Notes from An American Road Trip: Grand Tetons National ParkTripping Content Manager Katy Birnbaum is currently on a 2 month road trip across the country, and we will be getting dispatches from her as she makes her journey. Check out the first one here! -Grahame Surprise, surprise, the Grand Tetons are amazing. Driving north from Utah through Idaho and into Wyoming, the features of the land began to soften, with long agricultural valleys laying coddled by rolling green hills and mountains. I crossed the Snake River several times as I weaved through Teton County into Jackson, Wyoming. After taking a sharp left out of the town of 9,000 people, the highway quickly lead to the huge prairie plateau of the Grand Tetons. Rising out of the flat, brush-filled landscape that stretches for miles, their charcoal jagged peaks looked utterly perfect, yet completely out of place at the same time. I got there at dusk and, although I enjoyed the rose colored hue gleaming off the mountain faces, was ready to find a campground and eat dinner. Unfortunately, though abundant in beauty, Grand Tetons National Park has a devastating lack of signs. Highway 89 runs right across the plateau, yet not one of the junction signs says that it leads to a park entrance. After blindly turning into Moose Junction, I passed a park entrance, drove out past the filled Jenny Lake Campground and then out about 2/3 of the way to Signal Mountain, the next campground, only to turn around again and backtrack to the Gros Ventre Junction, which I had passed right upon my arrival into the plateau. Frustrating, yes. The demise of my trip, no. Two hours after arriving at the foot of the Grand Tetons, cup of noodles were had in the dark car just before hopping into bed at the spooky and oddly uninhabited Gros Ventre Campgrounds. Much to my disappointment, the next morning brought clouds piled high and scattered rain storms that lasted for the duration of my stay. Half expecting the campgrounds to lose some of their lonesome shabbiness in the daylight, I was surprised to see that they were just as desolate and run-down when I went to brush my teeth in the morning. Though it wouldn't be my first choice, there were two saving graces to the Gros Ventre Campground:
- It was the closest camping spot to Jackson, which made it easy to spend the wet afternoons in a cafe.
- It was there that I experienced the highlight of my stay in the park—a very close encounter of the moose kind. Munching on vegetation for about 20 minutes, he offered many fine views of his handsome mug and robust bod.
- Check the weather forecast before heading out to this region. Expecting it to still be warm in the end of August, I was caught off guard by how chilly and wet it was. However, destinations at this high of altitude have somewhat unpredictable weather and can easily get cold, especially at night.
- Try to get a map of the Grand Teton National Park before you enter the area, as it will make it much easier to find your way to campgrounds. A good stop may be the The Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center located in the town of Jackson (http://www.fs.fed.us/jhgyvc/). It closes between 5:00pm and 7:00pm depending on the season, so be sure to arrive before then.