Ready, Set, and You Best Be Ready To Go Because It’s Official, Summer Has Arrived in the Tetons
My friends visiting from the east coast ended up extending their recent stay at Teton Springs Lodge & Spa. I don’t like it when people say “I told you so,” but I told them so. Knowing full well it’s virtually impossible to savor the full flavor of this Yellowstone-Teton area in a short visit, I just wanted them to be sure and allot adequate time to explore the wonders that surround those of us lucky enough to live and play here. But I get it. With so much uncertainty day-to-day in our upside-down universe, they were comfortable with their get-in, get-out plan. Until the moment they stepped off the plane in Jackson Hole, and discovered they were indeed standing in Grand Teton National Park. A lot of folks don’t realize that this is the only airport in the entire country that’s located within a national park, and not just any national park, but one with the famous Grand Teton Mountains in full bloom as you touch down. Not many locations you’ll ever visit will give you such a staggering sense of arrival.
Knowing it was almost close enough to touch, my buds wanted to head into Yellowstone as soon as the suitcases were loaded, but as I indicated in my last blog post, first things first. Let’s get them settled in their suite at Teton Springs Lodge & Spa and at least attempt some semblance of an attack plan. So off we go for our short trip over Teton Pass to Victor, Idaho and Teton Springs Lodge & Spa, located in the heart of Teton Springs Resort. Or so I thought. Not so quick they said; wild horses couldn’t stop this group from taking in the charm of Jackson’s Town Square and from dropping a week’s worth of salary in the eclectic shops that border this historic downtown area. And, how can one possibly be in Jackson’s Town Square and not check out the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for a quick bite & beer?! This iconic establishment, representing the best of the Old West, has been entertaining locals and visitors from North America and the world, for 83 plus years. It’s not unusual on any given summer day to see your favorite movie celebrity or rock star shooting a game of pool or taking a shot at the Texas two-step. The Cowboy Bar is truly a slice of genuine western americana. And the food’s good too.
It’s easy to justify extending your stay when your digs are a suite at Teton Springs. In fact, they’re almost too comfortable. The longer my friends stayed the harder it became to lure them away from the lodge and all the cool stuff they could do without leaving this sprawling complex; swim, bike, fish (the resort has stocked ponds), hike, golf etc. You see my problem. However, having checked off the scenic tour through gorgeous eastern Idaho, and seeing portions of Yellowstone accessible from the west gate, it was relatively easy to roust everyone early for a repeat Yellowstone performance. This time through the south gate. But first, a quick refueling at the hotel’s Sage Café for a yummy breakfast burrito to go and off we went for a quick hike in Grand Teton National Park before we headed north to Yellowstone, the nation’s crown jewel.
Travel over Teton Pass on Wyoming Highway 22. When you reach the 10,000-foot summit you’ll swear you’re reached the top of the world. The view is dramatic, setting the tone for the day. Outside of Wilson, we turn onto highway 390 heading towards Teton Village, home to the famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. That’s a destination in itself with summer activities galore, but that tour is for another day. On this route, we bypass the town of Jackson and take the road less traveled, the back way if you will, to Grand Teton National Park following the signs to Moose/Jenny Lake. This is the same route I took a few years back when doing the Wildlife Safari with Teton Springs partner, BrushBuck Tours, and I remember so vividly the wildlife viewing on this particular route.
BrushBuck has been delighting Teton Springs guests for years with their wildlife excursions into Grand Teton National Park & Yellowstone. The ooh’s and aah’s start the minute you step into their deluxe, comfortable vans equipped with spotting scopes, binoculars and raingear. These vans are custom built for wildlife viewing with their expanse of windows and easy on and off access when it’s time to hop off and check out the animals. When family and friends book a private tour with BrushBuck, their naturalists pick you up curbside at Teton Springs. It’s grade A service and the main attraction, Grand Teton National Park, is home to a whopping 61 species of mammals, big and small. Seeing magnificent animals up-close-and-personal is practically guaranteed with these experts. Oh, but I do digress. The BrushBuck Wildlife Adventure Tour will need to make the agenda on a future visit; we have hiking to do!
There’s a staggering choice of family-friendly hikes in Grand Teton National Park which promise to delight even the unseasoned hiker. My all-time favorite is climbing the trail to Taggart Lake. It’s not a strenuous jaunt by any means, which makes its such a popular choice, but it still has all the glorious attributes one would expect with a trek through this magnificent treasure. There’s a parking area for Taggart Lake equipped with the last potty stop on the trailhead before heading to the lake. This time of year, we didn’t have to share the trail with many like-minded adventurers and the day is absolutely stellar with wildflowers blanketing the meadows. You almost have to force yourself to keep moving as the view of the Grand Teton range is mesmerizing and thus a constant yet delightful distraction. Your reward is reaching the crystal-clear Taggart Lake, enticing enough to encourage the bravest of hearts to slip in for a quick dip, and I mean quick. The water is “refreshing” as they say, which is really code for it’s ice cold! For a different view coming back you can choose a slightly longer trail path, one offering equally as stunning vistas, but again, easy to handle for even the neophytes in the group.
Back at the trailhead, everyone still had plenty of energy to tackle Yellowstone. There are obvious benefits to entering Yellowstone from any of its five official entrances but nothing gives you the true sense of how ruggedly wild this country is, in my humble opinion, than when you enter from the south, through Grand Teton National Park. The road weaves through deep canyons and follows the roaring Lewis River, dotted with waterfalls & flanked by dramatically steep cliffs. The West Thumb Geyser Basin isn’t far and a stop here gives you a chance to stretch those legs and check out some of the park’s most spectacular germal features. And while it’s only about 40 miles from the south gate to the park’s most famous feature, Old Faithful, give yourself adequate time to reach this geyser. Off-road wildlife spotting will slow you down, and rushing through Yellowstone is a criminal act. You never know what you could miss.
Everyone’s pleasantly exhausted after national park hopping. Picking up pizzas at Wildlife Brewing in Victor was a lovely way to end this special day. Swapping stories back in their Teton Springs Lodge suite, everyone agreed that this was unequivocally the perfect day so far. I smiled; I imagine I’ll hear this same sentiment again tomorrow.