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Grand Teton National Park: Part 1

The start of our epic Go West adventure began with our flight into Jackson Hole, WY.  I knew conceptually that the airport was actually in Grand Teton National Park and we would have some keen views, but man what views!  It was like getting punched in the face with big sky mountainous beauty! 

View of sky and mountains on tarmac of jackson airport, airplane and equipment infront

We went through a cool Antler archway, that is a nod to the larger famous antler arches in George Washington Memorial Park in downtown Jackson (more on those in a later post.)  

Man and Boy at counter in Jackson Wy airport

Our first stop, after the bathroom of course, was picking up our bear spray from the kiosk in the airport from Teton Backcountry Rentals.   We never had an occasion to use it, but was the Boy Scouts say, ‘Be Prepared!’

We then took our shuttle bus from the airport, in the opposite direction from the park to the rental car lot in downtown Jackson.  Some rental car shops have their lots directly on site next to the airport, but Hertz did not.  Keep this in mind, as it added another hour or so to our trip.  It worked out best for us actually, as we got an amazing rate on the car rental and were able to stop in at the Alberston’s grocery store to pick up snacks, and other food items.  They have a much better selection and price than any of the convenience stores in the parks.

Drive to Jackson Lake Lodge

After a very long travel day, our first day was just driving to Jackson Lake Lodge and getting settled. For our trip in Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, we decided to stay in the lodging within the park.  Price was a bit higher, and we had to plan many months in advance to get the rooms we wanted, but it was very convenient and allowed for easy access and less driving overall.

Even with our simple objective of just getting to the hotel, we were presented with some amazing views and sites. 

Grand Teton National Park Sign with Teton mountains in the background
Grand Teton National Park Sign

The one thing that my wife mentioned on our drive up to Jackson Lodge, was that she hoped to caught glimpse at least of a Moose.  Realizing that it may not happen, she was hopeful that we could see one at some point in our stay.


On our way to the hotel, we noticed a number of cars pulled over on and after the bridge over Christian Creek River.  We were tired, but curious.  We passed the bridge and pulled all the way over off the road, and then walked back to the bridge.  MOOSE!  They were some ways off, which is good.  No need to get too close, but my wife got her wish, on the very first day!

Brush and trees and three moose
Look real hard, there are Moose!

As we checked in at the front desk the long travel time started to set in, and we were eager to drop stuff off and to get something to eat.  After some time finishing up our meal, we strolled in the back patio and just took in the view.  There is a nice walking trail to a small hill Lunch Tree Hill Trail to the right of the hotel.  There is plenty of opportunity to take in the amazing view, while eating or having a beverage on the patio.

I have to say that Jackson lodge has the best view of any hotel we visited.  A huge window wall in the back lobby allows for impressive views of the entire Mountain range.   That is one thing that I could not get over, is just the presence of the majestic views of the mountains. 

View from interior second floor of Jackson Lakde Lodge
large window in Jackson Lake Lodge
sunset view with red flowers in foreground and mountains in background at Grand Teton National park
View from back patio of Jackson Lake Lodge

A note on food.  Our dinner was calories, and we got energy from it, but that is about it.  I have to say, that the food options are limited, and quality of the food was merely adequate.  This pretty much was consistent for our entire dining experience in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. There were some surprises (huckleberry ice cream is the bomb!)  The snacks we bought in Jackson were a life saver, and we should have stocked up more.  Be aware of this situation for you personally planning. 

Special Note:  Make sure to walk upstairs on the second floor to check out the ‘World Peace Table’. Back in 1989, Secretary of State, James Baker III and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze met and used the table on display during the meetings held at the hotel between US and the USSR.

On the next day, we had a float trip down the Snake River at noon, so everyone except me slept in.   I had a hard time sleeping, so I snuck out before sunrise to take some photos around Oxbow bend.  I did not have my tripod but made the best of it.

A sunrise hitting teton mountains at oxbow bend Grand Teton National Park
Sunrise at Oxbow Bend

We grabbed breakfast from the coffee cart in the main lobby and ate in front of the huge window view of the mountain range.  Can’t beat that.

Since we had time in the morning, we decided to run down to Colter Bay Visitor Center to get some information and our first Stamp!

The Jackson Lake Lodge is not on the Lake but is close.  A short drive north on 89 will take you to the shore of Jackson Lake, which includes camping sites, gas station, convenience store and of course, the Visitor Center.  The visitor center was well staffed, included numerous ranger-led programs, a gift stop, and a number of hiking trails.

We took a short hike on the Lakeshore trail which takes you the shore of the lake and stunning views of the mountains.

After our short visit to Colter Bay, we headed back to Jackson Lake lodge to meet up with our float group. 

Our afternoon started with a bus ride from Jackson Lake Lodge to the float boat site.  This included lunch, which was actually okay for hamburgers and salad.  We were blessed with an amazingly clear day.  After lunch we all jumped in the raft and off, we went.  The trip provided a nice ‘alternate’ view of the park and allowed us to see things outside of a window of a car. 

The guide was very knowledgeable and open to questions, pointing out wildlife when possible.  We mainly saw eagles, osprey and other birds of prey.  No luck with any of the larger animals, but not surprising as it was the middle of the day.   My 8-year-old was given a chance to steer the raft which she tried, although I am not sure how effective she was at the job.  He was also very patient with her non-stop silly questions. Overall, it took over 2 hours for the trip, which was just about right.

After leaving the raft, we were bussed back to the Lodge by later afternoon.  This allowed us some time to relax and decompress before we headed out for dinner.  The kids had some fun at the heated pool while I tried to catch a nap.

After dinner in Colter Bay, we still had some sunlight and decided to take the drive-up Signal Mountain. The mountain drive is just south of Jackson Lake Lodge and over the Dam.  There is a lodge at the base of Signal Mountain, that we considered.  The drive is relatively easy; however, you just need to be conscious of the thin roads and elevations gain that you will encounter the way up.  There are about three scenic view pullouts you can stop at during your climb. 

View of Valley from Signal Mountain Grand Teton National Park

Thankfully for my daughter’s sake, there was (a very small) bathroom at the parking lot on the top of the mountain.  The views were expansive but look east in the opposite direction of the Tetons and captures the valley below. 

close up of Survey marker for Signal Mountain in Grand Teton National Park
Signal Mountain US Geological Survey Marker

We were lucky enough to see our first Elk on the way down the mountain.  It was quick and no photos, but I can still remember seeing the light from the setting sunshine through the velvet on its antlers.

The first few days was full of activities, new experiences and wildlife sightings.  Stayed tuned for the next post on our visit to the Grand Tetons, all about Jenny Lake!

Wildlife Tracking for Day 1: Moose

Wildlife Tracking for Day 2: Bald Eagle, Red Tail Hawk, Bison, Canadian Geese, Osprey, Harrison Hawk, Fox, Mule Deer

Unit: Grand Teton National Park

Path to 428+: 74

Region: Rocky Mountain

Month/Year: Aug 2023

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