Moose, Bike Riding, and Killer Views of Grand Teton National Park [Video]

Grand Teton

Day 11: Autumn slept great so we leisurely rolled out of the tent, ate breakfast, and prepared for the day. It would be our second and last day of our short visit to Grand Teton National Park. We decided a nice morning bike ride through the valley, followed by a ranger program, and hike along Jenny Lake would be a great day.

We brought our bikes and a double-wide bike trailer on this trip so we could enjoy the national parks from a different perspective. Glacier offered a few trails, Yellowstone was terrible, but Grand Teton was…well…grand! The park has a paved bike path from Jenny Lake to the south entrance (with plans to connect to Jackson Hole). We loaded the kids in the trailer and enjoyed a 13 mile ride. The views of the Tetons were great and the weather was perfect. A highlight of our ride was viewing a mother and baby moose in a nearby creek. At first we and a few others saw the moose but within minutes the crowds gathered. We took off after about 10 minutes of enjoying the public display of awesomeness.

We went back to camp to allow the kids to run around and grab a snack before we made our way for a ranger talk at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center.

The ranger program was about climbing in the Tetons. It focused a bit on history of climbing in the Tetons and showed some of the gear used for climbing. The talk was okay but could have improved if a ranger who actually climbed was presenting the program. I thought Ethan would’ve enjoyed the talk but he kind of lost interest during the history part. He did enjoy the hammer for nailing in pitons and kept demonstrating it’s use to me.

Mother and baby moose at Grand Teton National Park
Mother and baby moose at Grand Teton National Park

After the talk we did a leisure stroll around part of Jenny Lake before turning in Ethan’s Junior Ranger activity packet at the visitor center. Ethan was offered a badge and patch for completing his activities. He was pretty excited to receive his third Junior Ranger badge/sticker. This trip is the first time I’ve seen what the program offers and think it’s a well worthwhile activity for any parent visiting a national park. When I was a wildland firefighter at Lassen Volcanic National Park, there was a Junior Wildland Firefighter program that offered a lot of hand-on activities. I think these type of programs only benefit children and adults as they continue to educate them about the importance of national parks.

After dinner we enjoyed a drive to the park’s highest drivable point called Signal Mountain. Breathtaking views of the east valley were a plenty. Do this drive if you have time.

Prior to turning in for the night we packed up most of our camp. We knew we would have a big drive of driving to Boise tomorrow and wanted to arrive as early as possible to allow the kids time to swim and relax at our hotel.

Welcome to Grand Teton National Park (a kick ass National Park)

Welcome to Grand Teton National Park
Welcome to Grand Teton National Park
Welcome to Grand Teton National Park

Day 10: Up and out of Yellowstone National Park bright and early. We had a campsite to claim in Grand Teton National Park and it was 4th of July weekend. Unlike Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, there are no reservable campsites in Grand Teton. We decided to go big and for the most popular campground in Grand Teton: Jenny Lake Campground. Our early start paid off as we found a nice large site at the far end of Jenny Lake campground.

As you drive through Grand Teton from the north the Teton Mountain Range captures your attention The peaks are dramatic and spectacular. As a climber, I yearn to climb the peaks and see the views they provide. But that would be for another trip. On this trip we would admire them from valley floor.

Family photo in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The Gang's All Here

After setting up camp we headed to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center area. It’s customary for us to first visit a nearby visitor center to learn about the national park we’re visiting. We’ll usually buy a children’s book or two to read to the kids while visiting the park. We also learn about the Junior Ranger program offered in the park. Grand Teton’s Junior Ranger Program required, by far, the most activities of the three national parks we visited. It was definitely doable but for a three year old it required a lot more involvement from the parent. We were up for the challenge.

We then decided to enjoy a drive through the southern part of the park and visit Jackson Hole. Laura and I enjoyed this town when we visited in March 2002 and decided to have dinner here tonight. We arrived in the early afternoon and made our way through all the tourist traffic. Yes there is a lot but it’s manageable. After parking I found a coffee shop where I uploaded a few blog posts about our trip and Laura played with the kids in a nearby park. We wandered the town where we enjoyed viewing the many pieces of art throughout the downtown area. Wildlife and cowboys are a huge part of this area and it’s represented very well in art, building design, activities, and more. We got in on the action and did a family photo cowboy style. Ethan got a kick out of us dressing up and loved being able to hold not one, but two guns.

On our drive back to camp we stopped to admire a herd of elk in the park. It was the first elk we had seen.

Boat Ride on Lake McDonald

Ethan and Autumn at Lake McDonald
Ethan and Autumn at Lake McDonald
Ethan and Autumn at Lake McDonald

Day 3: The night was chilly and Autumn a bit restless, but our first of nine camping nights went well. I cooked up some delicious mountain pancakes before we headed to the Apgar Visitor Center. At the center we inquired about trail conditions and those appropriate for kids. Ethan picked up a pre-reader Junior Ranger packet. The Junior Park Ranger program is geared towards children and allows the kids to learn more about nature and the park through fun activities. Ethan was excited to complete his first one. Before heading out we clicked a few classic photos of Lake McDonald. The views from this Visitor Center area are truly breathtaking. If I could, I’d just pull up a chair and book (or maybe a laptop) and hang out all day. The scenary never gets old.

Before heading out, we were informed that the Going-to-the-Sun Road was still not open. That was disappointing as we had planned on heading east the next day via this route. We completely understood what kind of snowpack conditions all the western States were experiencing so we’d use an alternate route tomorrow.

We decided to hike around the Avalanche Creek area along the Trail of the Cedars. The trail was located 16 miles on the east end of the lake. The Western Red Cedars along the loop are magnificent and the creek is flowing at capacity. The hike was easy and allowed Ethan to explore the different flora in the area.

On the drive back west we stopped by McDonald Falls and snapped a few shots. We also enjoyed a nice lunch along the river. The park was active but it was fairly easy to get around to the various scenic points and trails. We assume that when the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens the number of visitors will increase.

View from the boat on Lake McDonald

After lunch we stopped at Lake McDonald Lodge to catch a boat. We rarely do a park concessionaire activity when visiting National Parks but this seemed so unique and something Ethan and Autumn would love. We weren’t disappointed. The boat left the lodge and toured the lake for an hour. A National Park Service Park Ranger provided a talk about the natural and human history of the area. The kids loved the boat ride and the views.

After grabbing wood, ice, and milkshakes we headed back to camp around 3pm. We wanted the kids to enjoy the camping area without any plans. Both kids let energy out and played, played, and played. We fired up our first, and last, camp fire of the trip to grill sausages and marshmallows. I say last because camp fires and kids never mix well. They want to touch everything and seem drawn in like a magnet. Also, smoke abatement is difficult and everyone just smells afterward. The fire was worth it though because our meal was delicious.

Later in the evening we tried to listen to the evening ranger talk at the campground amphitheater but the person giving the talk wasn’t a ranger. Instead it was a park employee or intern giving their first PowerPoint presentation. After the 210th “Awesome”, “Cool”, and “Ummmm” we left. The kids didn’t mind at all. We instead strolled around some of the hiking trails in the area.

Ethan and Laura complete the Junior Ranger packet

Autumn fought going to bed tonight so we packed up the family in the car and drove along Camas Road. This area goes through the 2003 Roberts Fire towards an entrance north of us. The views of the burned area and the northern Rockies were spectacular. I’m glad Autumn couldn’t sleep because, otherwise, we wouldn’t have driven around here. It was a great area to view.

After putting Autumn to bed, Ethan and Laura completed his Junior Ranger activities packet. The packet focused on shapes, coloring, matching, and numbers. All of us finally turned in around 11pm.

 

Welcome to Glacier National Park!

Glacier NP
Glacier NP
Welcome to Glacier National Park

Day 2: A visit to Spokane wouldn’t be complete without a stop by the World’s Largest Radio Flyer Wagon Slide. On our way out of town we visited Riverfront Park where the kids enjoyed the slide and a spin on the carousel. This was Autumn’s first time on a carousel and, unfortunately, she cried a bit. That may have set us back a year. We enjoyed a false start to our drive to Glacier when we had to return to the motel after driving for 30 minutes. We forgot Autumn’s blanket. There are some items a parent could just say let’s cut our losses. A one year old’s blanket is not one of them.

Our drive through Idaho and Montana was gorgeous. The drive in I-90 through Towns of Wallace and Taft and the Lolo National Forest reminded me of the book “The Big Burn” that I completed last Spring. The book focuses on the fires of 1910 that swept through this stretch of I-90. Wallace, Taft, Lolo and others were burned. When you look at the mountains on both sides of the Interstate, the slopes are steep and the canyons not very wide. You can begin to imagine why the 1910 fires were so devastating.

In Montana, we left I-90 and took Highways 135, 200, 28, 93, and 2 to Glacier. 200 and 28 are very scenic drives. They are country roads with no amenities. The valleys are wide and beautiful. The hills are scattered with trees and snow. If you haven’t driven this area before, we highly recommend it.

We pulled into our campsite around 7pm. We camped at Fish Creek Campgrounds along the north side of Lake McDonald. This is one of the few campgrounds that allow advanced reservations. After setting up camp, we enjoyed a hot pasta meal and went on a bike ride around all the campground loops before turning in for the night.