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September 30, 2016 / mws

2016 Grand Tetons Sept

Top Ten Moments from our 2016 trip to Grand Teton National Park

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10. Jackson Lake Lodge


Jackson Lake Lodge

When lunchtime rolls around, Jackson Lodge is often our destination.  Built in 1955 by John D. Rockefeller, this is one of the best places to stay in the park.  The location is ideal with Jackson Lake and the Tetons just out your back door.  In the early morning and in the evenings, moose and other wildlife are usually spotted in the willows.

It is so impressive to walk into the lobby and see the massive glass window framing the Tetons. The Jackson Lake Lodge staff and management have done an outstanding job of making guests comfortable. The main lodge building is stunning with multiple dining choices, and an excellent lounge with an outdoor patio.  We enjoyed the Pioneer Grill and roaming around the top-notch shopping areas.


John D. Rockefeller Plaque

Just outside the back patio is a short climb called Lunch Tree Hill. After just a quarter mile, you’ll come to an area with a small overlook…Lunch Tree Hill.

A memorial plaque here states:  “This tablet is placed here in tribute to Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., whose vision, generosity, and love of country have made possible the preservation of this region in its pristine beauty and grandeur. Here the spell of the magnificent Teton Mountains and the beautiful valley they guard first captivated him. He has since come often to this hilltop for renewed inspiration. June, 1953.”

Without the efforts of John D. Rockefeller, Jr, Grand Teton National Park might consist only of the mountain range itself, which was protected in 1929. It was Rockefeller’s donation that led to the expansion of the park.

From the plaque, you can continue walking along the path on an unofficial trail for about a third of a mile. This section of the trail has good Teton views and is just a nice walk on a forest path.

9. Moose Wilson Road  There is so much grandeur in Grand Teton National Park. Driving anywhere in the park offers outstanding views.  One of the best and most loved roads is the Moose Wilson Road.   As it’s name implies, moose are often spotted along this 8 mile paved and dirt road between Teton Village and the Craig Thomas Visitors Center. 


Along the Moose Wilson Road

Along this road, there is access to Granite Canyon, Phelps Lake and Death Canyon trail heads.  In addition, there is access from the Moose Wilson Road to the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center where we enjoyed hiking through the woods to Phelps Lake.

Close to the northern end of the Moose Wilson road is an overlook and large parking area where moose or elk can be seen.  Adjacent to the parking area is a hiking trail that follows the ridge where we had good luck with wildlife viewing.

Unfortunately, the Moose-Wilson Road is very narrow with heavy traffic and frequent bear activity.  These issues are being addressed by the local authorities.  Consideration is being given to making changes so that the natural habitat and the wildlife are better protected and the Park Visitors can have an enjoyable and safe experience.

8.  Schwabacher Landing  Just 16 miles north of Jackson there is a side road to the east that descends to Schwabacher Landing. There is a gravel parking lot that is sometimes full early in the mornings.  The area surrounding the landing is large and there is room for everyone to gaze at the majestic Tetons and see the mountain reflection in the still waters of the Snake River.

Schwabacher Landing

Schwabacher Landing

Riverside trails add to the photo op locations and if luck (and good weather)  prevail, here is where the best photos of the trip can be composed. As a bonus, moose, beaver, bald eagles, or pronghorn can be spotted along the river.

7.  The Murie Center 


Murie Ranch House

When you are traveling in Grand Teton National Park, it’s good to indulge in some of the history of the area.  On this trip, we visited the Murie Center in the Moose, Wyoming area.  The Mission of the Murie Center is stated as follow:

The Murie Center brings people together to inspire action that protects nature. 

I was intrigued!  The Murie family had a great passion for conservationists and lived at this ranch from 1945 to 2003. The ranch has provided a place for the Murie family and other environmental leaders to meet and discuss issues that ensure protection of wildlife and provide the best solution for sharing the land and resources. The Murie Ranch and the Teton Science School merged in October 2015 in order to share their mutual interests in protecting nature.


Mardy Murie with friend John Denver

The Murie Ranch includes several buildings and cabins.  The cabins are not open for public lodging, but are available to special programs. There are self guiding tours around the buildings.  There are also nearby trails leading to the river and through the woods.

Olaus and Mardy Murie stayed at the Murie Ranch until their deaths.  Mardy lived to be 101!. One of her special friends was John Denver.  While we toured the ranch cabin, there was a song being played written by John Denver in honor of Mardy Murie. Here are part of the lyrics:

To see the darkness, to listen within
To answer in kindness, to ever begin
To ever be gentle, to always be strong
To walk in the wonder, to live in the song

In 2014, a special recognition was celebrated at the Murie Ranch.  Luci Baines Johnson was the keynote speaker to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964.  This act was signed into law by her father, President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  At the ranch, a display holds the pen used by President Johnson to sign this law:

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.                            —Wilderness Act of 1964

Periodically, the Murie family presents the prestigious Murie Spirit of Conservation Award to those who support the legacy of the Murie family.  On August 24, 2016, the award was presented to Harrison Ford.  In a news release, it was stated that Harrison Ford “has been key to both amplifying the legacy of the Muries as well as bringing mainstream attention to important global conservation issues for more than 25 years.”


IMG_5636.JPG6. Pilgrim Creek Road  A short and rough drive on this narrow gravel road can bring big rewards.  The scenic views are incredible from this corridor that is located between Jackson Lake Lodge and Coulter Bay.

There is a small pond where photo ops are spectacular and even better if you happen to be there when a moose appears. There can also be bears in the area, so beware.  We always carry bear spray when we are out of the car in this area.

5. Northern Corridor of Grand Teton National Park  One of the best drives in the park (and the least crowded) is from Oxbow Bend north to the Yellowstone National Park border.  There are multiple pullovers, picnic areas and ample opportunities for wildlife sightings. Jackson Lake Lodge and Colter Bay Village are along this road, so there are side trips for hiking, dining and shopping all in this area.

img_5616Colter Bay has a campground, a restaurant, a general store, a marina, and an informative Visitors Center with very friendly and helpful rangers. For the more practical side of life, there is a gas station, clean public restrooms and a laundromat at Colter Bay.  It’s a great place for a quick break with a weather check at the ranger’s station.

2016 note:  A wildfire erupted along the northern corridor of the Grand Tetons in mid August.  It caused smoke warnings and closed the southern entrance from Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone.  It was a tense time as we waited to see how it might affect our planned routes and activities.

The National Park Service allows wildfires to burn naturally as much as possible without endangering human life and property.  Wildfires are viewed as a natural part of the ecosystem and the fires encourage diversity in plant life.  It will be interesting to see the landscape changes in the next few years as a result of the 2016 wildfires.

4. Death Canyon Trailhead to Phelps Lake Overlook

The Death Canyon Trailhead is found just off the Moose Wilson Road. There is a paved road leading to a parking area.  From the first parking area, it is 4 miles roundtrip to Phelps Lake Overlook.  The day that we hiked was about 55 degrees with perfect air quality and blue skies.  The first part of the trail is a rocky gravel road that some cars do navigate to a second parking area.

Along the rocky gravel road are ranger cabins.  We also saw a male elk and all along this trail we heard elk bugling in the forests.  At one point, they were quite close!


Phelps Lake Overlook

The second mile of the hike is an uphill climb.  It really doesn’t open up too much until you reach the overlook.  But then the payoff is there!  It was just stunning!!

3.  Red Fox Saloon at Towogtee Lodge

img_5874Togwotee Lodge is about 16.5 miles from the Moran junction on Route 26.  It’s a lovely scenic drive with multiple opportunities for photos.

Lunch is served at the Red Fox Saloon and Dinner is available at the Grizzly Grill. There were good reviews on Trip Advisor for the Grizzly Grill and the Red Fox Saloon, so we tried the Red Fox and were glad we did.


Inside the Red Fox Saloon

We had a very friendly waitress at the Red Fox Saloon and also had the place to ourselves at 3PM in the afternoon. The Saloon has a splashy bar and a dining area with a pool table, TVs and great lighting.  The artwork was upscale western and the food was awesome!

We walked around the grounds a bit and there are lodging rooms upstairs in the lodge as well as cabins that can be rented.  In addition, they have horseback riding and winter snowmobiling.  Just looking at the area, you can see that winter would be a fun time to visit the Togwotee Lodge!

2.  Taggart Lake Hike  

img_6120The trailhead for Taggart Lake is on the Inner Park Road about three miles north of  Moose.  Just before Cottonwood Creek there’s a large parking area on the west side of the road.  From the parking lot it is a 3.2 mil RT hike to Taggart Lake.

There is stunning scenery as soon as you get on the trail.  The fall aspens certainly added to the majestic view. At a small bridge crossing, a lovely waterfall cascades down through the pines.  A little further is the site of the National Park Rangers horse corrals.  Along the way there are dozens of opportunities for great photos.


Taggart Lake

After about a half mile, there is a gradual uphill grade over rocks and tree roots.  It was a great weather day with superb air quality and blue skies.  The walk through the forest and  the open meadows was invigorating.  Arriving at Taggart Lake was the exclamation point to a much enjoyed hike!

The lake sits at the base of Avalanche Canyon with the Teton backdrop. The crystal clear water reflected the mountains and provided moments of delight. At the south end of the lake is a bridge with more great photo opportunities.

1.  Oxbow Bend  This location has probably been photographed by more visitors than any other place in the park.  Stop anytime and you will see photographers with their huge lenses as well as many visitors taking pictures with smartphones and ipads. We have watched beaver, pelicans, moose, bear and elk from this area.


Oxbow Bend

On this trip, we had the joy of an early Autumn morning at Oxbow Bend.  The colors were majestic and the perfect Fall day will long be in our memories.

Remarks about our trip to Grand Teton National Park

It’s always a joy to arrive in Grand Teton National Park.  It’s an emotional time for us when we arrive and when we leave.  There’s no other place where the connection to nature is so real and so heartfelt!  ❤


Link to itinerary for our entire Fall 2016 trip

For more photos of our 2016 trip to the Tetons, click here

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“When I saw the mountains the weight lifted and my restless spirit calmed…I knew I was where I belong.”    Anonymous


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