[Travel Advice] Grand Teton Range

Random Observation/Comment #808: I totally want to do a retired “RV Life” tour of the national parks.

Things we learned about Jackson

  • There’s no shortage of great restaurants to explore because the real estate is so expensive the food has to be good to stick around. Make reservations!
  • Jackson has the highest population of billionaires – you might see some celebrities at the restaurants. There’s a story about Harrison Ford liking the Pearl Street Bagels place, which might just be a myth.
  • If you’re exploring restaurants, expect to spend around $40 per person per meal. You can do it for less, but it was well worth the different dishes.
  • All “locals” probably have $5M+ houses – Wyoming is very tax friendly.
  • We loved staying (Springhill Suites Marriott) by downtown so we can walk to restaurants. The drive isn’t too bad if you start early.
  • Definitely visit Jenny Lake and take the ferry ride over to the other side so you can hike to the Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point (more below). The car parking is the hardest part of this whole endeavor, so show up before 9AM or else overflow parking goes to the main street.
  • Buy the yearly national park pass for $80. It’s definitely worth it.
  • Going to the Grand Teton visitor center was a great day 1 activity to get some recommendations on hikes
  • Quaking Aspens are the largest organism because the roots just sprout new trees from below. This is a fact shared by pretty much all tour guides.
  • Tour guides have an incredible ability to spot animals in the distance while driving or paddling. I swear they just look like small tan or brown specks in the distance.
  • The Wyoming section of the drive was extremely windy. Driving 80MPH (speed limit) with 40+MPH winds was not easy.
  • Our impromptu drive from Jackson to Victor, Idaho was actually really beautiful drive and we found our favorite brunch place, Butter Cafe, and brewery, Grand Teton Brewing.
  • For some reason, locals like to say “indeed” when agreeing with comments. It’s strange.

Preparing for the trip

  • We knew there would be an 8-9 hr car ride from Denver to Jackson, so we packed Evie entertainment and snacks appropriately and planned some stops
  • Device chargification was essential. We triple checked from the night before.
  • Since we were driving, we treated the whole car as a suitcase
  • Definitely schedule tours ahead of time – Vinessa definitely picked some of the best
  • If you’re flying into Jackson airport, note that Uber is not really a thing for Jackson, and taxis are super expensive. Book a car early (the day rate we heard was around $100).
  • Double check your hotel reservations because some places will say “Jackson” as a keyword search, but the hotel will actually be in Idaho for a cheaper price.
  • Pack mosquito repellent (so many mozzies!) and sunscreen (higher altitude and thinner air than Denver).
  • We packed an RTIC cooler, but we wound up not really using it. It would have been too heavy to carry for the hike and sandwiches tend to travel better.
  • Bring cash for tour tips (around $400).
  • Ask ChatGPT to help with planning!

ChatGPT query and results

Similar to my trip to Malta and Amsterdam, a great query to use is: “I’m traveling to Jackson, Wyoming by car with a 5 year old for 10 days. We would like to do some family friendly hiking and visit some great restaurants. Can you organize 20 trips approximately 4 hours long? We are also okay with driving to Yellowstone and recommending tours.”

While we didn’t use all the recommendations, we did wind up doing Google searches for tours that were based on the itinerary and did some mixing/matching. The tours we booked are linked in the itinerary.

Itinerary

Monday

Start around 8am

Stop at Rawlins for Thai food (Anongs) – This was a great 3-hour-in stopping point. Food was decent. Loved the thai iced tea.

Stop at Rock Springs for a bathroom break. This was 1.5 hrs from Rawlins and a good way to break up the drive.

Arrived in Jackson, WY and checked into Springhill Suites by 6PM. We considered doing an airbnb, but they were actually much more expensive and remote (because they’re owned by some very wealthy people). We were able to use points and get a discount on the extended stay, so we averaged $550 a night ($4500 for our full week stay). The included 6:30-9:30AM breakfast was also super convenient and clutch for sneaking some extra snacks for the hikes.

Snake River Brewery Company dinner – It was pouring out, so we walked a block away. Surprisingly good beer and the Elk Bolognese was delicious.

Tuesday

Grand Teton visitor center (Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center) – Bought a park pass and got a great recommendation for a less crowded hike that was perfect for Evie

Leigh lake hike following the Leigh lake trail – If the clouds weren’t covering the Grand Tetons, we would have had a beautiful reflection from the lake. Macro photography was still fun. This was a beautiful 2.5-hr or so hike (there-and-back flat and well groomed trail).

Drive around scenic area and wound up at Jackson Lake Lodge – What a treat! This lodge is huge and has some classy places with great views. Since we didn’t have a great view, I generated some AI photos of the Grand Tetons.

Quick lunch at Pioneer Grill – The counters “s” around and they serve decent diner food.

Gather in Jackson Hole dinner – The forbidden rice was super yummy and the Asian fusion came through. Make a reservation (especially if it’s raining) because this place books up early when they don’t have outdoor seating (we had to have a 5:30PM dinner).

Wednesday

Half day Wildlife Safari tour – 6:30-11AM ($700) – This wound up being a private tour with just a barrage of questions to Kayla, our very knowledgeable tour guide. There aren’t guaranteed sightings, but we got a few and stopped at some very scenic places to get those gorgeous pictures of the Grand Teton range. I was honestly just happy to not drive.

Exploring downtown square and having lunch at Pinky Gs pizza – There aren’t a lot of stores, but it’s a nice way to just wander. Pizza by the slice was NYC quality.

Teton Toys – Evie somehow sniffed her way into this basement of vast toys. There’s a good chance you’ll buy something if you bring your child here.

Scenic Float Tour with Lewis and Clark River Expeditions – 2:30-5PM ($275) – Drifting down the Snake River and chatting with our tour guide Izak from Alaska. We saw a few bald eagles, marmots, ducks, and even some pelicans. If you’re afraid of bugs, you will probably not like this because there are stone flies EVERYWHERE. The flies don’t bite, but they’re pretty big and you could easily get creeped out. Note that you probably won’t get wet and you won’t need to paddle in the scenic float. I’d definitely recommend it.

Coelette for dinner – This was definitely more of a date night spot and the most expensive dinner from the whole trip. I would have loved to stay longer and enjoy more cocktails.

Thursday

Cafe Genevieve for breakfast – Definitely get the cheesy bacon grits and corned beef hash. This place is much more busy for brunch.

National Museum of Wildlife art – This is a solid 2hrs of wandering the galleries. There was a fun scavenger hunt and small kids art room.

Hotel Pool time – I needed to fix the car, so Evie went to the pool

Local steakhouse – Surprisingly kid friendly and includes crayons. I actually think most restaurants provide some kids menus.

Friday

Yellowstone lower loop tour – 7AM-6PM ($900) – This trip was worth it just for having 3 hours of playing Zelda Tears of the Kingdom while I didn’t have to drive. There were lots of mosquitos :(. Tour guide was super nice and it came with some delicious ham and swiss sammy bags. 3 planned stops (see below) with some impromptu stops where we saw some bison herds, moose, and elk.

Old Faithful – We saw the 10:15AM eruption (90 sec to 5 min spewing). It was pretty cool, but people definitely started scattering after 2 minutes and crowded the lodge.

Fountain Paint Pots – Lower Geyser Basin – This is one of my favorite stops! There’s so many different types of thermals and they’re very beautiful and close.

Canyon village – Grand canyon of Yellowstone – This was absolutely the best waterfall I’ve ever seen. It’s all in the distance, but the view of the river in all its glory is majestic.

Local Steakhouse (again) – I wanted to try the Buffalo Wellington. Slightly overcooked, but still tender.

Saturday

Jenny lake hike and relax (8:30-11:30AM) – Get here before 9am so you can get some parking. Do the ferry boat ride ($18/person). Hike up 0.5 mile to Hidden Falls and another 0.5 miles to Inspiration point for the view of the lake. If we had more time, we’d continue to the Canyon summit. Note that there are tons of Chipmunks that are not afraid of people and will probably give you some disease.

Jenny Lake lodge dining room lunch – Beautiful restaurant with a great view. The ranch burger was super juicy and delicious.

Wagon and cookout with a show – Bar T 5 – 5-7PM ($180) – Wagon ride was super nice. Show was a little cheesy. Food was mid at best, but there was good energy. Lots of kids attending.

Sunday

Astoria hot springs – 9-11AM ($50) – This was the perfect relaxing morning and great for kids. You should do this on a day with 50F or less morning. I’m sure this place is super crowded in the winter. We floated around and enjoyed the 2 hours.

Drive to Victor, Idaho through the scenic mountain pass – This was a beautiful 30 min drive. It’s very easy to go 50MPH through the 25MPH downhill turns, so be sure to brake (especially if it’s icy).

Butter Cafe for lunch- This was absolutely the best place ever! Totally worth the drive and we joked that we would plan a whole trip around trying everything on this menu.

Grand Teton Brewery – Imperial stout was super delicious and bought a 6-pack so I can write this review.

Takeout from Everest Momo Shack – Chow mein was really well made, but momo was a little too thick. Definitely get the vegetable samosas.

Monday

Drive home! We cut the trip 3 days early because we actually saw quite a lot in a short amount of time (and now we’re exhausted in search for laundry). Would I appreciate another gorgeous view and animal sighting? Maybe. Do I want to drive 12 hours in a day through Yellowstone? Nope.

When we revisit, we’ll stay closer to the Yellowstone upper loop and visit Lamar Valley and Slough Creek. We’re glad we ended it on a good note since the rain was just around the corner.

~See Lemons Love Jackson, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Victor