Due to our late change in plans and decision to spend four nights in Grand Teton less than a month before our trip, we had to stay further from Grand Teton than we’d hoped. But, our one hour commute each of the four days became a highlight with a grizzly bear sighting and a moose sighting, and it let us see a bit of a new state: Idaho.
We were able to secure a site at Snake Valley Roadhouse. This is about an hour drive to Jackson as well as Grand Teton National Park, but it is a beautiful hour drive through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and over a mountain pass. Staying at a roadhouse, we accurately anticipated a unique experience. Our site was one of seven available sites at this location in Swan Valley, Idaho. We had a full hookup site, but no picnic table, no fire pit nor traditional campsite amenities. We did have access to the back of a building that had a bathroom and laundry facilities. Reservations can only be made through Rover Pass and no one is really there to assist campers with needs, but we had no issues. It is certainly a one of a kind stop, but it was perfect.
The roadhouse is a destination of its own. The food is fantastic and the word is out as on the weekends, the place is packed. They serve good pub food - burgers, sandwiches, pizza, - along with a full bar. They have a great patio, covered dining and regular dining room. If you find yourself in Swan Valley, you should stop. Snake Valley Roadhouse was featured in these articles: This Idaho Restaurant Is So Remote You’ve Probably Never Heard Of It as well as 9 Restaurants In Idaho Straight Out Of The Wild, Wild West.
If you like hikes around stunning mountain lakes framed by a mountain range, Grand Teton National Park is your place. If you like challenging mountain hikes, go to Grand Teton. If you want to bike in a mountain valley, fly directly into a national park, spot wildlife, and enjoy an amazing one day scenic drive loop: Grand Teton.
We settled into our familiar routine of an early morning hike, followed by a picnic lunch, then a drive to scenic points in the afternoon, with an early return to the campground to relax and cook dinner. Like in Yellowstone, we used hike734.com to plan our hikes. The trail descriptions are spot-on and this site helped us find a perfect hike every time.
We merged two hikes Jenny Lake Loop (8.6 miles) and Hidden Falls - Inspiration Point (1.8 miles) into one loop around the lake, up the mountainside to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The route was just short of ten miles but, except for the climb to Inspiration Point, may have been the flattest and easiest hike of our trip. In fact, the kids made it eight miles before the complaining started. The parents may have faded a bit faster... Starting at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, a Ranger suggested we hike the lake counterclockwise as we would have mountain views across the lake on our way out. This was a perfect recommendation.
Jackson Lake is fed by the Snake River, which continues its flow out of Jackson Lake at Jackson Dam. The Snake River seemed to always be close by while we were in Yellowstone and Grand Teton as the 1078 mile-long river meanders throughout both parks until it finds the Columbia River. Jackson Lake is among the largest high altitude lakes in the United States. The views of the Tetons are stunning from every bank of the lake. Although we didn't do a full hike at Jackson Lake, we spent a fair amount of time near Colter Bay Village walking the paths, wading in the lake, and enjoying the beauty. Securing a campsite in the reservable, and highly coveted, Colter Bay Campground would be the preferred way to visit Grand Teton.
We did two great, and very different, hikes in the Phelps Lake region of the park. Woodland Loops (3.3 miles) starts at the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve. We followed the Woodland Trail up through the forest floor and to Phelps Lake, and returned on the Lake Creek Trail, which followed the creek back to the preserve. This was a rainy day that initially disappointed us, until we realized that moose love the rain. We saw moose three separate times on this rainy, dreary day.
Our second hike in the Phelps Lake region was the Taggart Lake (3.4 miles) trail. The peak of this trail, along the banks of Taggart Lake, may hold the best views of the Teton's peaks. We were able to capture views and photos of the three peaks reflecting on Taggart Lake while it was as smooth as glass. The trail guided us through Aspen groves, mountain creeks, mountain valleys, lake views, and mountain views. These elements are found on many of the Teton trails we did, but Taggart may be the perfect mix tape of a visit to Grand Teton National Park.
Visiting a crowded tourist area is not so fun in 2020. We did a bit of exploring in Jackson and walked Jackson Square to get the requisite photo under the elk antler arch. We checked out a few outfitters and gift shops, and got a taste for the town. But we didn't take time to enjoy and relax in town like we would have preferred. We'd looked forward to enjoying local beer and Thai food at Thai Me Up - Melvins Brewing, but they were carry-out only during our visit. We instead found a good meal at Thai Plate. During a perfect afternoon, we also had lunch on the patio at Snake River Brewing.
So the debate rages at our house: Yellowstone or Grand Teton. Yellowstone is amazing, stunning, surprising, and enormous. Grand Teton is beautiful, photogenic, and approachable. We loved both parks and highly recommend both if you are in the region. We left the parks dreaming of camping in Grand Teton and further exploring Yellowstone. The correct answer in the debate must be to return to both.
Shane and Jessica
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