Grand Teton Lodge Company

Grand Teton Lodge Co
100 Jackson Lake Lodge
Moran, WY 83013
National Park: Grand Teton
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The Grand Teton Lodge Company is a private business that operates as a concessionaire within the Park.  The Lodge Company operates everything from multiple campgrounds to restaurants to a variety of lodging facilities. Needless to say, if you visit Grand Teton National Park, you’ll hear their name more than once.

Their most notable property is the Jackson Lake Lodge.  Located along the eastern shores of its namesake, the Lodge provides visitors with upscale accommodations and fine dining.  The view from the lobby and outdoor porch are impeccable- possibly the best in the Park.  Fires crackle and the area provides an excellent place to find a comfortable couch, relax with a book and soak in the wonderful scenic beauty of the Tetons.

Another notable Grand Teton Lodge Company holding is the Jenny Lake Lodge which offers visitors quaint cottages nestled in the forest at the base of the Teton range.  Far from the main road, travelers can find peace and quiet while still having access to great food and the privacy of their own log cabin.

If you venture into Jackson Lake Lodge’s primary restaurant, the Mural Room, you’ll find yourself sandwiched between 20 foot long paintings of the West and a wall of glass that offers an unencumbered panorama of the Teton peaks.  Though many Americans would never know, some of our country’s highest quality restaurants and luxurious hotels are operated within of our national parks.  This allows less-adventurous travelers or visitors who just want some TLC to find spots that fit their needs as well.

These services are a great way for visitors uninterested in camping or huddling over a camp stove to still enjoy the majesty of Grand Teton National Park.  Because the Grand Teton Lodge Company is licensed to operate within the Park, you don’t have to waste time driving back and forth between local communities.  These places put you in heart of the Teton wilderness and give you the resources to truly enjoy your vacation.

Posted in Activity, Grand Teton, Grand Teton, Local Businesses, Park, Review, Summer Park Tour

Need a Kick? Try Some Cowboy Coffee!

Cowboy Coffee Co
125 N. Cache St.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming 83001
National Park: Grand Teton
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While on your vacation at Grand Teton National Park, you’re going to need the occasional pick-me-up. Cowboy Coffee Co. provides an excellent spot to grab a cup of espresso, get wi-fi access and relax in Jackson Hole. The cafe, opened this year, is located on the main strip downtown and is designed with an exciting mix of contemporary and rustic themes that typifies the modern Western style.

Cowboy Coffee has long been a local coffee roaster but just now has the company opened a retail outlet to satisfy the caffeine needs of visitors and locals alike. Pete MacIlwaine and Rob Ottaway, the cafe’s owners, are extraordinarily personable and are happy to offer insider tips and recommendations on the best places to see in Jackson Hole.

If traveling to the national parks is a new experience for you, it’s a good idea to maintain some of the routines you keep at home while on vacation. Those continuities will allow you to relax and truly enjoy the wild new experiences that will be coming your way. For many, the tradition of having a morning cup of coffee can provide this anchor.

Cowboy Coffee opens earlier than you wake up, so if you’re staying in Jackson, plan to grab a cup of coffee on your way in to the Park to stay up for your daybreak wildlife viewing. It’s a taste of local flavor that is not to be missed.

You can check out Cowboy Coffee’s website at www.cowboycoffee.com and be sure to visit their cafe at 125 N Cache St., across from the public park just as you enter Jackson Hole from Grand Teton National Park!

Posted in Activity, Grand Teton, Grand Teton, Local Businesses, Park, Review, Summer Park Tour

Death Canyon Hike

Death Canyon Hike
Death Canyon Trailhead
National Park: Grand Teton
Map

Despite its name, the Death Canyon Hike is one of the most scenic, calming hikes in Grand Teton National Park.  Relatively untrammeled and remote, this trail takes you deep into the heart of the Canyon’s towering rock walls.  The farther you hike, the more you feel immersed in its rugged power.

The trail begins with a gradual ascent to the Phelps Lake Overlook, a gorgeous deep blue lake that draws stark contrast to the surrounding forests.  You then descend toward the Lake through a series of switchbacks that cut through flowering shrubs (prime bear habitat).  You reach a fork that gives the hiker an option of continuing toward Phelps Lake or venturing into Death Canyon.

As you slowly climb into the Canyon’s valley, you begin to hike alongside a rushing creek that supplies a constant source of water for the valley.  The result is a dynamic landscape peppered with forest, meadow and boulder fields created by annual avalanches.  A couple rigorous miles take you to the pass that overlooks the Canyon.  It is from here that you can relax and enjoy the view or continue on to a number of trails that take you even deeper into the Teton high country.

The hike is also remarkable in its opportunities to see wildlife.  One day on the trail afforded me up-close views of a (friendly) black bear, moose, a great gray owl, many marmots and even the rare and elusive pika* (see below for more information on these amazing animals)!

Death Canyon is a strenuous hike but rewards the hiker the entire way with beautiful views.  The hike can easily be stretched from half-day to an entire day wilderness adventure of 10+ miles round trip.  An excellent hike to end a trip in the Tetons after you’ve become acclimated to the elevation and difficulty of hiking in the mountains.

*Some information on the fascinating Pika: Commonly referred to “Rock Rabbits”, these are very picky creatures that live in high elevation boulder fields called talus .  They never hibernate so they have developed a number of unique adaptations in order to survive the harsh alpine winters.  First, they spend all spring, summer and fall gathering vegetation, storing what is not eaten in a multitude of haypiles situated under large rocks in the talus field.  These haypile locations are meticulously chosen because, come winter, the pika must be sure snow will not block the sub-rock passageways between its life-saving food sources.  During the winter months, the pika will never leave this underground network, enjoying the insulating effects of the deep snow that towers above.  If the pika runs out of food, it has one more trick up its sleeve- it can recycle nutrients by re-ingesting its feces.  Might not be pretty but it helps the pika occupy an incredibly unique and relatively uncontested niche in mountainous environments.

So, the pika needs the following three things: rock fields with boulders large enough to maintain winter passageways, an environment that provides thick snowfall, and an area abundant in summer vegetation.  These particular demands and its inability to migrate far make it supremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  Park Service scientists pay close attention the health of this species as its population has been facing some uncertainty.  If you make it to a park with some alpine environment, be sure to take a moment and look for these adorable creatures hopping from rock to rock in talus fields.

 

Posted in Activities, Activity, Grand Teton, Grand Teton, Park, Review, Summer Park Tour, Uncategorized

An Overnight Trip with Barker-Ewing Rafting!

Barker-Ewing Rafting
945 West Broadway
Jackson Hole, WY 83001
National Park: Grand Teton
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I just had the pleasure of embarking on an overnight scenic and whitewater rafting combination trip with Barker-Ewing Rafting! Founded in 1963, Barker-Ewing has been giving visitors the opportunity to venture down the Snake River for nearly 50 years. Experience is important when picking a rafting outfitter and the company provides skilled and engaging guides that help you explore the Teton wilderness from the water.

Our trip began in the late afternoon at the Barker-Ewing headquarters right in downtown Jackson. After being handed our fleece and wetsuit (Snake River whitewater isn’t particularly warm in June!), we took a quick bus ride to the set-in point just south of town. Then, all we had to do was sit back and relax as our group of 8 travelers meandered down miles of scenic float water while our guide, John, explained the unique geology and animals we encountered. Right off the bat, we spotted multiple bald eagles and their nests!

 

As the day begins to wind down, you stop by the side of the river at Barker-Ewing’s private backcountry camp, only accessible by boat. It’s here that you get the true backwoods experience without having to “rough” it. Before we arrived, our cook, Hillary, had nearly finished preparing our delicious meal of steak, salad, corn on the cob, cornbread and calico beans. We’d barely finished when Hillary brought out peach cobbler for desert and announced she was preparing a fire so we could cook our smores. Needless to say, the crew does not let you go hungry. After being mesmerized by a moose wandering through camp, our group sat around the campfire talking and joking for hours. Finally, we head to bed in our forest-nestled cabins, all outfitted with lanterns, rustic beds and thick sleeping bags. It’s hard not to fall asleep to the soothing sounds of their nearby creek.

The next morning you’ll be treated to some more extraordinary cooking for breakfast before embarking on a series of blood-pumping rapids that carve through the Snake River Canyon. We each got paddles and listened intently to John as we all worked to navigate the class III whitewater. Even though it’s clear the water has only recently been released from its glacial origin high up in the peaks, Barker-Ewing’s gear keeps you warm and comfortable no matter how much water you take on. There’s even a period of flat water where you can take a dip in the River, which, regardless of the season, I highly recommend!

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After docking and changing into a dry set of clothes, we were taken back to the office to return our gear and say goodbye to the great new friends we had so quickly made.

Barker-Ewing offers more than just the opportunity to see and experience the Snake River. They connect you with other adventurous travelers who are passionate about seeing our country’s wild places. While you can take a sunrise, sunset or midday rafting trip with this company, I think the overnight combination of scenic and whitewater offers visitors an entirely unique experience. It would be perfect for a family in the middle of their vacation, where a nice balance of social interaction and privacy can re-invigorate the excitement and energy of traveling outdoors.

To learn more about Barker-Ewing and the excellent trips they offer, visit their website at Barker-Ewing.com. They are a legendary local business that offers trips which boast an impressive combination of fun and professionalism. They’ll be happy to talk to you about your trip any time of the year!

 

Posted in Activity, Grand Teton, Grand Teton, Local Businesses, Park, Review, Summer Park Tour

Trapper Lake Hike

Trapper Lake Hike
Leigh Lake Trailhead
National Park: Grand Teton
Map

For a secluded, gentle hike to beautiful crystalline lakes framed by the Teton peaks, take the Trapper Lake Hike.  You begin the jaunt, which can be designed to be anywhere from 3 to 7 miles, walking the shores of String and Leigh Lakes.  These relatively large, open lakes provide a great playground for visitors with canoes and kayaks.  As you continue, you leave the lakes briefly for quiet woodlands and the periodic meadow clearing.  Finally, a fork in the trail leaves you the option of continuing towards either Trapper or Bearpaw Lake.  With enough time to add an extra 2 miles, give yourself time to explore both.  Otherwise, spend your time at Trapper Lake; buried in the Teton’s gorgeous mountain scenery, fed by a small creek that bypasses the beaver dam just upstream, this is a place to find respite from cares of our everyday lives.

Every national park in the Rocky Mountains will have a hike like Trapper Lake that winds through forests and arrives at an undeveloped backcountry lake.  These hikes can be an excellent choice for a lowkey, relaxed day at the parks.  They generally have lots of shade cover and aren’t heavily trafficked, which allows you to sleep in and start the trail later.  There’s also usually little elevation gain so these hikes are not very strenuous and allow you to just enjoy your surroundings.

I would recommend the Trapper Lake Hike for any family who wants a relatively easy half-day hike.  It is also best planned in the middle of a trip, when your mind and body need a little break.  Check out these pictures for a taste of the Tetons!

 

Posted in Activities, Activity, Grand Teton, Grand Teton, Park, Review, Summer Park Tour

Forks of Cascade Canyon Hike

Cascade Canyon Hike
Jenny Lake Trailhead
National Park: Grand Teton
Map

I recently took one of the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park!

It was a cold night (dipping down to below 30 degrees) so it was hard to get out of bed in the morning but it was definitely worth it.  This hike, which begins with a short boat ride across the beautiful Jenny Lake, starts by taking you past two of the Tetons’ most famous spots- Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.  While both are great places to stop, if you want to leave the crowds, see rare wildlife and get a close-up look at the Tetons’ iconic rock walls, continue down to Cascade Canyon.

With a round trip distance of 9 miles and little elevation gain, this trail a rigorous half-day hike or leisurely full-day hike for a relatively fit family.  Though, you can easily turn back at any point along the way.  You venture into a U-shaped valley carved by the area’s receding glaciers, some of which still remain in the higher elevations.  Following a powerful creek, the Cascade Canyon hike nearly guarantees a moose sighting.  We saw five that morning in addition to a young elk that crossed our path.  Bear also frequent the Canyon so don’t forget to bring the bear spray, a necessity for any vacation in the Tetons!

A light sprinkle of snow followed me nearly the entire day.  It truly felt like a wintry wonderland while I was enveloped in this silent, peaceful wilderness.  This feeling of solitude is much easier to find if you start the trail early, allowing you to see the Park at dawn’s first light, before most the tourists are even out of bed.

Overall, the Cascade Canyon trail would provide an excellent capstone hike to a week in the Tetons, allowing you to truly experience these fabled mountains.

Posted in Activities, Activity, Grand Teton, Grand Teton, Park, Review, Summer Park Tour

Eco Tour Adventures at Grand Teton!

Eco Tour Adventures
400 Powderhorn Lane
Jackson, WY 83002
National Park: Grand Teton
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Plan My Parks has finally arrived at Grand Teton National Park and has certainly started things off right.  I joined up with Taylor Phillips at Eco Tour Adventures for a full day wildlife tour of the Park.  Taylor knows the best places to see all the unique wildlife that calls the Tetons home.  Bison, elk, many moose, a mother black bear with 2 tiny cubs, pronghorn antelope and an osprey are just a few of the animals our group had the opportunity to see!

Taylor is now in his 5th year of wildlife touring and it serves as an excellent way to see Grand Teton.  All you need to do is sit back with a cup of coffee and let your guide bring you to the area’s wildlife hotspots.  The Grand Teton/Yellowstone area is one of the most biologically intact areas of our country and is an amazing place to spot some of America’s iconic, yet rare, creatures.  Additionally, as you drive around seeing the Park’s gorgeous scenery, Taylor gives you an interesting mix of cultural and natural history of the area.  You can find out more about Taylor and Eco Tour Adventures at jhecotouradventures.com.

In general, it’s a great idea to plan an activity like this first so you can talk with a local guide and get tips on how to best enjoy the rest of your time in the park.

Here are some photos of our day touring the Tetons:


And now for some professional photos taken by Taylor on some of his tours:

Posted in Activity, Grand Teton, Grand Teton, Local Businesses, Park, Review, Summer Park Tour