Previous day’s scenic drive by snow-capped Grand Teton peaks motivated us to dedicate third day of our Yellowstone trip to one of the most scenic park of USA, Grand Teton. Finishing early with tea and breakfast in our comfy tiny home at Teton peak resort in Idaho, we beelined first for the spot called National elk refuge. We were keen to get our first glance of elks in the wilds but it was too much to hope for. National elk refuge is vast grassy plain at the foot of pine covered hills. It gave us picturesque views but elks were nowhere to be seen. Later, we happened to know that best season to observe elks here in the plain is winter. Returning back to Jackson, which was getting busier and busier as the sun traveled high in the clear sky, we decided to get good itinerary for the Grand Teton for a day. Best stop to do so was Jackson hole & greater Yellowstone visitor center. After 2 years of COVID travel ban, year of 2022 has seen unprecedented enthusiasm over travelling throughout the world. Jackson was not exception. It was like a active bee-hive, humming with bumper-to-bumper traffic and long queues of roadside parking on the main street. Two hour parking window was more than sufficient to get enough information to plan Grand Teton for the day at Jackson hole & greater Yellowstone visitor center.
Visitor brain charts the info: One can not do justice to Grand Teton in a day. So plan well ahead. There's so much to see and do in Grand Teton that, without proper planning, one would find himself wandering aimlessly like a headless chicken. Start early. Count your hours wisely. Chart the course and points-to-see with help of Visitor centers. Be flexible to adjust on the fly by adding or subtracting from the visit list. But prioritize prime spots.
Our first happy distraction on our way to Grand Teton from Jackson hole & greater Yellowstone visitor center appeared on left side of the hilly area five minutes into drive in the name of National museum of Wildlife Art. Though we curbed our desire to visit museum proper to save time, it has some of the best phot-op locations where bronze and metal life-size wild animals and other art are elegantly displayed in real natural backdrop. It was worth to spend some time to see moose or big horn sheep shining in its metallic glory with green pastures or natural rocky hills behind. There are many such installations. All free to see installed outside the museum.
Visitor well-informed mind comes again: Here's rough plan for Grand Teton in a day. Plan to complete the Grand Teton loop (almost 40 miles). If you entered from Jackson, then you'll be entering via Moose entrance (via Moose Junction). For all the hikers, most scenic trailheads are available once you entered. Depends on time, one or two trails in Grand Teton are must. If you can do only one, attempt Taggart lake trail. Further into the Grand Teton, you can spend some rest time at Jenny Lake visitor center. Continue to Jackson lake junction. If time permits, drive towards Jackson lake Lodge or Colter Bay village for extended scenic drive passing by Jackson lake. You can continue through the same road to enter Yellowstone national park from south entrance. As one has to be superman to do Yellowstone as well in a day, better return back to Jackson lake junction, drive towards Moran junction and again turn right at Moran to drive through scenic road towards Moose junction. This is just the drive plan. There's so much more to do in between.
Budgeting mind tweets: Entry to Grand Teton national park is $35 per vehicle. This ticket will grant access to Grand Teton for a week.
Grand Teton is huge expanse of natural phenomena that holds alpine peaks, forests, sagebrush flats, lakes, ponds, wetland meadows and much more. Nature’s biodiversity display on grandiose level. Park is packed with hiking trails. Even though you are not of hiking type, one has to attempt one as most of the natural beauty is hidden away from park roads. Taggart lake hike is one such hidden gem. Taggart lake hike is about 3 mile loop (1.5 miles one way). When we started the hike, it was as usual as any hike could be. Steep and uneven but shrouded with vegetation on both sides and occasional cool stream running along or crossing the path. After toiling away some more, beads of perspiration started to appear and carried water bottles getting depleted more, we suddenly came upon the part where trail opened up into something dreamlike, something that could only be envisioned in fantasy land. Stretches of blooming sage brushes welcomed us in the backdrop of snowy mountains. Passing through such dreamy scenery to small but quaint Taggart lake was delight.
As pointed out earlier in the blog, we only had a day to spend in Grand Teton. From Taggart lake hike, we spent some time at Jenny lake visitor center which was bustling with visitors. Jenny lake was huge and exquisitely reflecting the mountain range beyond in its deep emerald water. Again, natural beauty beyond imagining. Driving further accompanied by Teton peaks shining beautifully in clear sunlit day, we stopped for a while at Jackson lake dam. Getting back to Moose junction via Moran junction, whole drive was dotted with outlook points that presented snake river at various points zigzagging through green and golden vegetation with ever-present Teton peaks at distance. Antelope flats were still occupied by Bison herd. We also observed cute little Pikas, rodent animal just like rat, scurrying from one bush to other in their frenzy for food.
As mentioned many times, what we could achieve in one day was fleeting glance of how amazing Grand Teton was. Just splashing our feet to the ocean it was from the shore. One had to plan full vacation in and around Grand Teton to fully submerge in its true beauty. As evening was approaching and so much more in store for us next day, we retire back to our tiny home. Grand Teton had lifted our spirit of travel and made this success. Yet Yellowstone was unexplored and we were still fell short, even after so much contemplation, to understand what beast the Yellowstone was.
Day of visit: 5-July-2022