From SLC, we made a two-day drive north to Grand Teton National Park. We chose to boondock for free in the Bridger-Teton National Forest adjacent to the park thanks to the good reviews on Campendium. The nearby National Park campgrounds were either $52-70/night with electric, or $28/night with no hookups, in a forested area where solar power would be mostly useless. A couple days before we arrived, we spotted fellow full-time RVer Marshall (a.k.a. “Finding Marshall“) on Instagram posting pictures from the same area so we were able to get some “advanced recon” and learned that the upper boondocking section was still closed due to snow, but there was space for us in the lower section. Once we arrived we scouted the lower area, found a spot that would work and parked Rover pointing straight at the Teton Range!
While the boondock area was nice and quiet (and COLD) the first few days, it quickly filled up during the week. We spent some fun evening campfire time getting to know Marshall and Kelly (a.k.a. RV Chickadee) in person, since we’ve been following their adventures on Instagram for a while. They were both camped there enjoying the views while working hard on launching their new CampAddict web site. We also made friends with a really nice Australian bloke, James, who was car/tent camping next to us. He was visiting the western U.S. for 4 weeks and attempting a whirlwind visit of national parks before his new job in Atlanta started. We spent a couple of days driving around Tetons together spotting wildlife, plus he’s also an avid tabletop gamer, so we spent some time playing. James introduced us to Spot It which was a lot of frantic fun, and played several rounds of Forbidden Desert. Plus it was just fun listening to him speak with that accent!
Grand Teton NP encompasses over 300,000 acres of land and includes the major peaks of the Teton Ranges, including Grand Teton, the tallest mountain at 13,775 feet high. Supposedly early 19th-century French trappers are responsible for naming the South, Middle, and Grand Teton, originally called “Les Trois Tetons” or “The Three Breasts” but there are other historians that claim the mountains were named after the Teton Sioux tribe. I think I prefer the french trapper story, more fun.
Grand Teton is a pristine ecosystem and part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest intact mid-latitude temperate ecosystems in the world. Many of today’s flora and fauna in the park have been around since pre-historic ages. Due to the protections the park has provided, over 60 species of mammals live within the park, including the gray wolf, black bear, grizzly, otters, and cougars. While many visitors come to enjoy the views, it’s also a popular place for mountaineering, back-country hiking, trout-fishing, and rafting.
At 6500 ft elevation, the National Park was still chilly in May. With overnight temperatures below freezing and the days at 50º, we reacquainted ourselves with our thermal underwear. Without electric hookups we also had to keep our propane furnace turned way down to conserve power. Unfortunately since most of the mountain range was still covered in snow, the majority of the hiking trails were only open to experts. The rangers defined experts as “those with crampons, ice axes, and the ability to spot potential avalanche areas”. Since we had none of those things, we stayed out of the higher elevation trails and spend most of our time driving around the park. The ranger-guided programs that we’ve enjoyed in other parks also didn’t start until the first week of June which meant we had to fend for ourselves.
With an abundance of wildlife, rangers suggest early morning (sunrise) and early evening (sunset) drives as the best time to spot wildlife in the park. They recommended Antelope Flats Rd, Jenny Lake one-way drive, and Moose-Wilson Rd. While we didn’t see any bears, we did see a lot of mule deer, some elk, bison, pronghorn and moose during our drives.
We did do a nice stroll along String Lake and Leigh Lake in the early morning. Most of the path was clear but there were still some snow drifts to walk over. With the mountains looming next to the lakes, the walk is incredibly picturesque and we caught some nice photos of the mountains reflecting in the still waters. Since it is currently bear season, we were careful to make a lot of noise as we walked the path to warn any nearby wildlife of our presence.
Since Opie isn’t allowed on the trails, we were able to take him for long walks around our camping area since it’s in the National Forest and not the National Park. While we didn’t see any interesting wildlife during our walks (though Opie found all the ground squirrels quite exciting!), we did see bear, moose, and elk scat. Plus we found a stripped skeleton of some kind of deer near the campground. So again we made sure to make a lot of noise while we hiked the area. Since we couldn’t camp on the upper elevation, we did take a walk up there and found the views to be even more spectacular than below.
Grand Tetons NP is gorgeous and there is so much beautiful scenery while driving through the park. Unfortunately getting here before the season starts meant that we were unable to try some of the popular hikes nor take advantage of the ranger programs here. Even so, Grand Tetons is an amazing area worth visiting.