email
USA: Grand Teton NP
americas asia pacific africa middle east europe

USA: WY - Grand Teton NP
July 2019

Salt Lake City to Grand Teton NP Breakfast on Elk Island Grand Teton NP Signal Mountain
Grand Teton NP Black Bear


A range of soaring mountains rising thousands of metres direct from the valley floor above sparkling blue lakes and sagebrush-covered plains. But the absolute highlight was a close encounter with a black bear!

 

Salt Lake City to Grand Teton NP

Salt Lake City
The Great Salt Lake.
Salt Lake City
Copper mine just outside Salt Lake City.

 

We flew into Salt Lake City from Seattle, picked up a rental car and drove to Park City on the east side of the city in preparation for the drive north the following day.

Impressive views, flying in, of the Great Salt Lake that gives the city its name.

Salt Lake City

We were exhausted after all the travelling but the jet lag served us well, enabling us to make an early start for Grand Teton.

Jody's Diner

 

Jody's Diner
Breakfast at Jody's.

We had decided to eat breakfast on the way and stopped at Jody's Diner in Evanston. This is a real locals place and on a Sunday morning was very popular. Andrew had French Toast with bacon and eggs, I ordered corned beef hash which also came with hash browns and eggs! Needless to say I couldn't manage all of it. A very good breakfast to set us up for the rest of the drive north.

In the Jackson Hole area we started to pass through towns, many with arches made from hundreds of elk horns. The town of Jackson was heaving with people. The central area looked quite nice but we had no plans to stop here; it's a popular ski town in winter and obviously just as popular with tourists in the summer.

We drove straight through and stopped at Moose where we bought park passes at the Visitor Centre. We took the $80 annual, all-parks pass as we were going on to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

Jody's Diner
Grand
Cascade Canyon lies between the two sets of mountains. The Cathedral Group is on the left.

 

It was way too early to check in to our hotel so we decided to take a leisurely look in the park on the way.

Grand Teton NP
Grand Teton NP
Goatsbeard1

We drove along the Teton Park Road past Jenny Lake, stopping at a few viewpoints, before heading to Jackson Lake Lodge. At Cascade Canyon Turnout we walked a little way into the brush to get better photographs. Very scrubby landscape and coniferous forest below the mountains.

Grand Teton NP
Sagebrush covers much of the landscape.

We were staying at Jackson Lake Lodge, in a Moose Pond View room which meant we had a fabulous view across the plain to the Grand Teton Mountains.

Grand Teton NP
Dawn view from our room.

 

Food wasn't great there - we had a poor meal in the Mural room, my bison steak was tough and the less said about the split Bearnaise sauce the better. Breakfast in the Pioneer Grill was excellent though.

Grand Teton NP

Our room had a really nice place to sit outside with binoculars watching for any wildlife, shaded for most of the day. More animals come out in the evening than during the day - chipmunks, ground squirrels, pika which look like guinea pigs, once a mule deer (I think) and half a dozen or so female/young elk in the distance.

Grand Teton NP
Great view from the room.

 

Grand Teton NP
The highest peak is Grand Teton, 4197m.
Grand Teton NP
Mount Moran, 3842m, with Skillet Glacier on its front face.
Grand Teton NP

In the park itself we saw a few bison, elk, deer, lots of dead raccoons on the roads, and a lot of cattle.

Grand Teton NP
Very similar view of the Tetons from the hotel restaurant and bar.
Grand Teton NP

 

Breakfast on Elk Island

Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Colter Bay on Jackson Lake.
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP

 

An early start to get to Colter Bay for 7a.m. It was a glorious morning and the views across the lake were fabulous. Just as we set off a bald eagle swooped low over the lake beside the boat and off towards the mountains.

 

Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP

 

Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP

 

Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Mount Moran 3842m
The large patch of white on the left front face of the mountain is Skillet Glacier.

It was maybe a 40 minute boat trip to the island on the calmest of waters, detouring across to the western side of the lake for better views. The boat was quite small, maybe twenty passengers, and the guide gave a very good commentary all the way on the history of the park and its wildlife. For instance did you know that moose have no sweat glands so they spend most of the warm summer months in water to keep cool!

Breakfast, cooked outside over open fire, was superb. A huge range of cooked foods of which the trout, sausages and potatoes were particularly good.

Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Breakfast with a view.
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
View from the top of Elk Island.
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Seconds!

We enjoyed it so much we went back for more! The trout was easily the best we had on the whole holiday. We saw a lot of fish in the lake.

After breakfast we walked up a trail to a great viewpoint over the lake. Down in the forest two fox cubs were curled up asleep.

Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Sleeping fox cub.
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Sleeping fox cub.
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Highest peak, left of centre, is Grand Teton at 4197m.
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP

 

 

 

Straight back to Colter Bay village, we'd been out for about two and a half hours - a really good start to the day.

 

Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
Colter Bay, Grand Teton NP
View from the top of Elk Island.

 

Grand Teton NP

Grand Teton NP Cathedral Group
View from Cathedral Group Turnout on the one-way scenic drive down towards Jenny Lake.

 

The Cathedral Group is the name given to the three peaks of Teewinot, Grand Teton and Mount Owen.

Grand Teton NP Cathedral Group
From left to right: Teewinot 3756m, Grand Teton 4197m and Mount Owen 3940m.
Grand Teton NP Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake is the second largest lake in the park after Jackson Lake, both formed by glacial action. The lake gets its name from the Shoshone Indian wife of Richard "Beaver Dick" Leigh (who also gave his name to Leigh Lake in the park) who assisted the Hayden Expedition of 1872.

When the glaciers receded around 12,000 years ago, native people moved into the area which became home to many tribes. As well as the Shoshone people there were Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead and Nez Perce and many others. These were hunter-gatherers who moved seasonally with the game that they killed for food, fur and materials such as bone for toolmaking.

Europeans began to make an appearance in the early nineteenth century, exploring the region or trapping its animals for fur. Unfortunately they also brought disease such as smallpox, which killed Jenny Leigh and her six children.2

 

Grand Teton NP Snake River Jackson Lake
The Snake River flowing through the Jackson Lake Dam on its long journey to the Columbia River.

 

The Snake River flows through the valley of Jackson Hole, the region in which the Grand Teton Range of mountains lies. It is the longest tributary of the Columbia River at over 1,000 miles, rising in Yellowstone NP, entering Jackson Lake at its northern tip and flowing out of the lake on its east side where the Jackson Lake Dam is located.

Grand Teton NP Jackson Lake
Jackson Lake at Jackson Lake Dam.

The Snake River was the subject of a famous Ansel Adams photograph. Taken from the Snake River Overlook it showed the river literally snaking its way through the landscape with the mountains in the background. Ansel Adams had been hired in 1941 to photograph the area and his photographs were used in the successful proposal to include Jackson Hole in Grand Teton National Park, to the dismay of local ranchers. The Snake River Overlook photograph was taken in 1942. Since then tree growth in particular has made it impossible to reproduce the shot - the light and time of year were wrong too and couldn't get into exactly the right location, Adams seemed to have more elevation so may have used his tripod on top of his car.

Grand Teton NP Snake River
Information Board at Snake River Overlook with the famous Ansel Adams photograph.
Grand Teton NP Snake River
Grand Teton NP Snake River Overlook

 

The park is a popular destination for mountaineers, skiers and hikers - there are many trails to explore though there are serious warnings about being bear-aware!

Grand Teton NP Jenny Lake
View from Leeks Marina, just north of Colter Bay; we had a very good pizza here one evening.

 

Signal Mountain

Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain
The bright splash of the Snake River winds through the plain.
Looking north east.

One evening we drove up Signal Mountain for the views - we'd read it was best late in the day and this is true of the view east across the plain of the Snake River far below.

Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain

 

Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain
Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain
East
Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain
South
Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain
Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain
Grand Teton NP elk
Elk

 

But the view west is better in the early morning.

So early the next morning, before breakfast, we drove back up Signal Mountain. We saw lots of elk on the way.

 

Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain
Grand Teton and the south end of Jackson Lake, early morning.
Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain
South to north: Mount Woodring, Mount Moran, Bivouac Peak.
Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain
Bivouac Peak

The glaciers retreated around 12,000 years ago leaving a landscape of mountains, deep canyons, lakes and wetlands. Lodgepole pine forest and a sea of sage brush thrive in the conditions.

Grand Teton NP View black bear
This close! We think he is a young male.
Grand Teton NP View black bear
Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain

On the way down, the only car on the road, a black bear nonchalantly emerged from the forest on our right hand side and ambled across the road, just a few metres in front of where we stopped. It was our first bear sighting and absolutely amazing.

Grand Teton NP View black bear
Head down most of the time, searching for food.
Grand Teton NP View black bear
He spent a bit of time behind this log so obviously there was something succulent there.
Grand Teton NP View black bear

We were doubly lucky in that, once on the other side, he turned down towards the car rather than going straight ahead into the trees.

The animal took no notice of us at all, snuffled among the grass and fallen trees, meandering around, looking for food.

Grand Teton NP View black bear

As it was very early in the day it was quite dark in the forest so difficult to get good shots, especially as the bear was moving almost all of the time, but still managed to get one or two decent ones.

Eventually he disappeared up the slope into the trees. The undisputed highlight of our visit to the park!

 

Grand Teton NP View from Signal Mountain

 

References

  1. Teton Plants
  2. Grand Teton National Park