tourists a safe distance away.)
I had never heard of huckleberries before. Yet when I found them as an ingredient in everything served up at Jackson Lake Lodge, I quickly did some investigating. I’m allergic to raspberries, so I was afraid of an allergy, but huckleberries are more like a blueberry. Not quite as tart, but sweeter.
I soon had a new favorite fruit!
Huckleberries cannot be cultivated, and they can only grow in the wild. Bears like huckleberries, too. So going out in the woods to gather huckleberries can be a bit problematic.
I’m glad someone takes a chance with a bear encounter, though, because everything that the Jackson Lake Lodge did with huckleberries, from cocktails to a demi glace over bison, was amazing!
You’ve pretty much got to be unable to work a camera if you can’t snap a picture of the mountain range and come back with a drool-worthy photo.
Sure, lighting and weather help. But, man, these views are just screaming for photos to be taken!
I appreciate any restaurant that features local, sustainable food choices. When you’re out in the middle of the woods, though, and you’re still offering guests organic options at fair price points – then you are a superstar!
A lot of our dining was at Jackson Lake Lodge, where there was an emphasis on local, sustainable foods. Yet we found healthy and even organic options everywhere in the National Park system. A surprise was Leeks Restaurant at Leeks Marina in Colter Bay. This Green Star certified restaurant serves up organic flour in its pizza crust, soy milk, and organic ice cream.
Close to Yellowstone
Just an hour or so drive from Yellowstone National Park, I’d suggest staying at Grand Teton National Park to avoid the crowds and drama and drive in. You can still see a lot of the park all in one day, or just do a few day trips if you’re inclined.
I thought that Yellowstone would have been my favorite, but I soon found out that Yellowstone doesn’t compare to Grand Teton National Park. There are far too many tourists in Yellowstone, and it feels a lot like Disney World, with long lines, tour buses, and waves of crowds.
We’re from Florida. Hiking on anything with more than a 5 foot elevation change is strenuous to us right now. I can easily say that there are plenty of easy, gentle hikes for those that are just beginning to get into hiking, or haven’t done much hiking before.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be prepared. Don’t wear flip flops, dress appropriately for the weather, bring water and snacks, and still be alert for wildlife (yes, they are everywhere, even on the smallest of trails).
There seemed to be lake access everywhere in Grand Teton National Park. I love seeing lakes and mountains wherever I went. If you’re looking for an excellent picnic spot, you’ve got many to choose from at Grand Teton National Park.
The staff are hand-chosen to come work here for the entire season. These are the best of the best. They are friendly, smart and knowledgeable. Our waiter in the diner was actually an engineering student going back to get his Masters degree.
Close to an Airport
Jackson Hole airport is just minutes away from the main entrance to Grand Teton National Park. It’s easy and convenient to take a flight out of the tiny airport with amazing mountain views. Yet flights aren’t always scheduled depending on time of year and your carrier. I chose to fly out of Salt Lake City, Utah, which is about 5 hours away, because American Airlines had stopped service during the time that I was at Grand Teton (which, I think, was one of the best times – before Memorial Day).
Close to Jackson Hole
If you feel the need for city life, especially a strong presence of Western art galleries, jewelers and upscale restaurants, the town of Jackson Hole is about 45 minutes away.
Have you ever been to Grand Teton National Park? What did you like most?