Today I’m sharing the second leg of our road trip! We were used to driving now. 9 hours from Colorado Springs to Grand Teton National Park didn’t seem too bad. And when we came across the plains of Wyoming it really didn’t seem bad at all. That stretch of the country is so beautiful and wide open. It’s like it’s preserved in time.
This was, hands down, the best drive of the trip – from the plains of Wyoming to the striking views of the Grand Tetons, it was gorgeous. The drive was scenic and we were headed to my favorite destination of the trip – Grand Teton National Park! Sam and I loved it so much that we stayed an extra night, but I’ll get to that.
Grand Teton National Park
“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoia and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Colter Bay Village
We arrived to Grand Teton National Park with just enough time to check into our two bedroom cabin at Colter Bay Village and then go for a hike before dinner. The cabins were simple and cozy with an interesting history. Some of these cabins were built as early as 1870 and lived in by settlers and farmers in nearby Jackson Hole Valley. The cabin’s were later moved in the 1920’s by John D. Rockefeller to land that he would donate to the National Park Service. And there they sit for people to enjoy/rent at Colter Bay Village!
After we unloaded we went for a short 2-mile hike on Lake Shore Trail along the Jackson Lake Shoreline where we passed people fishing, going and coming on boats, people enjoying a swim in the brisk lake and awesome views of the Tetons. It’s funny to me that we took our bear spray with us on this hike because in retrospect it was probably the easiest trail in the park, but my motto on the trip was consistently, “you never know” and it fact it was the smart thing to do.
John Colter Ranch House
Post hike we were hungry! The Colter Ranch House was one of two dining options in the Colter Bay Village. Each lodging area in Grand Teton National Park has different restaurant options and most lodging areas are around a 15-25 minute drive from one another. The first night we ate in Colter Bay Village at Colter Ranch House which offered “American Comfort Food with a BBQ Twist” and it was pretty good. For some reason all four of us ordered salads that night! The Taco Salad served in a Fried Tortilla Shell looked amazing and it was really big! Sam and my Dad both ordered that one. Although my dad would say he ordered it first and then Sam copied him. Also, order a Huckleberry Margarita, just because Huckleberry is their thing up there.
The next morning we took a Jenny Lake Boating shuttle service across Jenny Lake to hike Hidden Falls up to Inspiration Point and then on to Cascade Canyon Trail. The trails were gorgeous, the views were even better and this hike was fun! It’s good if you’re looking for a workout and a populated trail. You know, so you have a better chance if bears are around. Find more to do around Jenny Lake here.
Unfortunately we never made it past Inspiration Point. My parents received a phone call that my grandpa was in the hospital. We didn’t know much about the situation at that point but my dad knew he had to fly home (and update: at this point my grandpa is doing a lot better). My parents were able to find a flight departing from Jackson Hole (about an hour away) the next morning and they wanted to at least see a tiny bit of Yellowstone before they left. So we headed down the mountain, crossed back over Jenny Lake and hit the road to Old Faithful. But I’ll Blog about Yellowstone in the next post.
Oh also on our way to Old Faithful we saw our very first bear beside the road! A small black bear was foraging in the grass. And people stopped along the road to take pictures but it didn’t care one bit. He was just having a good time.
Jackson Lake Lodge
When we made it back to Grand Teton National Park from seeing Old Faithful we stopped in to enjoy the back patio and some dinner at Jackson Lake Lodge (about 6 miles from Colter Bay Village).
Jackson Lake Lodge is gorgeous and has an incredible panoramic view with a large stretch of meadow between their giant back patio and the Grand Tetons. It’s the perfect place to spot wildlife.
“Voted the #1 National Park for viewing wildlife, Grand Teton National Park is home to year-round moose, bison, elk, bear, pronghorn, eagle, and various other birds and animal species. Needless to say, the opportunities to view wildlife here are endless” and that night Sam and my Dad spotted an elk! I pretty much had to wrangle them in for dinner before the grill closed. They would have stayed outside all night.
The Pioneer Grill
We ate dinner at one of Jackson Lake Lodge’s most budget friendly dining options: The Pioneer Grill. It’s a 1950’s style diner with a singular long counter that snakes throughout the entire space. The grill serves classic American food and we all ordered burgers! Everything that we ate there was good, in fact Sam and I would eat here again – twice – before the long haul home. Once for lunch: their smoked turkey sandwich with a fried egg and avocado aioli is amazing (once again Sam copied the best orderer) and once for breakfast: breakfast burrito for me and eggs over easy for Sam.
After dinner we went back to our cabin at Colter Bay Village, drank some Huckleberry Moonshine (purchased at the Colter Bay Convenience Store), and played a fun couple rounds of Bullshit (the card game) then called it a night!
Jackson Hole Side Note
In the morning we dropped my parents off at the Jackson Hole Airport and then stopped into town for breakfast. Side note on Jackson Hole – since we were only there a couple of hours. I won’t do a whole post on it but its super cute! It’s very quaint and feels very touristy and the town square is lined with shops, coffee shops and places to eat. Sam and I had breakfast at Jackson Hole Roasters and walked around the square. Then we were on our way to Yellowstone!
After Yellowstone we were embarking on the long journey home. But we decided to stop in Grand Teton National Park one more time because we loved it so much. Sam booked us a cabin at Jackson Lake Lodge for one night and we enjoyed a fun two-year wedding anniversary! It was perfect.
Leigh & Bearpaw Lakes
When we returned to Grand Teton we had the entire day to explore. So after we checked into our cottage we went for a solo hike at Leigh Lake Trailhead. I say solo because you are supposed to hike in groups of three or more. But it was just us two! Although, there was a family and a few older people interspersed on the same trail. But for the most part we were alone. And of course I carried the bear spray in a ready position the entire hike!
Sam told me about his friend who’d seen two grizzlies and been charged by a black bear while hiking the Tetons. Scott wouldn’t notice the grizzlies until he was right upon them. They just looked like a big brown bush in the hillside. And they would stand up on their hind legs to check him out, but then they would go about their own business…. Sam tells me this as we are walking along a hillside and he is looking for big brown bushes. WHY?!?
We weren’t far from backcountry campsites and we were hiking a trail that was partly back country! I read it in my Yellowstone/Teton book but I chose this trail because the book said “it’s very popular, particularly with young families.” And that just screamed safe zone to me.
This trail is one of the easier in the area although it does feel kind of long when you are just two people in the wilderness. It’s a 3 1/2 hour hike, 7.4 miles long and labeled easy-moderate. The fun thing is that the trail goes around a lake and you can go for a swim afterward (or before if you prefer). Jump in right away and get the shock factor over quickly! Because its super cold glacier water.
Grizzlies at the Grand Tetons
Back at Jackson Lake Lodge we went for a swim in the pool and then hit the Blue Heron Lounge. We were celebrating 2 years of marriage! The Lounge looks over the panoramic view and connects to the back patio. The back patio is right beside a hiking trail, so the atmosphere is really nice. Also, they mean business with their margaritas! Two margaritas later, we were feeling loose and here’s what happened as told by Sam:
“On our 2 year anniversary, My wife standing on a hill holding a margarita in one hand, and a large rock in the other. We took a short hike a few hundred yards away from our hotel to watch the sunset on a trail marked for “recent bear activity” and I refused to go back to our room and grab bear spray. Right after I convinced her that it was safe to keep going, we looked beneath us and saw a mother grizzly with three cubs grazing in an open section of the valley below. An elk walked into the valley and one of the cubs chased it around a bit, then they were all gone. Awesome.”
We saw grizzlies!!! They were far away at that point but by the direction they were walking, at some point they had been right in front of us. It was pretty awesome and kind of crazy.
A man was mauled by the world-famous bear 399 at Jackson Lake Lodge in 2007. He stumbled upon them eating an elk carcass on a morning hike near the corral and startled the bears. You can read more about it here. Thankfully the man pleaded for bear 399’s life because he knew the nature of the situation. She was surprised and was only defending her cubs. It’s interesting to hear him recount the experience. He seemed very aware of what was happening the entire time he was attacked.
Bear 399 has frequented the area near Jackson Lake Lodge since 2006 when scientists believe she was escaping the danger of male grizzlies killing her cubs in the backcountry. She was looking for a safe place to raise them and ever since then she has called the area around nearby Pilgrim Creek her home.
Bear 399 is 20 years old and this past winter/early spring there was speculation that she had either died or been killed. But she emerged late spring with a new cub dubbed Snowy because of his white face. Unfortunately Snowy was hit by a car a few days before our trip. The first people to the scene reported that bear 399 was frantically trying to attend to her cub. It’s heartbreaking to read about, especially for two bears that have become so beloved by America. If you don’t follow Yellowstone and Grand Teton on Instagram I would recommend following them! They are always sharing stories about the different wildlife that they follow and protect in the parks.
Sam and I think that the bear and cubs we saw was one of 399’s grown up daughters. Bear 610. She followed her mom’s lead and frequents the same area with her babies now. And I think that is so neat!
Jackson Lake Lodge Cottages
The Jackson Lake Lodge Cottages are really nice. They feel like a lush hotel room as opposed to a cabin. The front desk told us that the cottages and the lodge rooms are exactly the same except but the cottages are a bit bigger.
When we got back to our room we had a special delivery of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries from my mom!
Funny story about the strawberries. Sam opened a window when we first got back to the room, we’re talking a big window that is basically like a giant door into the room. And we had fallen asleep with it open. Well right in front of the window were the ends of the strawberries that we had eaten. And for some reason I woke up in the middle of the night thinking BEARS LIKE BERRIES, WE NEED TO CLOSE THE WINDOW NOW. I was certain that a bear would smell those strawberries and come crashing into the room.
Well I was too scared to get up and close the window. So I woke Sam up and of course he wouldn’t get up and close the dang window! He thought we were completely fine in bear country with a platter of berries by our window (love you babe). UNTIL he legitimately heard grunting – and noises that seem like they would come from a bear – somewhere outside of our cottage! NO JOKE. He got up real quick to shut the window as quietly as he could! Haha!
We survived the night and had breakfast at the grill before we left. I was reluctant to leave the view of Grand Teton National Park. It was by far my favorite and I can’t wait to go back someday!
From Grand Teton we headed down to Estes Park, Colorado. But first I’ll talk about Yellowstone in the next post!
Till next time,