Grand Teton

Picture of jackson_square The logical base for exploring the Tetons is the town of Jackson, Wyoming. Not to be confused with Jackson Hole (which is the valley that Jackson sits in). Jackson is perhaps a tad on the touristy side as it tries to play up the 'American West' theme as much as possible. Just north of the town is the beginning of Grand Teton National Park. To the east is the National Elk Refuge and Bridger-Teton National Forest surrounds the rest. Speaking of elk, these arches which stand at all four corners of Jackson's town square are made entirely of elk antlers (retrieved by natual means - no hunting).
Picture of tetons1 You don't have drive very far north of town before you come over a small hill and are faced with the classic postcard view of the Teton range
Picture of tetons2 The Tetons are technically less visited than Yellowstone National Park just to the north but the geography of Grand Teton Park is such that it is basically one large mountain range with a road running along the east side of it in the valley. The linear aspect of it made it seem more crowded to us. There is an obvious concentration of visitors along the road and the farther from the road (in either direction) one goes, the fewer people one sees. Our trip to the Tetons became a study in less traveled routes which we think we did rather well at. For the record, the Tetons can be accessed from the west side (Idaho) via several multi-day hikes from Targhee National Forest.
Picture of lake_jenny The most popular short hikes are in the area around Jenny Lake and the Jackson Lake Lodge. From the south Jenny Lake parking area, a boat crosses the lake and lets visitors off at the base of Cascade Canyon trail which leads up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point (National Park rule #1: There must be an Inspiration Point). One can also hike around the lake. In fact the north route around the lake is relatively unused. Most day-hikers take the boat across and hike back along the south shore. If you're doing this (we did it in reverse), we strongly recommend obtaining a map of equestrian trails first. There is an equestrian trail that parallels the Jenny Lake trail on a ridge a bit above it. While the lakefront trail was packed with people, we saw no one else on the equestrian trail the entire time. (If you don't get the map, just follow the signs to the horse corrals and follow the obvious trails from there).
Picture of marmots Up on the equestrian trail we came across a colony of marmots living in and around this rock. Marmots aren't necessarily the most exciting of wildlife, especially for folks from the western US and Canada, but we spent a little while watching them, and vice versa.
Picture of hidden_falls There's no avoiding the crowds at Hidden Falls or on the Inspiration Point trail. Hidden Falls is aptly named as it comes down a chute in the canyon walls at a 90 degree angle to the main canyon. This would be an extremely scenic spot if it were not so full of people. From here we took the boat back across the lake. The ride is short and fairly scenic although no more so than any spot around the edge of the lake.
Picture of horses This picture was an accident that turned out rather well. Coming south towards Jackson on route 26, the Triangle X ranch covers both sides of the road. We arrived right as they were driving their horses across the road to a corral on the other side. With the Tetons in the background it made for a nice picture.
Picture of teton_storm Near Lake Jackson is Signal Mountain which has a road up to the top and a supposedly fine view. We're morally opposed to hiking up mountains that have a road up them already so we took an alternate hike to Grandview Point. This is in the Two Ocean Lake area on the west side of the park. Heading north from the Lake Jackson Lodge turnoff, there is a dirt road that runs off to the right. This leads off to a small parking area and a trailhead. A little ways up the trail is a sign, left leads to Grandview Point. Besides the occassional hiker, Grandview Point is popular with a wide variety of annoying insects that were unfazed by our bugspray. Besides this view of a storm coming over the northern Tetons, we took the nearly 360-degree panorama at the bottom of this page. The left side of the panorama shows Two Ocean Lake and the Gros Ventre rockslide in the distance, the right side has Jackson Lake and the Tetons.
Picture of shadow_mountain Another great view of the Tetons can be had from Shadow Mountain which is directly across the valley from the highest peaks. This is accessible by a torturous forest road that took us a while to find. It's on some maps of the park, but there are about two dozen more roads up there that are not marked. Our belief that they wouldn't put roads there if you weren't supposed to drive on them is extra-firm when we have a rental car. So after a whole slew of deer and two suicidal mountain bikers, we finally popped out on top the mountain which has this vantage point. There are also some great campsites on the way down to the south. Incidentally, geological forces are causing Jackson Hole to widen at the rate of 1 ft (0.3m) per 100 years so be sure and check out this view while you can. Binoculars will be necessary in a couple hundred thousand years or so.
Picture of panorama

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