Hello from somewhere much more comfortable than Phoenix!
Over the past two weeks, we conquered a 3000+ mile road trip to escape the desert heat. I've said it before: Mountain air is the best reset for my mind. After our road trip through southwest Colorado last summer, we were just itching to get a refill.
As usual, I researched all our stops extensively.
The general plan was to pass through eastern Idaho into Wyoming for the Tetons and Yellowstone, then up to Glacier, North Cascades, and Olympic national parks before dropping down into Oregon to visit family.
All that to say, despite our best made plans, we had to make lemonade with what we were given. Whether it's traffic and construction detours, weather delays, personal health, or some miscommunication, there's always something that tries to thwart our efforts.
Never believe a blogger or influencer who tells you everything was "perfect" and fails to mention the hiccups along the way. It happens to the best of us!
Due to the tragic flooding in Yellowstone and Glacier (as well as the freak snow storm that hit the latter), our road trip itinerary was altered drastically.
However, it also gave us an extra day to enjoy the Grand Teton National Park, which just so happened to be the most beautiful, clear day.
Perfect itineraries don't always equal happiness, after all!
I am glad to say, though, the Tetons were as awe-inspiring as we imagined. This part of our road trip was such an adventure, especially since we shared part of it with our dogs.
Whether you just want to capture Insta-worthy photos, bask in majestic mountain shadows, or conquer said mountains in a challenging hike, this is what not to miss in Grand Teton National Park.
Overlooks & Turnouts (Dog Friendly)
If you bring your fur babies along for the ride, know that all the national parks have strict policies for where pets are allowed.
Yes, it can be inconvenient and frustrating. But, ultimately it's for you and your pets' safety. They can be prey to wildlife, and their waste is considered foreign contaminants to the different environments in each park.
That being said, pets are still allowed into Grand Teton National Park. They are just limited to being leashed in campgrounds and can only explore paved walkways and overlooks within the park.
Since you'll be doing a lot of driving in the Teton area anyway, we recommend letting your pups out at these locations to stretch their legs and take a "family" picture with you.
This turnout is popular for good reason. Visitors can walk right down to the lake's edge for jaw-dropping views of the snow-dusted mountain peaks.
Although, Scout had a really hard time understanding why he couldn't just jump right into the perfectly good swimming lake. Poor little water dog.
Colter Bay Village
Personally, I put Colter Bay Village on the what not to miss list only because it's dog friendly and the visitor center is well-supplied.
There's a bathroom with flushing toilets, a full store, a deli, a water-filling station, an ice cream stand (get the huckleberry cheesecake and monster cookie), and paved walking paths for dogs to roam on leashes.
We were not impressed by the marina, unfortunately.
The water was tragically low. As in, no boats were docked because there wasn't enough water to even reach the dock. :(
Jenny Lake Scenic Drive
OK, so I have to be honest. Until you actually get to the Jenny Lake lookout point where the trailheads meet, this one-way road really isn't all that scenic. Unless, of course, you just love driving through trees.
You'll only get teasing glimpses of the lake on this route. But I still recommend taking it so you can stop and get a good look at Jenny Lake from a higher perspective.
Plus, it's a good spot for the pups to get out and stretch their legs. Just beware that it's a popular spot and can be quite crowded.
This is also the road you take to get to String Lake and the Leigh Lake Trail. Keep in mind, though, pets aren't allowed on those trails.
Snake River Overlook
As you can see, we visited the Snake River Overlook off Highway 191 on a rather stormy day.
Thing is, I love clouds and rain. In my opinion, these dark hues only emphasized the mountain shadows.
We spent some time at this location talking to a group of strangers who wanted to meet Samson and Scout. For some reason, maybe because it started raining again, we didn't get photos of the doggos here.
Teton Glacier Turnout
Again, the weather really does make a big difference here. If you catch Teton Glacier Turnout on a stormy day, you may not even see most of the peaks.
Hopefully, if you visit, you get a clear view of Grand Teton peak and his neighbors like we did!
I could have stared at these mountains and wildflowers for a full hour without regret.
Family Friendly Sites
When you think of national parks, you often think of long hikes. However, Grand Teton National Park has a little something for everyone.
The best news is, as long as the weather is cooperative, you can get gorgeous views of the Teton range without having to climb a couple thousand feet.
If you're not an avid hiker or are bringing kiddos along, these stops and light walks are less likely to bring moans and groans.
Despite the fact I'm carrying a backpack, Schwabacher's Landing is a short little nature walk.
We saw tourists of every age and athletic ability (or lack thereof) on this 1.8 mile roundtrip hike. But while it is a popular spot, there is plenty of room to spread out and get pictures.
Although you're not as close to the Teton range at this location, since it's right off the 191 and not the Teton Park Road, Schwabacher's Landing is such a serene place.
The water is quietly trickling beyond the beaver dam, but still enough to cast peaceful reflections.
There's also a primitive potty place here, and that's an important thing to note!
The day we visited String Lake could not have been more ideal had we created it ourselves.
Contrary to the day prior, the air was warm and balmy and the skies were mostly blue. Temperatures might have reached into the low 70s.
String Lake is a popular area for families and anyone who loves water activities. We saw paddle-boarders, kayakers, and sunbathers along this shoreline.
We also saw a moose get into the water and curiously swim after some kayakers. Scary! Thankfully, he gave up the chase and ran across the path and into the forest several yards ahead of us.
Jenny Lake Boat Ride
This day started off cold and cloudy, but we didn't have much choice in taking the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake.
Adults pay $20 round trip to skip quite a bit of trail and reach trailheads like Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and Cascade Canyon.
Since the boats run every 15-20 minutes, no reservations are needed. Simply arrive at the east dock (not the visitor center) to purchase tickets and wait for the next available shuttle.
Even on a mild day, you will want to bring a windbreaker jacket. The boat isn't super fast, but the wind whipping through the canyon is glacier cold and could pick up spray. Plus, you just never know when it might decide to pour in the Tetons.
Only a steep, 1 mile hike from the Jenny Lake Boat Shuttle dropoff, pictures don't do Hidden Falls justice.
The waters roar as they plummet over the 100 foot drop, sending spray in every direction.
If there's been any rain recently, the viewing area can be extremely muddy. Be sure to wear sturdy, thick boots.
The views here are just incredible so I highly advise you take your time. Get a few pictures; look for eagles and other wildlife.
The boat comes every 15 minutes, or you can return by way of the Jenny Lake Trail.
Mormon Row Historic District
No trip to Grand Teton National Park is complete without a visit to Mormon Row. These rustic cabins and barns make for amazing photos against the Teton Range.
In the late 1890s, the LDS church sent out members to become homesteaders on the land. By the 1950s, most families had sold their homes to the park, but the structures are still preserved for a glimpse back into history.
Easy to Moderate Hikes
If you're feeling more adventurous, both String Lake and Jenny Lake have trails that border the waters and get you a little closer to the summits.
There are many difficult climbs to choose from as well, like Delta Lake. Many are backpacking trails. But if you just need a good leg workout for a few hours or less, these hikes are worthwhile as well.
Located just a little ways up from Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point offers an even grander view of Jenny Lake.
Once you find a parking spot at Jenny Lake Visitor Center and take the boat shuttle across the lake, it will take you about an hour to complete the 1.8 mile hike up past Cascade Creek to the lookout point.
You have the option of joining back into Jenny Lake Trail on your way down. Depending how long the boat wait is, you might just opt for that.
Taggart and Bradley Lake Loops
Just under 4 miles round trip, Taggart loop is considered easy, while combined with Bradley Lake it is another 2 miles and rated moderate.
This area is popular for wildflowers by the time June ends. The roadway leading in can become crowded so plan your hike before 10 am or after 4 pm for better parking.
There are some shade trees along the way. But even if the day is cool you need to stay hydrated!
How Much Time to Spend
I recommend spending three days minimum in Grand Teton National Park.
The weather can be super fickle in this area. If there are even just a few clouds in the sky, they'll likely be hovering around the peaks. While storm clouds definitely make for dramatic photos, your main goal is generally to see the Tetons.
We weren't able to see the mountains in their full splendor until the afternoon on Day 3, when the mist finally cleared.
If you make quick work of your stops and take advantage of the extra summer sunlight, you could squeeze all can't-miss items into all three days.
But leave room for traffic delays, finnicky weather, and plenty of enjoyment. There's no point rushing your trip!
Since there's only one main road going through the park, traffic can be brutal, especially if your only choice is to go south into Jackson because Yellowstone is closed.
The road going by Moose and Teton Village is currently under construction as well, and takes you further west than Jackson.
Where to Stay
If you're on a budget like us, you'll either want to reserve a campground site or stay quite a ways from the park and drive in. Jackson is a popular, higher end location at all times of the year.
We enjoyed our cozy stay at Gros Ventre Campground, located near the Mormon Row attraction.
However, know that I booked this campsite more than six weeks in advance and it was the only spot available in the entire park! All other campgrounds were full.
The reservation was only for one night but it was eventful because it was Scout's first camping experience and we tented it while thunder and lightning carried on right above us.
Had we had the energy to get up at 5 am, we could have walked a short way from our campsite to witness the sunrise glowing on Grand Teton mountain.
On our way into and out of the area, we also booked a rustic cabin and a tiny home in eastern Idaho (Ririe and Victor, respectively). We loved both!
The prices for accommodations over the border are so much cheaper. Also, the drive through the Teton Pass is so pretty it's worth the extra 35-45 minutes (depending on traffic).
While we loved having our pups with us on the road and at our dog friendly accommodations, they aren't allowed on national park trails. We totally understand the hazards, of course, but it definitely isn't convenient.
Thankfully, DogJax just south of the main Jackson strip was the perfect place to drop our boys off for daycare.
Their prices are reasonable, $35 for a full play day. However, a second dog from the same family is $25.
Both our pup and our 10 year old had a great time playing! The staff was friendly, the kennels looked clean and organized, and equipped with indoor and outdoor areas, including splash zones for extra fun!
Their pickup and dropoff hours are 7am-7pm. Note that you'll need to create a profile, prove your dog's vaccinations, and reserve dates online prior to rolling into town.
For more suggestions for dogs, check out this post.
We loved western Wyoming as much as we hoped and were so happy to witness it with our dogs as much as they were allowed.
I wish we would have had better weather on one of the other days to enjoy a longer, more challenging hike. But otherwise, the highlights I shared above are definitely what not to miss on a trip to Grand Teton National Park.
Unlike many national parks, there isn't a pay station on highway 191 as you enter the park. But you'll still want to have your America the Beautiful parks pass on hand and hanging in your windshield.
Park rangers are everywhere and there are a few guard stations in other parts of the park.
Just remember, if you visit during the busy season from June to early September, expect crowds. In order to have room and less delays, get to the park early and leave closer to 7 pm. You might miss the dinner rush that way as well.
I also recommend taking time to walk through Jackson. Yes, you'll mostly find overpriced souvenir shops and basic restaurant food. But they often put on wild west street performances and the main square is lovely on a sunny day.
You'll likely meet lots of fellow dog lovers, too!