Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – American Road Trip (pt21)
Sept 6-8 2015. Days 28-30 of my American Road Trip.
After the sensory overload of Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park was a relaxing stop that also had it’s fair share of bison encounters. Nothing as cool as Earl, but sitting on a rural dirt road being stared down by mama and daddy bison is a close second.
Grand Teton is in western Wyoming about an hour south of Yellowstone depending on where you start and end in both parks. I arrived in the early afternoon and stopped at a Ranger Station to pick up a map and ask what I should see and where I should go. Even if you plan extensively for a National Park trip, I highly recommend stopping by and talking to the Rangers for advice on exactly what you’re looking to do and the best way to do it.
After the Rangers gave me the best places to visit in hopes of seeing deer, moose and bison, I was off to “Gros Ventre” camping area in the southeast area of the park. I drove around a while before dusk without seeing anything and wondered if I had used up all my animal luck in Yellowstone.
In a last-ditch effort to see some animals, I decided to head down a dirt road towards a historic area named, “Mormon Row.” Well, the pictures and video below are what I ended up running into. Or I should say, parked and watched until they moved.
After the herd moved on, the guy on the other end of the traffic jam drove up, rolled down his window and we both looked at each other, smiled, shook our heads and said, “wow.” Chuckling about what just happened we both drove off. My day was complete. I then headed for the hotel.
I ended up staying at a ski resort in Jackson, Wyoming since all the cabins in the park were reserved. Yeah, I leveled up for a couple of nights of luxury since I didn’t plan in advance.
I must say, Jackson and the Wyoming countryside made me want to move there, buy a ranch and see if I could carve out some sort of living. The area is beautiful not only because of the Teton Mountain Range but because of all of the plush, well-groomed, horse filled ranches throughout the area surrounding Jackson and Grand Teton.
The early morning and late evening drives in and out of the Jackson to Grand Teton took me through some of the most beautiful countryside of my trip. I know I couldn’t make it as Wyoming farmer or rancher, but driving by all those beautiful ranches and farms sure made me think I wanted to. Don’t worry mom, I’m not cashing in and moving to western Wyoming just yet.
For me, Grand Teton was much easier to navigate than Yellowstone. (map link) Maybe that’s because I was there during the week and there weren’t many people around.
One of my favorite spots and the place where I took the picture for this blog post was at Schwabacher Road turnout just off the Highway 191. It’s a short dirt road to some of the most beautiful scenes on my trip. I made multiple morning and evening stops here over my two-day visit to admire the views and hopefully spot a beaver. What can I say, I was trying to see every type of animal in the park at this point. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember the last time I saw a beaver.
According to the Ranger I spoke with, this was the spot if you wanted to see beavers in action. I saw plenty of beaver destroyed trees and a few beaver dams, but only saw one beaver. There were quite a few photographers with their $5,000+ cameras each time I visited. Is there a lot of money in beaver photography I didn’t know about?
Anyway, the photographers almost lost their minds when a beaver did finally appear swimming down the stream. He goofily popped up on one beaver dam, waddled across it and kept on swimming down the stream. The photographers followed. Kind of funny to see. Beaver sighting, check. Now, where are the moose?
Another great scenic drive that is also great for animal viewing is south off Teton Park Road in between Moose Entrance and Craig Thomas Discovery/Visitor Center. It takes you all the way to the Granite Canyon southern park entrance. It was my evening drive through here at the end of my first day that I decided to stay one more night. I saw quite a few deer and even a couple black bears. From my car of course.
The first bear was on a hillside near a dirt parking lot. Luckily a park volunteer in an orange vest was there to save people from themselves as grown men and women were walking into the open near the bear to get a picture. As I watched from my car, the bear was chewing on some brush, just hanging out while the orange-vested volunteer continually told the giddy tourists to get back. That’s still one of the most head-shaking things of my National Park visits. Adults ignoring all the signs and warnings not to run up to WILD ANIMALS and trying to get as close as possible. Oh, Darwin would be so proud.
After a day and a half days in the park, I didn’t think I was going to see a moose. I was totally bison saturated after the past 4 days, but completely moose deficient. My quest to see all the animals was failing as the sun was setting on my second day in the park.
Then lo and behold, I pull up on a frenzy of cars stopping alongside Moose-Wilson Road as I was heading back to Jackson. I looked over and there in the bushes were mama and a….what’s a baby moose called?
Anyway, they both peeked their heads out of the bushes and then trotted across the road. Another surreal moment. Especially since I didn’t think I’d see any moose. They are definitely interesting creatures to watch, even if just for a few seconds. Moose(s), check. I’d now seen all the animals I wanted to see. Thank you Grand Teton.
My last morning, I was up before the sun and entered the park as it was coming up. I drove through the southern Granite Canyon Entrance and drove north on the same road I mentioned above. I wasn’t disappointed. A few solo deer bucks grazing and then all the sudden a herd of about 75 elk. The handy iPhone 5 couldn’t quite capture the enormous buck that was in charge of the herd, but it was more than impressive from about 150 yards (150 meters).
I continued on and came across another black bear. Very cool to these animals trotting around early morning without a care in the world (and no other people around).
Before heading to my next stop of Denver, I spent the rest of the morning driving to other Ranger recommended places like Jenny Lake Junction off of Teton Park Road. Some beautiful lake and Teton views and at 7am you have it mostly to yourself.
Grant Teton has a plethora of things to do for solo travelers, couples, families, hikers, and everything in between. This was just my quick peek into the park for a couple of days as I wandered around the country. Be sure to check out the National Park Service website or good ol Google to find other attractions like the scenic 42-mile loop. Or just ask a Park Ranger when you get there.
Throughout my trip, I was very impressed with the National Park Service Rangers. Each and every Ranger was extremely knowledgeable, always friendly and more than willing to answer all my stupid questions. And their recommendations were always spot on. When in doubt, find a Ranger station.
Thanks for reading. And I hope you enjoyed the last couple posts. The Yellowstone / Grand Teton combo really opened my eyes to the greatness of U.S. National Parks. I hope you get a chance to visit these two someday if you haven’t already.