Grand Teton National Park

As I said before, our first experience seeing the Tetons was in Idaho as we drove to our mid-trip AirBNB. Seeing these jagged mountains leap into the sky from the flat plains that surround it is incredible.

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This was the view from our AirBNB. It was the perfect place to chill, shower and recuperate for the rest of our trip.

The next morning we took the long trip around the Southern edge of mountain range, through Jackson, and up into the national park.

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I was pretty disappointed to not see any bears in Glacier. I know, I know, grizzlies are dangerous and since we were too cheap to buy bear spray it’s probably a good thing, but I still kind of wanted to see one. Well, fast forward to our first few steps into Grand Teton National Park when we heard the park rangers yelling “HEY BEAR” and running around the welcome center and into the woods. Knowing what that meant, we hustled further along the path to see if we could see what all the fuss was about.

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A bear! It was no grizzly, but it was still cool to watch the little guy get chased into the water, swim to the other side and take off into the woods.

Later that same day we walked right by a mother and her two cubs, but I was too busy quoting scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean to make sure the bears could hear us coming (note: this was at mile 16 of hiking that day and James didn’t share my enthusiasm of this idea) that we didn’t even notice until another hiker started yelling and a park ranger went running past us to try to take care of them. So yeah, definitely be on your toes in the Tetons and yell as many movie quotes as you want to make sure you don’t surprise the wildlife.

For the Tetons I had a lot of trails written down that I wanted to try, but no real set plan. So since we came to Jenny Lake first we decided to start there. I had heard good things about Cascade Canyon Trail and the idea of hiking literally into the Teton range sounded awesome!

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This is another hike that has a ferry across the lake that can cut it shorter, but we opted out of course.

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There’s a lot of construction going on right now in the Jenny Lake area so we couldn’t go from Hidden Falls straight through Inspiration point and into the canyon like I planned, but we decided we still wanted to check out the falls.

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And I was really glad we did! We even scrambled up a few rocks and watched all the rock climbers on the sides of the cliffs for a bit.

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You can see the bright colored specks of people on the cliff face. Next trip I would LOVE to strap in and climb up there.

From there we had to climb back down and around the construction and begin our ascent up into the canyon. Here’s where Nicole almost didn’t make it.

See, my body and high altitude don’t have the best of relationships. On a trip to Denver when I was younger I got really sick and couldn’t leave the house for an entire day while my family went out exploring. (At least I had the dogs to keep me company.) Ever since, I’ve been terrified of altitude. I’m sure at this point it’s 90% mental, but I struggled a little on our hike in Oregon a couple of years ago. So I was paranoid when we went to Denver last year that I’d have another episode, but aside from some lightheadedness I was fine (not that we did any hiking).

Back to the Tetons. I probably would’ve been fine except SOMEONE had to ask how high up we were as we were driving into the park. I thought that was a great question so I checked the altitude and was shocked to find that we were already at 6600 feet and we hadn’t even set foot in the mountains yet. From that point on I was screwed because I couldn’t get it out of my head.

The hike from Jenny Lake up to Inspiration Point is not far, only about a mile, but it is a fairly quick 500 foot elevation gain. I didn’t handle it well. I couldn’t breathe and was super lightheaded and was basically the biggest drama queen on the planet. I don’t like stopping on hikes because I’d rather just keep going, get the second wind and rest at the top. But I had to stop. A lot. It felt like we were only going 20 feet at a time before it felt like I was out of oxygen and had to stop to catch my breath. I would’ve felt bad for James, but I was still blaming him for even bringing it up in the first place. At one point, a woman coming back down the trail asked if there was still a bear in the area (first we were hearing of this) and honestly I would’ve been done for because I was in no shape to fight off grizzlies at that point.

But alas, we finally made it to Inspiration Point!

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We hung out for awhile, eating our snacks and having an existential meltdown that I wasn’t going to have the strength to do the rest of the hike that we’d gone up there to doΒ getting inspired.

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The face of an inspired man or an annoyed boyfriend?

Eventually I caught my breath and the courage to keep going with the hike. We decided that we can always start the hike and if we’re too tired we can turn around and go back. When you’re in the Rockies, every single step onto a trail is jawdropping, you don’t have to do every hike in its entirety to capture its beauty. With that in mind we took off and I think James knew that once I started a hike there was no way in hell I was going to allow myself to not finish it.

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And of course we finished it. AND it was an amazing hike!!

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Turns out the hardest part of the hike was just getting up to Inspiration Point. From then on, it was all level hiking as we plunged deeper and deeper into the Teton Range. It was stunning.

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These following two pictures were taken at the same spot a few hours apart, once on our way out and then again on our way back.

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I didn’t even realize I had done it until I was uploading pictures for this post. I’m glad I captured it in the sunlight though. It’s hard to remember to look behind you when hiking, you never know what you might be missing back there.

Also, lots of rocks. Now you know why I loved this hike so much.

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We had heard that there were a lot of moose generally seen on this trail so I was pretty pumped for that. Here’s where I could lie to you and say “And look at who we saw!!!”

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But I have to tell the truth that James and I BOTH stopped when we saw this and took pictures for well over 30 seconds of what ended up being an uprooted tree trunk. Haha oops.

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I would love to continue on straight through to the other side of the range next time, but alas we had to turn back toward the car. I still wanted to finish the hike around Jenny Lake though so we (I) decided to go the long way back before realizing that it was about 4 miles longer than I had anticipated. It was a beautiful hike AND we got to walk through a fire destroyed forest AND we almost got eaten by the mama grizzly, but it did mean that our easy first day in the Tetons started off with a 17-mile hike. Oops.

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The views of the Tetons from the other side of the lake made it worth it! And you can see the canyon we hiked into in the above picture. It doesn’t look very tall looking at it now. Damned altitude!

We were obviously pretty pooped after that so we drove around a little bit and decided to find a camping spot.

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The bison were everywhere in Wyoming!

So I had heard that there was some good, free camping at Shadow Mountain in Bridger-Teton National Forest just across from the NP. We took off into the forest and up the pretty sketchy mountain road that led up to the top. The views of the Tetons were incredible, but all of the campsites were already taken. I was very frustrated and upset and slightly panicky that we didn’t have a place to stay for the night, but we kept on trekking back down the other side of the mountain. Ready to give up and just camp in the parking lot at the bottom, we took one last random side pullout, almost bottomed out the bottom of the rental car, and came across a beautiful meadow with an empty campsite, complete with fire pit, and absolutely no one else anywhere near us. It was magical.

I was so relieved to finally find a spot but was still a little disappointed that we hadn’t found a spot up on the mountain where you could look out on the Tetons. But then as we got out of the car and looked around, I looked up through the trees and there they were.

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I died. We truly did get so lucky on this trip!!

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What a life!

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I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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Regardless, we woke up bright and early the next morning and decided we should get a real campsite inside the park for that night to have some peace of mind, not bottom out the rental car, and be closer to Yellowstone for the last leg of our trip. Plus, I’m really not sure that I could ever find that magical campsite ever again. I think it was actually just a mystical place that disappeared into thin air the second we left it.

Like I said, the camping procedure in Grand Teton was eons above Glacier! It was so easy! We just showed up when they opened, got in a line of cars, and when we got to the window they looked at what spots were free and assigned us one. So easy!

After destroying our legs the day before we decided to get a good arm workout in. We rented a canoe and paddled out into Jackson Lake.

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It was stunning. (Am I overusing the word stunning?)

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No, YOU look really sunburned.

I still wanted to do the Taggart-Bradley Lake loop, but we were still exhausted and sunburned and James’ old man knees were killing him so we decided to just go out to Taggart Lake and head right back.

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The trail there was super easy. And we got to walk through an enchanted forest.

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From there we really wanted to check out downtown Jackson. We walked around the town a bit, decided we would LOVE to come back around Christmastime, and of course got some beer.

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This flight at Snake River Brewing was amazing! James got a bison burger and I got some bison chile. It was all so good and we rolled out of there more exhausted and content than ever.

We took our time driving back to our campground in Colter Bay. We wanted to cherish every last second that we had left in this park.. We drove up the Moose-Wilson Road to try to see some wildlife, but were thwarted once again. However, it did delay us long enough to make sure that we passed the Teton Range again at THE most beautiful time of night!

I’ve been rambling on a lot this post so I will just leave you with these amazing pictures of the sunset over our last night in the Tetons:

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Again, I would love to come back around Christmas and see the park and the town covered in snow. AND hopefully see more bears next time!

Three Things You Can’t Miss:

  1. Cascade Canyon Trail
  2. Kayaking on Jackson Lake
  3. Viewing the Teton Range from literally every angle you possibly can

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