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Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park

JACKSON, WYOMING

I am always on the lookout for romantic places to visit and Jackson, Wyoming, definitely falls into that category. It is a great place to visit any time of year. It is a small town set deep in the Rocky Mountains, in an area generally known as Jackson Hole which is famed for its upscale ski resorts. It is a great place to stop and visit on your way through to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

There are some great places to stay in the town itself but we were touring in our motor home during our last visit and ended up staying at the local KOA (Kampground of America) site a few miles south of the town, which has a perfect location next to the Snake River, which was very turbulent when we visited in late Spring, from the snowmelt. Unfortunately, the site itself is pretty shabby – from the pitches themselves to the poor washrooms.

For our first day in town, we decided to take it fairly easy and went into Jackson to look around the shops. We had visited the previous year and enjoyed the town a lot and vowed to return. The old part of the town has a real western feel to it, with covered wood sidewalks and western-style frontage to the shops. It is based around a small town square with a garden at its heart, the entrance on each corner ordained with tall arches made from the horns of elk. During the summer months, there is a stage code ride that takes you for a short ride around the perimeter of the town square.

This is an exclusive resort town with plenty of expensive shops and pricey restaurants geared to the tourist trade, which is the mainstay of the local economy. We enjoyed looking through these shops although a lack of money …. and more importantly space makes us refrain from buying anything.

NATIONAL ELK REFUGE

Elk are magnificent beasts and one of the true wildlife wonders of North America. They are the largest species within the deer family, with the males weighing up to 750 lb and measuring around 8 ft in length. The male’s antlers can be 4 feet long and weigh around 40 lb. Unlike moose, elk typically gather in herds and seeing a large group of elk together is truly spectacular. Established in 1912, the National Elk Refuge borders the town of Jackson and is made up of 24,700 acres of mixed habitat. During the winter months it is home to one of the largest herds of elk on Earth; with the herd size numbering around 7,500 elk.

So, if you happen to be in the vicinity in the winter months it is well worth visiting. If you are in Jackson at other times of the year the elk will not be around, but you can out more about the Refuge by visiting the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center 532 N. Cache Street in Jackson.

Another fun activity is ElkFest, which is held annually in the town square in Jackson. This happens during the weekend before Memorial Day. A part of the celebration involves auctioning off elk antlers collected from the Elk Refuge. The local Boy Scouts of America troop helped, contributing over 2000 hours, with the collection of the antlers and during the auction. 75% of the proceeds go back to the Refuge with the rest going to the coffers of the Boy Scouts. We were lucky enough to be visiting during the festival and our son donned his Boy Scout uniform so he was able to join in with the local Scout troop and help out during the auction.

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK

Only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Teton National Park is one of the most spectacular of all the National Parks (in my humble opinion). The park includes all of the major peaks of the 40 miles long Teton Range. These mountains were named Les Trois Tétons (the three teats) by 19th Century French Trappers. They are truly imposing with the largest of the mountains, Grand Teton, rising abruptly 13,775 feet above Jackson Hole.

The park offers plenty of outdoor activities and camping opportunities. It is also only a short distance from Jackson, and can easily be visited from there if that is where you choose to be based. A good place to start with your visit to the Grand Tetons is at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, colloquially known as the Moose Visitor Center. This 22,000 square-foot was built in 2007 and provides a wonderful set of exhibits covering all the elements of the Grand Teton ecosystem in a very light and airy (and warm … especially on a freezing cold day) setting.

Location:1 Teton Park Rd, Moose, WY
Telephone:T:(307) 739-3399
Website:https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm
Hours:Grand Teton National Park is open 24 hours every day, year-round.
Entry Fees:

Grand Teton Entrance Fee – Private Vehicle – $35.00

Park entrance fee for 7 days for a private, non-commercial vehicle.

Grand Teton Entrance Fee – Motorcycle – $30.00

Park entrance for 7 days per private motorcycle.

Grand Teton Entrance Fee – Hiker/Biker – $20.00

Park entrance fee for 7 days for each visitor 16 years and older entering by foot, bicycle, ski, etc.

JENNY LAKE

One of our all-time favourite places on the planet is Jenny Lake, one of the districts of the Grand Teton National Park. Named for the Shoshone wife of the trapper that gave his name to nearby Leigh Lake, Jenny Lake sits at the base of the Park’s Cascade Canyon. Most people start their exploration at the South Jenny Lake area, and it offers the most amenities with a visitor centre, ranger station, campground and docks. In fact, most people don’t get far from there so it tends to get very busy during the summer season. To get to the quieter North Jenny Lake area you can simply take one of the many trails or if you prefer a gentler, less energetic mode of transport there are shuttle boat rides across the lake from the South area docks.

There are many trails available for day hiking and also this provides a great starting point for multiday hikes up into the mountains or for the more adventurous who plan to scale the mountains. We have tried several of the trails that go around the lake, which offer many spectacular viewpoints, and have also followed the trails up towards the inner mountains. Basically, you can’t go wrong and there are hiking opportunities for people of all abilities. Some of the trails near the South lake area are accessible to wheelchairs.

Like most locations in Grand Teton National Park, Jenny Lake is easy to find. Multiple signs indicate the North and South recreation areas from the Teton Park Road. Seven-day park passes cost $30 per car, $15 per biker or hiker, and $25 per motorcyclist.

Location:Located 8 miles north of Moose at South Jenny Lake
Telephone:T:
Website:https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/jennylakeplan.htm
Hours:Grand Teton National Park is open 24 hours every day, year-round.
Entry Fees:

Grand Teton Entrance Fee – Private Vehicle – $35.00

Park entrance fee for 7 days for a private, non-commercial vehicle.

Grand Teton Entrance Fee – Motorcycle – $30.00

Park entrance for 7 days per private motorcycle.

Grand Teton Entrance Fee – Hiker/Biker – $20.00

Park entrance fee for 7 days for each visitor 16 years and older entering by foot, bicycle, ski, etc.

Best time to visit Jackson and the Grand Tetons

Spring Season: April-May

If you’re looking for mild weather on your vacation, spring is the best time to go to Jackson Hole. With temperatures that usually hover around the 60s during the day and drop into the 30s overnight, you can hike and enjoy the outdoors without getting too hot. Another benefit to the spring season is that wildlife is the most active during this time, with plenty of baby animals to spot along with your excursions. The only disadvantage is that rainfall is highest during this time of year, meaning you could find yourself stuck inside more than you were hoping for. But you are likely to find better rates on accommodations before the busy summer season begins.

Summer Season: June-August

If you’re looking for a summer vacation destination while the kids are off school, Jackson Hole is a great place to go. If you’re interested in whitewater rafting or other water sports, summer temperatures are ideal, varying between the mid-70s to low 80s. It also remains cool enough to go hiking and enjoy dry outdoor adventures as well. The only disadvantage to the summer season is that it tends to be busy, making accommodations harder to find and less affordable. Tourist attractions such as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park will likely be crowded. But when you have to work around a school schedule, summer may be the best time to go.

Fall Season: September-October

Are you hoping to see some beautiful fall foliage on your trip? If so, fall is the best time to visit Jackson Hole. With average temperatures between 50 and 70, you can enjoy the outdoors in relative comfort. Whitewater rafting season extends into the fall, with many trips still possible well into October. The fall season is less rainy than the spring and has its own beauty as the leaves change colours against a mountainous backdrop. It will also be less busy than the summer season as kids are back in school and summer vacation time dwindles.

Winter Season: November-March

Jackson Hole has a long winter season during which it receives well over the national average for snowfall. If you’re looking to ski on a slope of perfect powdery snow, winter is the best time to go to Jackson Hole. You may find it easier to book accommodations during this time of year, as long as you plan ahead rather than waiting until the snow falls and other skiers flock to the area

Where to stay in Best time to visit Jackson and the Grand Tetons

1. HOTEL JACKSON

Offering a restaurant and a hot tub, Hotel Jackson is less than 5 minutes’ walk from historic Jackson Town Square. Free WiFi access is available. Guests can enjoy a outdoor hot tub and 2 restaurants with bars.

A gas fireplace, a flat-screen cable TV and an private bathroom with a hairdryer are included in all rooms at Hotel Jackson. A small refrigerator and coffee-making facilities are also offered. Select room include a balcony.

Hotel Jackson offers luggage storage and ski storage. A fitness center and a business center are available.

Jackson Hole Ski Area is 25 minutes’ drive from the hotel. Grand Teton National Park Entrance is 5 mi from Hotel Jackson.

2. BENTWOOD INN

Just a 5-minute drive from Teton Pines Country Club, this 3-acre property features a fireplace and private patio or balcony in every room. It offers a multi-course breakfast and a 3-story fireplace.

The cabin-style, individually decorated rooms provide a flat-screen cable TV and free Wi-Fi. They have a seating area and a private entrance.

Guests can enjoy a hot breakfast that includes seasonal fruit and homemade muffins. Bentwood Inn serves wine and cheese every evening along with fresh fruits and vegetables.

This wooded setting property is 6 miles from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and 14 miles from Jackson Hole Airport. Grand Teton National Park is 23 miles away.

3. GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK LODGING

There are a lot of options for staying in the Park, but as usual, things get snapped up almost as quickly as they become available.

Lodging choices include cabins, and camping in the centre of Grand Teton National Park, allowing you to experience the park with ease! Each unique location offers a variety of amenities and activities both on the property and nearby. From the AAA four-diamond Jenny Lake Lodge to the historic full-service Jackson Lake Lodge, to camping and cabins at Colter Bay Village and Headwaters at Flagg Ranch, you’ll find something that will work for you!

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