It’s been eleven years since our last visit to Grand Teton National Park, and we looked forward to driving through again while we were relatively nearby. Although the crowds and traffic tend to keep us away from the national parks we’ve already visited (we skipped Yellowstone this time), our early arrival kept the crowds away until the early afternoon when we were leaving.
Our last visit was in the springtime when the range was covered in snow, and we really enjoyed the new perspective this summer journey gave us.
We thought of adding a hike to our tour, but the 60-mile drive from our campground at Thayne put us past our usual start time. Instead, we drove the scenic route counter-clockwise to experience the legendary beauty in a half-day visit. The spectacular Teton Range with snow-capped spires thrust toward the sky is a beauty to behold from every angle!
At the top of Lunch Tree Hill was a plaque commemorating John D. Rockefeller Jr., who created a controversy when he purchased “the entire Jackson Hole Valley” under a different business name in 1933. His intent was to donate the land to the National Park Service to bolster the acreage of Grand Teton National Park. While Rockefeller’s connection to the project was revealed during a hearing, the Grand Teton National Park vision was eventually realized in 1950 with the expansion of the park to include Jackson Hole. The term “Hole” was used early on by fur trappers to describe high altitude plateaus surrounded by mountains.
Pausing at each overlook along the scenic route, the striking magnificent views and wildlife did not disappoint:
We drove out to Colter Bay, where Grand Teton seemed to float on Jackson Lake:
By 1pm we couldn’t find a parking spot at Jenny Lake. I jumped out of the car and snapped a picture of the Cathedral Group Towers above the lake:
During our first visit in 2007, Grand Teton was shrouded in clouds. This time the weather was perfect to see the whole range on grandiose display. Except for the very popular Jenny Lake at the end of our drive, the summer crowds weren’t too bad.
On our way home we passed through the crowded and very touristy western town of Jackson. I captured one of the four dense elkhorn antler arches guarding the corners of Town Square. I preferred these over the larger one in Afton, Wyoming.
At first, I was scared to think how many elk had been killed to gather the thousands of antlers! But then I learned they simply fall off naturally from animals who grow new sets every year. Each of these arches is a mosaic of 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of antlers and replaced every 30 to 40 years.
Fort Bridger State Historic Site
We left Thayne the following day and drove 152 miles south to Fort Bridger, our last stop in Wyoming. Right next door to our campground was the Fort Bridger Historic Site where we learned that Jim Bridger and his partner, Louis Vasquez, established Fort Bridger to service emigrant traffic in 1842.
One of the plaques advised that Jim Bridger, the discoverer of Great Salt Lake, was a notable pioneer, trapper, fur trader, scout and guide. He’s been called America’s greatest frontiersman, so it’s no wonder a national forest has been named after him.
The historic site maintains and interprets historic structures and remnants from its 5 eras of occupation, including Jim Bridgers trading outpost, mormons, military, milkbarn/motel, and now a museum.
Little did we know that the area where we camped – now known as Bridger Valley – served as a crossroads for the Oregon/California Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Pony Express Route, the Transcontinental Railroad and the Lincoln Highway. We enjoyed the quiet campground, relaxing and learning some history at the same time.
Both of our stops in Wyoming, Thayne and Fort Bridger, led us off the beaten path to see a natural phenomenon and an historic site which used to be a major stopping point on the old west trails.
We still haven’t made it to the Tetons (well, I was there as a child, but I don’t remember, because I didn’t have our blog, haha!). Your photos make me want to go there. Especially because you saw a moose! And a baby moose! And got a great photo! I’ve never seen a moose.
The fur trading outpost looks like an interesting stop—and those officer’s lounging chairs are cool!
By the way, I always like the photos of you posing beside the entrance signs to the parks. You must have quite a collection by now. 🙂
You bet I have so many photos of me next to a sign that I even forgot I had one in front of Fort Bridger. I think the Grand Teton NP seemed to be second fiddle only to the next door YNP but who ever thought of that is missing the beauty of the Teton Range and the wilderness. Perhaps when you go to GNP a moose could be waiting for you 🙂
Your beautiful photos of Grand Teton reminded me of our visit there back in 2008. The mountains jutting up abruptly from the flat plain around them is such a memorable sight. I’m so glad you got to see them on such a great day!
Thank You Carol, we lucked out that day for I learned later that the haze and smoke from nearby fires obscured the Teton Range when we left. I took so many pictures of every angle of the range, our second visit did not disappoint.
Dear Steve and Mona Lisa. We are undecided if we will go south this winter. I read your posts and get excited to see where to have been. I kind of want to stay home and work on my airplane.I have built a set of amphibian floats and today I started rigging them to my airplane. Maybe we will just take time and go to warm place by air. However I would like to go south and maybe meet you guys somewhere. Please reply and tell me where you will be in January? We miss you guys. Hope all is well.
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Hi Matt and Gloria, Steve will respond to you in a separate email. We too would like to cross paths with you this winter 🙂
The Tetons are still on the list of places to visit…your pictures are so beautiful MonaLiza. So lucky to see the mama moose and baby! The drive-in garage cabins are different…cool!
You just have to make that commitment and if you do try to be there early summer. Your long-range camera will have a field day with the wild animals.
These photos of the mountain range are just gorgeous. By the time we circled around to that area, everything was hazy from the local wildfire smoke (I assume), so I am not crazy about most of my photos from that part of the park. On the other hand, the morning at Jenny Lake was beautiful. I guess the lesson learned is: make sure you visit early…. You also had wonderful luck finding wildlife. These photos are so close and clear…. just awesome! And I’m glad to know all those antlers fell off on their own. I’m pretty sure the ASPCA would have some choice words for the artist who created the arches if not! Anyway, we really enjoyed GTNP and hope to visit again at some point. It really is a fabulous park!
We did luck out visiting the park on a clear, cloudless morning. As expected I had so many photos of the range in every angle, had a tough time selecting the ones to post. I wish I could post them all 🙂 Too bad we missed each other that day.
You are so right that those Tetons are beauty to behold from every angle. Wonderful pictures of a place I really love. I had no idea you’d been on the road more than 11 years. That’s fantastic! Lucky lucky you guys. Can’t believe you did a car tour and the bison, pronghorn and the moose all showed up for photo ops. Love that picture of the bison herd with the Tetons in the background. A nesting Great Blue that high up? Those birds just amaze me. They are everywhere, in the Tetons, in the Smokies, in Florida. Really nice picture with the peaks labeled. You seem to have an app for everything. Did it do that for you? Very interesting historic site. Love the black and white “statues” and the antler furniture. Great find.
What a beautiful area! We have not been there for a couple years, it is time we need to return….
I am so looking forward to seeing the Tetons again and doing some hiking. We’ve been there twice but on the motorcycle. Your photos are spectacular. You certainly chose the perfect day. How sweet you came upon the mama moose and calf. Lucky, lucky you!!! We need to visit this area either early in the summer or after Labor Day. Thanks for taking us along on your beautiful drive.
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