Wandering WY: Camping in Grand Teton National Park
Happy October everyone! I have been so excited to share this trip with you. Camping in the Grand Tetons has long been on my bucket list. Even when you grow up in the area, it's sometimes difficult for locals to take the time to go out and enjoy these great places around the state. After all, when you go on vacation and you've just been through a Wyoming winter, you're thinking somewhere tropical like Hawaii or somewhere that doesn't take as much planning to get to the relaxing part of your vacation. To go camping in Grand Teton National Park, I had to pay special attention to the moment they would open up reservations early in the year.
Even then I almost missed my window! In February, when I checked the reservation site I discovered that there was only one camping spot left at the site I wanted to camp for the entire month of July. You can imagine how fast I moved to make plans with my camping buddy to reserve it. Then I booked night two of our trip at another camping site just down the road. While it can be annoying to have to tear down and set up camp both days, it turned out to be a great experience. Each spot had its benefits, I would just plan a longer trip next time to more fully enjoy them both!
Night #1 Jenny Lake Campground
The first night I drove up early through the Moran entrance to the park. Entrance fees for the national parks vary depending on whether you will be visiting nearby Yellowstone National Park as well. Your Grand Teton National Park pass will grant you access to the park for a week but you'll have to pay a separate entrance fee for Yellowstone, or you can get an annual pass that allows you access to any of the national parks for the following year. Choose whatever best fits your trip plans and budget.
One of the best parts of camping at this location is that you have reserved parking at your campsite, otherwise, you're facing a serious hike from the road into the Jenny Lake visitor area before you even get to enjoy the lake's many activities.
Having arrived early I set up camp and arranged to meet with my sister in nearby Moose, Wyoming (she was working in the park this summer). Moose is a sweet little place with a couple of restaurants, a convenience store, and a place to buy any last-minute camping supplies you may have forgotten. Be aware that prices in the national park are always going to be more expensive than what you've bought in preparation beforehand. It also has a short mini-hike down to the river overlooking the Historic Mormon Ferry site with a stunning view of the Tetons!
Later that evening my camping buddy arrived and we enjoyed dinner around the campfire catching up after a year apart. We made very well-intentioned plans to wake up early the next morning so we could rent a couple of paddleboards and begin the day on the lake. That did not happen. By the time we'd finished breakfast and packed up camp, it was definitely later than we had hoped. The line for rentals was ridiculous and the safety precautions for riding the ferry across the lake weren't our cup of tea. So we decided to hike around the lake instead.
This is easily one of my favorite hikes ever now! You may remember that last year Shelby and I camped in Curt Gowdy State Park. Hiking there was fantastic but I was brutally underprepared in the hydration department, thankfully I learned from that experience and we had a fantastic time hiking up past moose ponds, waterfalls, and inspirational overlooks of the lake. We even packed our lunches to keep our day moving since we would have to set up camp again that evening. All in all, I think my phone's step counter recorded our hike at about 10.3 miles roundtrip.
Night #2 Colter Bay Campground
Colter Bay Campground is a great mid-trip campground especially if you're on a longer vacation. The campsites are well spread out for privacy, have generous parking space if you have a larger vehicle or even multiple vehicles as we did, and has several amenities that will make you feel like you're glamping. There are restaurants, a laundromat, a convenience store, and more at this location.
The best part of our camping spot this night was the abundance of hammock trees! We spent most of our time enjoying camp, so I'll have to go again another time when we have more energy to explore the activities at this site. What I did learn is that water activities are not available at this site all season long because the water level can vary. This year we have been in a draught so access to the bay was not guaranteed even in July.
For this trip, we planned to spend the next day in Yellowstone before ending our vacation at my grandparents' place in Montana for a trail ride. We had to really hurry through the park the next because of our ride time so we only stopped to hike the short loop of the Norris Geyser Basin. Keep in mind, if you're planning similar activities on opposite ends of the parks that no matter how small they might look on the maps: people, animals, and traffic are always going to be slower than you would like. It's much more enjoyable to plan your activities closer together.
The afternoon trail ride was the perfect way to round out this trip. We even got a bonus adventure driving with my grandparents up to old Chico Hot Springs where grandpa showed my friends and me some of our family history where we had first homesteaded in the valley before we finished the night with dinner in the Chico bar.
What I've discovered, is that I really love sharing these special places and stories with others! Maybe it comes from growing up working for my grandparents, sharing my home in this way with people all over the world.... all I know is that I dream one day of being able to do this full-time. It's my passion and I'm grateful for all of you who continue to share this adventure with me!