Fun Fact: The entrance fee for Yellowstone also applies to Grand Teton, two parks for the price of one! Thursday, August 2nd we made our way to Grand Teton from the south end of Yellowstone. We went to the Colter Bay Visitor Center to get information on the park. Jason had done some research and found dispersed (free) camping outside of Teton on Grassy Lake Road, which is north of the park (or south of Yellowstone) off of the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Most campgrounds in Grand Teton will run you about $30 a night for a non-electrical site, which is $10-$15 more per night than what we were paying in Yellowstone. Instead, we decided to try Grassy Lake Road for a night and if we didn’t love it we would find a campground (aka the dreaded task of waiting for a campsite to open up). Grassy Lake Road is one mile of paved road, followed by 35+ miles of washboard, pot holed gravel. You are rewarded with secluded campsites complete with a vault toilet, picnic table, and campfire ring (they do not have water, so fill up ahead of time). Everything you need and the best part, the campsites overlook the Snake River, which is apparently a great spot for fly fishing.
The next morning we were up early to get to Jenny Lake Visitor Center for a hike around the south end of the lake. Jenny Lake Visitor Center is currently under construction, so it is recommended by Park Rangers to get there before 9 a.m. if you want a parking spot. We got there about 7:30 a.m. and there were plenty of spots still, it also meant less people on the trail. The hike began at the Jenny Lake Trailhead, the south end of Jenny Lake was beautiful! You do gain some elevation and the terrain can be a little rough but it was worth it. We are still in bear country so Jason had the bear spray attached to his belt and I had my bear bells jingling from my backpack. You can hike around the entire lake but we wanted a smaller hike as we planned a bigger hike the following day. We hiked about 4 miles and then took the shuttle boat back to the visitor center. A one way trip was $9.00 for each of us and a fun way to see Jenny Lake. It was a big shuttle boat and there were only two other people with us on our way back, probably the closest thing we will get to a “private whatever” on this year-long trip.
Saturday morning we were up early again (camping at Grassy Lake Road is a good 45 minute drive to get into the park, but the drive is gorgeous) and headed to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. Our goal was to hike to Amphitheater Lake and Surprise Lake which are a mere 10 miles round trip with a 3,000 ft elevation gain (our longest hike/hardest hike yet). We talked to the Park Ranger the day before and she informed us that it consists of about 18 switchbacks, perfect!
This is the part of the story, where I give you a little TMI but I promise there’s a good reason for it. My mom had texted me awhile back warning me about having my period and bears being able to smell me. Well, it just so happens that my monthly gift was delivered to me the morning of the 10 mile hike. So I popped some Midol, Jason had the bear spray and I had my bear bells jingling as we walked.
It was a beautiful hike with the mountainside covered in wildflowers, but it was a grueling hike. Many water/stretch/breather breaks were made as we trudged through the 18 switchbacks. Finally, we made it to the top to Amphitheater Lake and it was spectacular! Surrounded by mountains is this serene alpine lake. We had a picnic at the top: summer sausage, cheese, and crackers. It was much colder at the top so after sweating on the hike up we had to layer up. Surprise Lake was just as awe inspiring as Amphitheater. Once we were satisfied with food and photos we began the hike back down the mountain.
About half way down the mountain we passed a group of college students who informed us they had just passed a mama black bear and her two cubs not too far off the trail. We thanked them for the information and Jason got the bear spray in his hand and I started jingling my bear bells like a mad woman. Well they were right, I spotted a cub off in
the distance and not even a few feet off the trail Jason spotted the mama bear chomping on some berries. Our adrenaline was high and we scooted quickly past the bears. We proceeded to speed walk the rest of the way down the trail, as Jason sang his made-up song “We don’t want no bears!” over and over while I jingled those bells like my life depended on it! We made it back to the safety of MichelVangelo, but on our way back to our campsite we had to slam on the breaks as a different mama black bear and her three cubs crossed the road. Moral of the story, maybe don’t hike in “bear country” when you’re on your period. Unless you want to see bears, then do. P.S. We’re going to purchase a second bear spray for me, can’t be too safe!
We ended our stay at Grand Teton with more dispersed camping but at Bridger-Teton National Forest (just east of Grand Teton). The road to get to the dispersed camping wins “shittiest road of the trip” so far but, holy cow the sunset was unbelievable. So, if you’re up for some gravel roads/terrible roads you can camp for free just outside of Grand Teton. We stayed a total of 5 nights (between Grassy Lake Road and Bridger-Teton), which would have cost $150 at a campground in the park, so we’ll take that money and spend it on beer instead, priorities.