Weekend In The Grand Tetons
The Grand Teton Mountain Range and Jackson, Wyoming hold a magical place in my heart. The mountains, hiking, camping and downtown are unmatched, they are truly something spectacular. To know that this National Park is a short six hour drive from my door blows my mind and I am so happy to be picking up the tradition of our annual trips there again. We took a few years off after JR was born, but I know you will be able to find us there at least once a year from here forward. If you ever get the chance to visit Jackson, spend at least a weekend soaking up the energy of the old west: it will change your life, or at least perspective. We did a very touristy tour this year and still the ability to be so close to something so wild and largely unchanged is a remarkable sight to take in. I have added links to all the places we visited on this trip so you can check them out too; I am not sponsored or affiliated with any of these places, it is just helpful information for your trip planning!
We started our trip intending to drive through Bear Lake because it is a beautiful drive and they make delicious raspberry milkshakes this time of year. A sky full of rain clouds made us re-think our route. If we were not going to be able to see Bear Lake and our sleeping bags on the roofbox would risk getting soaked we took the opportunity to shave a few minutes off the drive so we opted to head through Idaho. This was an amazing route we have never taken before and we will absolutely be back.
We made our first major pit stop in Soda Springs, Idaho. It turned out to be a good halfway point to stop and stretch our legs. Getting from our house to our campsite is about a six hour drive, which makes it the longest one we have done with both boys in the car. About an hour before Soda Springs we did a quick search and discovered that there is an incredible oddity about 2 minutes off the main road.
Geyser Park is a man made geyser they unearthed in their efforts to make a natural hot spring swimming pool for the town. The water turned out to only be about 72* so it wasn’t ideal for a true hot spring. They ended up digging deep enough to create a geyser and eventually capped it and put it on a timer to erupt every hour on the hour. As it turned out we would be driving through about 15 before eruption so we pulled in to check it out. Not only did we learn some really neat information about Soda Springs, Idaho, but we had a blast! The geyser shoots about 100 ft into the air for about 5 minutes and it was just us and one construction worker there on his work break.
This is a very historic town that had all sorts of fun trains, war machines, and buildings on display everywhere you look. We walked around and read every sign to RM (he is very into doing that lately!) while getting our wiggles out. Since we left so early, we ended up in town about 7:30 which meant most of the town was still shut down. Lucky for us the Main Street Diner was open! It was full of locals farmers and families, smiles and great food! I would highly recommend stopping in to anyone.
After a fun filled hour and a half we piled back into the car and finished the rest of our drive in one shot. We picked up some brochures while we were in town and it turns out there is actually a lot to see in that area of Idaho; the Original Oregon Trail went through town and you can even still see the wagon tracks in the earth from that time. Next time we go through town I fully plan on stopping in at the Idaho Potato Museum to learn more about the states number one product! Jr fell asleep shortly after we pulled out of town and RM was fascinated with the brochures we picked up (he can’t read yet, but he made up some hilarious stories with his newfound treasure maps!) The boys surprised me by not asking for their Kindles until we were about 30 minutes outside of the campsite.
The Grand Tetons
The rest of our first day was spent finding and setting up our campsite and hiking around to explore the sights right around our camp. We usually like to stick close to the camp on our first day so we don’t have to get the boys back into their carseats. The views within a two year-old walking distance of our tents did not disappoint. This was such a big water year for Jackson that we got to see a huge variety of wildflower blooms, and I even got to see a red fox cruise by the campsite!
Our intention for day one was to do Jenny Lake, but by the time we got there, it was so crowded we ended up enjoying a beautiful day hiking to Taggart Lake instead. Jenny Lake is one of the most popular places to spend the day for most tourists (you can tell by the massive scale of the parking lot alone) so if you plan to spend time here I recommend getting there right when they open, or later in the day around 3 pm when people start to head back to their hotels.
Our hike at Taggart Lake was 1.4 miles to the lake with minimal elevation gain. At the lake we had a great snack lakeside and then opted to take the same trail back. If your kids could handle a slightly longer hike you could continue on to take that loop around for 2.4 miles back to the parking lot. We have done this hike a few times over the years and often see moose on this path, although this year we didn’t see any larger animals.
We usually only have an Osprey Poco Plus kid carrier which is always given to JR, but for this trip we borrowed a SSC from a friend to have the option of carrying RM too. Since he basically ran the entire way to the lake, Jeff carried him back down the mountain. To my surprise he fell asleep immediately and didn’t wake up until we were almost at the parking lot!
I will take a moment here to pause and call out almost everyone we saw on the trail up that made comments about me carrying the baby. It was not only shocking, but pretty disturbing to find that the world was NOT okay with me carrying JR while Jeff was running ahead with RM. We even had someone take a full family picture for us with the Tetons in the background that said “I don’t know if you want me to take this picture, it must be pretty embarrassing to have your wife carrying the heavy load.” That was just one of many many comments we got in that first 1.4 miles. Not that I have to justify our pack arrangements, but I will say that the plan was for Jeff to do the heavy lifting on the way down with RM and the Osprey carrier is set up for my frame. While it isn’t hard to switch from one person to another, it is annoying, especially for such a short hike. I will end this rant by saying: if you don’t have something nice to say, do everyone a favor and keep your opinions to yourself.
After our hike we journeyed to downtown Jackson, Wyoming. We were just planning to stop for a quesadilla for the boys (per their request) but ended up staying for an early dinner at The Merry Piglets Mexican Grill, running around the square, and even got to see a shootout in the town square! Six days a week at 6 pm the Jackson Hole Playhouse does a shootout performance right on the road. The show is free (donations accepted at the end) and really fun; the boys loved it. The city has been doing this performance for visitors and locals alike for the last 67 years! At the end you can even get pictures and autographs from the actors. That was fun oddity #2 for the week and we ended up returning on our way out of town to watch a second performance - one of the actresses even remembered the boys which made the boys feel like stars.
This is the most fun day we had and also the least documented. My phone and watch died so I could not track any of our activities and our nice camera died too so almost no pictures from the day. Does it even count then? My husband got a few shots on his phone so I guess so! It was a nice reminder to stop snapping photos and just enjoy our surroundings. One of my favorite parts of our camping trips is turning the phones on airplane mode for the whole trip. While that stops notifications and the draw to get onto social media, it does not stop your from snapping pictures.
We started this day with an 8 mile bike ride between Taggart Lake and Jenny Lake. I am not nearly as strong a rider as Jeff, but he patiently rode at my pace alongside the Teton landscape. It was stunning. We stopped and enjoyed Jenny Lake for a half an hour before returning to the car. We snacked a bit and then drove back to spend the afternoon at Jenny Lake. We took the shuttle boat across the lake and did the Hidden Falls Hike. It is a 1 mile out and back hike that gains 150 ft elevation and ends at a 200 foot waterfall. There are plenty of options to add distance for older families: you can hike around the lake for an added 2.4 miles each way, or continue up to the Inspiration Point Overlook and even into the Canyon if you are feeling like a big distance day. Since we had done those longer versions in the past, we knew the switchbacks to Inspiration Point would be a bit too much for RM’s little legs this time around. He ended up doing that entire hike on his own, and he was very proud of himself.
We ended up spending the rest of that day at the campsite cooking, riding bikes, coloring and just relaxing and playing. The boys even managed to both find sticks that looked like guns so they had their own shootouts all night! We watched the sunset that night with our “neighbors” at the campsites around us and stayed up with the boys until about 10 PM! We really pushed the boys limits every day for this trip and they handled it all very well.
What I have not mentioned yet is that we have stopped at many Visitor Centers and even picked up our first Junior Ranger Badge booklet. We started off this final day by dropping Jeff off at Jackson Hole Ski Resort to get in a few hours of mountain biking while we worked on finishing RM’s Junior Ranger Badge.
If you have never been to the Teton area you absolutely must drive the 9 mile road between the Visitor Center for the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. It is called Moose-Wilson road and the drive does not get much better than it. On that drive alone we saw 3 moose (2 adults and one baby!) and a herd of elk. We have seen black bears crossing the road here before and always end up seeing something good.
I will take a moment here to point out a safety tip that is posted almost everywhere you look at all of the National Parks: PLEASE KEEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM WILDLIFE. These animals live here and you are just a visitor. While they are used to seeing people, they are not okay with you invading their space to get the next Instagram shot of the day. If you have been watching the news lately you will see that if you get too close they can and will attack, regardless of your age. While your picture might get some good likes, you might also have the next viral video for all the wrong reasons.
After a few days of very hard work for our 4 year old, he did all of the requirements to earn his very first Junior Ranger Badge! I was so incredibly proud of our little man in that moment. He really is growing up too fast, and that was just one more reminder among many lately that he is not a baby anymore.
We went back to pick up Jeff, who could not stop smiling ear to ear from his solo day on the mountain, and grabbed a late lunch. We made it back to Jackson just in time to see another shootout and spent some time exploring the shops on the square. Our goal was to wear the boys out enough that we could make the drive home while they slept.We stopped at Pinky G’s Pizzeria (thanks to Guy Fieri and Diners, Drive Ins and Dives - one of our favorite shows!) and had an amazing pizza on our way out of town. The boys fell asleep within the first 30 minutes, and with the exception of JR having a very extended nightmare about toilet paper, we made it all the way home without stopping. It was our first overnight drive with the boys and they did great!
Happy Travels friends, hope to see you out exploring soon!