Grand Teton Park
There are two reasons why I go to Grand Teton: amazing hikes and MOOSES!!!
GT is a hiking park. You have to hike to see the beauty that the park has to offer. I have a personal goal of hiking to all of the lakes within the park - there's over 2 dozen. I highly recommend the Best Easy Day Hikes book
. Its organized from easiest to most difficult and written by people who actually hiked the trails!
A few favorite, and relatively easy hikes, that I have done more than once:
Phelps Lake. The trailhead is located along Moose-Wilson Road and the Laurence Rockefeller Preserve. There is limited parking available so show up before 9 am or you could have to wait for a parking space. Its an easy/moderate 4 mile loop hike. I've it done it both clockwise and counterclockwise, no real change in difficulty. The tricky part comes where you get near to the lake, there are several trails that tie together and its easy to end up walking around in circles. There is an additional trail that goes around the lake - be cautious as there are several berry patches along the way. And those berries are protected by bears.
Taggert (4miles) & Bradley Lakes (add on 2.5 miles to the Taggert trail) are another pop0ular hike. CW/CCW no difference in difficulty but you have better views going CCW.
Leigh Lake and String Lake are another easy hike, the views are so-so compared to Phelps and Taggert though
And if you're feeling a little more adventurous you can hike up the service road for the gondola and chair lifts at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. They call this Top of the World and when you get up there it certainly seems like the top. 360* views of endless mountains. Its 7 miles one way and it gets steeper as you go so its a pretty brutal hike. The bonus is that if you hike up you can ride the tram down for free (if you want to ride up and hike down you have to pay).
Jenny Lake Trail - you can go 0.5 miles, 2 miles or 6 miles around the lake. There is also the option of taking (for a fee) a boat ride to the far side of the lake and hiking back. The boat ride makes access to the far side of the lake very crowded so its kinda of a pain. People pay to ride over because there is a great view from Inspiration Point which is only less than 1 mile if you take the boat...they're too lazy to hike the whole way. Last time I was around the lake I skipped the Point because there was a waiting line to get up the hill
Thank you super-sized fast food!
And if you're camping (in a tent) in the park you have to try to get into Jenny Lake Campground. Its amazing. You are 5 minutes from the lake shore and its just a great place to camp. Only tents are allowed here so its really quiet and you're in the heart of the park. But its very busy. checkout time is 11 but people usually start leaving camp really early and its full again by 10. It took me 4 trips down there before I got a site. So worth it though.
And my first night at Jenny Lake was when I became "the Elk Whisperer"
I had a bull elk that decided he wanted to camp with me and he hung around while I made a fire and settled in for the night. Then he scared the crap out of me when he returned at 3am and bedded down a few yards from my tent. This is bear country so my first thought was that there was a bear in my camp...you have no idea how fast my heart was beating when I heard footsteps just outside my tent that night
Then, if that wasn't enough, he decided to give my truck a tongue bath while I was in the ladies room the next morning...notice the slobber marks on the windows
And the best part about GT is the mooses!!! Mooses everywhere! My personal record for moose sightings is 14 in a single day. Not sure I'll ever top that.
Great moose spots are: Moose Junction, along Moose-Wilson road (after you climb the hill there is a large pullout on the left, stop there and check out the ponds), Blacktail Ponds turnout just north of Moose Junction, and along the Gros Venture River road (pronounced like Gro Vont). There's a large turnout about 2.5 miles up Gros Venture Rd and there are always moose in here. 3 bulls and 2 cows that I've seen and this past summer I was told there was a cow & calf in here too. They're all pretty patient and photogenic....if you're lucky you can even get them to smile for the camera...
or they just act goofy
And a few more of my mooses (all spotted at the sites listed above)
I should probably also mention grizzlies #610 and #399. They are mother (399) and daughter (610) and they like to hang out in the northern portion of Grand Teton around Moran Junction and Jackson Lake Lodge. If the area around the lodge is closed to hiking/fishing I guarantee its because 399 and/or 610 have been frequenting the area. And they sometimes hang out together...with their cubs. Both mother and daughter are famous because they almost always have twins/triplets. Their lives have been very well documented over the years since they are often spotted near the road. Heck- they're even on Facebook
and youtube! The most amazing thing about these two is that in the summer of 2011 they were foraging in an area together and when they went their separate ways 610 (who started the day with 2 cubs) "adopted" one of 399's cubs. 610 then finished raising her half brother. No one knows why 399 gave her cub to her daughter, momma bears are very very protective of the cubs so its strange that she just walked away with one less cub that day. The good news is that 610 finished raising her two cubs and her half brother and they are still all doing well to this day. The sad news is that the two cubs that stayed with 399 were both killed - one was hit by a car and the other disappeared and hasn't been seen in over a year. 399 was spotted again this spring with triplets so I hope these cubs fair better than her last brood.
Here is my encounter with 610, her twins and her half brother....taken from the safety of my truck. They were only about 50 ft away. There was a little voice in the back of my head saying "get out of the truck, you'll get better pics that way". Once 610 looked at me and our eyes met that little voice went away.