Yellowstone, Grand Tetons + Jackson Hole Diary

This is the full excerpt from my Travel Diary, which I’ll be posting a review of in the coming weeks! 

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Our adventure began on Tuesday, July 2, when we piled into Nic’s Ford Escape and started our 12+ hour drive.

We found a list of 101 unique questions to ask on a road trip – and went through everything from “What’s your most embarrassing high school memory?” to “What’s something that you consider a luxury that you can’t live without?”

Perhaps the coolest thing was the excitement of pulling off into Theodore Roosevelt National Park, right off the highway, and seeing how the landscape had already changed so much. We even saw a few bison sleeping amidst the hills.

While I had always been given the recommendation to explore Yellowstone National Park, it was surprising to me how little I knew about it. It was fascinating to spend day two roaming around America’s oldest national park and learning about its various types of ecosystems, including hot spring, geysers, active mud volcanoes and more.

We saw more wildlife than we could count, drove through some of the coolest parts of Yellowstone (including what they refer to as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone) and so much more.

Our last stop was Old Faithful, which was our first sight of a real geyser. Though not as faithful anymore, this geyser is a predictable geothermal structure that erupts with hot liquid every 44 to 125 minutes. It was a great ending to our road trip through Yellowstone.

We finally made it to our end destination! On day three, we got up early and snagged a spot at Gros Ventre Campground inside Grand Teton National Park. After setting up camp and putting all our food in our protective bear hutch, we waited for the rest of our group to arrive and explored a few areas of the park near us.

The weekend at our campsite consisted of a lot of beer, a lot of Golf (cards), a lot of failed campfires and a lot of stories and laughter.

Jenny Lake is one of the most popular destinations at the Grand Tetons, and I can tell why. It was a beautiful day when we ventured over to this trailhead. We ended up taking a shuttle across the lake to the opposite shore, and did two smaller hikes.

First, we hiked to Hidden Falls, which is a huge rushing waterfall in the middle of the hike. Then we went up to Inspiration Point, overlooking Jenny Lake and the rest of the Tetons, with scenic views of Cascade Canyon behind us.

From there, we hiked on to the String Lake trail, which was a nice 1.5 mile hike to reveal another beautiful lake. String Lake, however, was unseasonably warm, so we got on in! It was the perfect ending to our day of hiking and one of the most beautiful views we’d ever seen.

One of my favorite parts of being in these parks was all the wildlife – I loved learning about the elk, pronghorn, pika, bison and so much more. We even saw our first moose!

Our last full day was spent exploring a few of the other areas of Grand Teton National Park, including venturing outside of it. We learned about the Gros Ventre landslide, one of the biggest mountain falls in history, and explored the Gros Ventre Wilderness of Bridger-Teton National Forest. We were welcomed with stunning views of the Tetons in distance, too.

After we spent the afternoon playing games and enjoying the view at Jackson Lake, we went to our first rodeo in Jackson Hole. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us right in the middle of rodeo country, and we loved every second of it!

Jackson was the town where all the touristy shops, restaurants and the rodeo was. Jackson Hole is referring to the area, because it’s basically a “hole” in between all the mountains. We loved the area and spent a lot of time here our last two days.

Our very last day, we also rode the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram up to a summit overlooking the Grand Tetons and the Jackson Hole valley. We were greeted with stunning 360 degree views and yummy waffles! It was a perfect way to say goodbye to the area we spent the past few days exploring.

To get a head start on driving, we said our goodbyes and left Jackson Hole in the afternoon to arrive in eastern Wyoming later that day. While we had been bummed the entire time about not seeing a bear, we saw one right as we were leaving the park! The “bear on road” signs didn’t lead us astray – and we snapped some photos of this baby grizzly.

We got super lucky with driving. While we were all terribly sick of the car at the end of this trip, we had great weather, no car trouble and no scary moments on the road, which I was very thankful for. It was a fun last day driving through surprisingly scenic Wyoming, and stopping at Mount Rushmore on a pitstop.

And of course, we ended the night at Taco Bell before pulling up to our home in St. Louis Park.

Something about the mountains bring me both peace and clarity at the same time… something I don’t usually get in my day-to-day life. I’m forever grateful for that feeling of “awe” looking at the views we saw on this trip, and for the peace and clarity I felt. It’s indescribable – and I’ll be back.

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