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A&A Travel Review of the Grand Tetons & Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Updated: Jan 13, 2020


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A&A Travel Review of the Grand Tetons, & Jackson Hole, Wyoming


History


On February 26, 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill creating Grand Teton National Park, a 96,000 acre park that includes the Teton Range and six glacial lakes at the base of the peaks. At the time, the 96,000 acree park did not protect a complete all encompassing landscape, so Horace Albright (Superintendent of Yellowstone) and John. D. Rockefeller (amongst others) continued to pursue the dream of seeking private funds to purchase private lands in the Jackson Hole valley in order to complete the full park. This dream did not come fully true until 1950 when the park was finally able to expand to the current day boundaries.


Geology


The Grand Tetons, and entire Jackson Hole area are full of magnificent landscape and wild communities. The mountain range rises abruptly from the land, and hits you right in the face as you start to enter the park from the north, coming from Yellowstone. There are lush meadows, floodplains, bare alpine rocks, and wild sagebrush here, and that is home to grizzly bears, bald eagles, otters, moose, deer, elk and bison. Nothing obstructs your view of the Tetons jutting out of the Jackson Hole valley.


Rocks in the core of the mountain range here are about 2.7 billion years old, some of the oldest in North America, but yet this mountain range is among one of the youngest in the world. About 100 million years ago, well before any of today’s mountains formed, there was a collision of tectonic plates along North America’s west coast that bowed up a vast block of sedimentary rock deposited by ancient seas. About 10 million years ago the movement of the Teton fault generated massive earthquakes that caused the mountains to rise while the valley floor dropped. Movement from the Teton fault lifted the range, but erosion also began to sculpt the landscape. About 2 million years ago massive glaciers up to 3500 feet thick would flow south from Yellowstone and fill up the valley, thus eroding the mountains further and depositing huge volumes of rocky glacial debris. Ice sheets would fill the valley and the alpine glaciers would sculpt the jagged Teton skyline. We can thank these glaciers for carving the peaks and canyons that are current day Grand Teton Park.


These glaciers also impounded lakes amongst the mountain range, but sadly the glaciers have appeared to recede about 20% in the past 40 years. 


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Entrance Fee


It is $35 per vehicle to enter Grand Teton, however there are combo Yellowstone/Teton passes you can get that are good for 7 days and cost $50. We have an Annual Park Pass, America the Beautiful Pass, so we did not pay any entrance fees. [By this point in our travels our Annual Pass has 100% paid for itself, and we are just gettings started!]


This park is another one of those places where it doesn’t matter if you only have a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks – there is so much to explore and learn about. If you love to hike there are tons of trails, if you prefer road tours there is a 21 mile scenic byway and if you are more curious about a professional led tour there are ranger led programs too!


Where we stayed


There are campgrounds inside of Grand Teton National Park, however they can oftentimes be full or only provide dispersed camping options for a hefty fee. We choose not to utilize this option and instead branch out around the park for a more cost effective place!


Bridger-Teton National Forest


This is where our campground was located, the first campground as you enter the forest coming from the west and from Grand Teton National Park. This campground is southeast of the Antelope Flats, Mormon Row and Gros Ventre. The developed campgrounds in this forest provide picnic tables, campfires, pit toilets and bear food storage boxes. There were a few water spigots located throughout our campground, but other than that it is completely DRY camping. This area is first come first serve!


Atherton Creek Campground


Tucked into Kelly, Wyoming, appearing to be in a wilderness in its own little world, is Atherton Creek Campground, part of the Bridger-Teton National Forest system. Regular sites here are $15 a night, double sites are $25. We started out completely on the wrong foot at this place – literally. The last 3 miles of road to get to this campground were VERY rough, full of potholes and craters. Upon arriving at the campground we tried to park in a spot that we didn’t know was a double spot and then didn’t know where else to go. We ended up picking site #18 perched on the hill with no tree coverage because it seemed like the next best option, and then we struggled to get the trailer level for the first time ever.


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Lower Slide Lake


But it was all just that, a rough start, and nothing more. This without a doubt ended up being the best campground we have stayed at yet and we ended up having the site with the very best view of Lower Slide Lake and the forest and the mountain tops. Each night we would sit out at our picnic table, sometimes having a fire until they were banned, and just stare into the abyss. At night we would watch the stars, seeing more stars than we have ever seen before! It was truly spectacular and we would absolutely stay here again!


Signal Mountain Boondocking


Just about 5 miles down the road from Atherton was a boondocking spot I had my eyes on for quite some time as it offered direct views of the Teton Range. The first day we took a drive over there in the van just to scout it out, and it was pretty heavily populated with tents and camper vans. It was a great spot, don’t get me wrong, but considering the views we did have at Atherton too, we were very happy we stayed where we were! We also had the luxury of a camp host so we felt more safe to leave our entire life contents while we would go out exploring!


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View from Signal Mountain boondocking


Jackson Hole Valley


A large oblong valley to the east side of the Teton Range, formed by the mountain range. The entire area is filled with outdoor activities, biking and walking paths, bike rentals, hiking trails, ski lodges and resorts, and more. I fell in LOVE with the outdoor vibe here and seeing so many people taking advantage of it. The weather was incredibly brilliant and beautiful during our stay and there appeared to be bikers around every corner in the valley!


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Mormon Row


We had no idea this is what we were driving by every day to go to our campground in the Gros Ventre area, but apparently there are a bunch of historic mormon houses off of Antelope Flats Road, one mile north of Moose Junction. Here you can tour iconic and historic barns and homesteads from a mormon colony many years ago. The “pink house” is said to be one of the most photographed areas, because of the insane mountain range that juts out behind it.


This area of Antelope Flats is also heavily populated by wild roaming bison. We stopped several times to try to get around clueless tourists in the middle of the road just gawking. 


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Gros Ventre Wilderness


This is an extended part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and full of contrasting landscapes. (Our campground at Atherton Creek was technically located within this area!) The Gros Ventre Mountain Range began about 50 million years ago, as folds and faults produced an asymmetrical arch, broken by it’s own faults and continuing to astound geologists. In 1925 an incredible landslide carried 50 million cubic yards of debris down Sheep Mountain forming a dam, and creating Lower Slide Lake (where we camped!) Just two years later a flash flood wiped out part of the damn and completely destroyed the town of Kelly, Wyomi