Recently, we had some family come out this way and I put together this interactive Google Map of the Grand Teton area with a bunch of points of interest, places where we have had good wildlife sightings, and camp spots.
This was a heck of lot easier than trying to explain where some of these places are, since they area by definition, in a fairly undeveloped area.
And, then stopped by Mossy Cave on the way back to camp. If pressed for time, I would tell you to skip Mossy Cave and spend that time elsewhere.
These were all pretty popular sites, but since it was our first trip to the park, we wanted to get an overview. We talked to a Park Ranger who recommended the Fairyland Loop for a bit less populated trail.
We had originally planned to try to do Bryce N.P. and Zion N.P. in the same trip, which seems like a relatively common strategy. But since our campsite at Kodachrome Basin put us approximately 30 minutes east of Bryce, that made the trip down to Zion close to two hours and more windshield time than we wanted to spend given our relatively short stay.
Initially, I had some trouble figuring out where GSENM was located. This is because the GSENM is close to 1.9 million acres. It turns out, Kodachrome Basin is surrounded by GSENM and a main access point is very close to the entrance of the State Park.
Our first stop in GSENM was Grosvenor Arch – a super impressive double arch. Highly recommend stopping to see it if you are in the area.
Then we got our first taste of slot canyons by hiking the Cottonwood Narrows. This is a non-technical (i.e., no rappelling or rock climbing) option that is good for families.
And found the showers at the … campground. The showers are really nice. Like, really nice.
The weather was finally warm enough to spend a bit more time outside at night and the stars were absolutely amazing. I tried for a few pictures, but didn’t have any that turned out good enough to post.
For our second day at Bryce Canyon N.P., we decided to hike the Fairyland Loop trail. This one met all the important criteria: beautiful scenery and not heavily trafficked.
And then we drove out to the south end of the park, did a short hike, and took in some of the vistas.
In some of our earlier trips, we tended to have pretty ambitious plans and go pretty hard. This resulted to a couple of events that we less than affectionately referred to as Daddy Death Marches. I have tried to learn from these experiences.
Unfortunately, we had another one in Red Canyon.
We decided to hit Red Canyon on the way home. Red Canyon is essentially one canyon before you get to Bryce. And since it is in a National Forest, not a National Park, they allow mountain biking on some of their trails.
We chose the Thunder Mountain Trail. I had done a bit of research on the trail ahead of time and read the descriptions in a couple of guide books. I am pretty sure none of the author’s of those guide books have ridden this trail. A few factors made it not the trail we should have picked this day. It turned out to be a bit longer than advertised. It was most definitely an expert level trail (should have a black diamond rating). And there’s a fair amount of climbing and some pretty difficult technical bits – including one stretch along an exposed ridge line with consequential drops on either side. All in all, just not what we wanted to get into.
But, we did it. Walked a bit more than intended.
I would recommend the trail for serious riders, who want a serious ride.
Then we drove home Sunday evening – fighting holiday traffic most of the way.
Overall, an excellent trip. We enjoyed the area quite a bit and have a list of things we would like to do when we are back in the area including more time in GSENM, getting over to Zion, and possibly catching a meteor shower.
We had a little more time this trip. We were there from Thursday evening through Tuesday. So, that gave us a bit more time to explore. We also, I think, were just generally in a more laid back mood. We had no major hikes or destinations in mind. The crowd was decidedly older and maybe more mellow given that school was back in session for families with kids.
We drove in kind of late. But gorgeous drive in. Saw a bison herd pretty close to the road near Elk Ranch Flats.
We reserved a site at the Lizard Creek campground, which is the northernmost campground in Grand Teton National Park. We liked Signal Mountain Campground a bit better, although this was a good spot. I’d recommend a site closer to the middle of the campground – we were very exposed to the wind.
Not much water in Jackson Lake was kind of a let down:
In the vein of a more relaxed trip, Day #2 turned into a spontaneous trip up to Yellowstone N.P. I had loosely planned to venture into the south end of the park. But we actually ended up driving up to West Thumb. We had seen this area during our winter trip (incredible) back in 2017 and it was cool to see it in the summer.
We celebrated our daughter’s birthday. Then, we drove north again into the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway area. We did a short hike to a natural hot spring – there are two – and we went to Polecat Hot Springs. Totally worth it.
Then another short hike over to the river.
It’s that time of year, and the elk are bugling. Amazing.
We hiked this day. About nine miles. A really nice, pretty flat hike, to BearPaw Lake.
Very nice hike. I’d rate it easy. Left from the northern end of Jenny Lake, which is a pretty popular trailhead, but the hike itself was not heavily trafficked. Hiked right up to the base of Mt. Moran. If you rate your hikes partly on how few other hikers you see, this is a good one to check out.
Watch out for this guy:
Packed up camp and on the way to our new site, sited a black wolf. First wolf siting. Lots of #poopedmypants moments on this trip.