Grand Teton National Park continued…
The most amazing thing about this region of the US, is the abundance of wildlife seemingly around every corner. As we made the drive from Victor, Idaho to the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve off Moose-Wilson Road, we saw horses along the road fence enjoying their morning breakfast. We pulled off on the side of the road to say hello.
Death Canyon and Phelps Lake Overlook
To reach the trailhead from Moose Junction, turn left onto Moose-Wilson Road and drive roughly 3 miles south to the turn-off for the Death Canyon Trailhead. Turn right and drive another 2 miles to the end of the road. The first mile is paved but the last mile travels over a fairly rugged gravel road. The park highly recommends using a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach the trailhead. At the point where the paved road ends there’s a small parking area that allows people in 2-wheel drive vehicles to park and walk the last mile to the trailhead. Luckily, we had an SUV and were able to drive pretty close to the trailhead and not add on another mile of walking down the road.
Once we found a place to park, after an extremely bumpy and rocky road, I strapped on my gear, grabbed some water and embraced our second hike of the trip. We walked a few hundred feet to the trailhead where we were greeted by a park ranger. “Just so you know, we’ve had an aggressive black bear in the area this morning. He/she has already chased off a few hikers and a dog…do you have bear spray?”. We looked at each other and hesitated to reply… “noooo, actually, we don’t”. The park ranger recommended we wait for a bigger group and stay together. So we did, awkwardly following behind a group of avid-looking hikers. Needless to say, we fell behind pretty quickly and were on our own again.
We found a walking stick we could use to pound the ground and hit rocks to make noise, keeping the bears alert that we were there. Talking louder than usual and making conversation about nothing made us felt more secure. The hike began with a moderate climb through a forest dominated by lodgepole pines. We also passed a few aspen groves along the way as well. A short distance from the trailhead and we reached the Valley Trail junction. We turned left onto the Valley Trail to continue towards the Death Canyon Patrol Cabin.
At exactly one mile we arrived at Phelps Lake Overlook.
Resting at an elevation of 7,200 feet, this perch stands 567 feet above Phelps Lake and offers outstanding panoramic views of the 750-acre, glacially-carved lake – the sixth largest in Grand Teton National Park. While at the overlook, we took note of the old-growth Douglas firs nearby, some of which are estimated to be between 300 and 400 years old.
From the overlook the trail travels back down to the valley floor where we would have access to the lake but, we did not make the journey. We decided to follow the trail for a couple hundred more feet more and then turn around. This was only one of many stops for the day and we couldn’t spend all day here. I’ll rate the hike a 7/10.
The rest of the day was spent completing the 42-mile Grand Teton North Loop.
Simple put, it’s the best way to enjoy the Grand Teton National Park. From Moose, we drove up the inner park road to Jackson Lake Junction and followed the outer park road through Moran Junction and back down to Moose.
The 42-Mile Scenic Grand Teton Loop
The 42 mile scenic drive loop through Grand Teton National Park gives travelers scenic views of the Tetons and the chance to spot abundant and diverse wildlife in the surrounding wilderness.
There are three entry points for the Teton Park Scenic Drive Loop. Since we were coming from Victor, Idaho, we took the Teton Pass Hwy and headed north on Highway 390/Moose Wilson Road. Travelers coming from Yellowstone will follow the Rockefeller, Jr. Parkway and enter the park at the Jackson Lake Junction. For those coming from Dubois, WY (east), drive over Togwotee Pass and enter the park at Moran Junction.
The loop is 42 miles long, and depending on how many points of interest you chose to explore, plan for at least a one to two hour drive. We spent about a half day driving the loop at a moderate pace.
Traveler Tip: Be sure to grab a map at the park entrance. Here are some of our favorite stops (starting at Moose).
Looking at the map above, we went in a counter-clockwise direction. So our first stop after Phelps Lake Overlook was Mormon Row Historic District.
Mormon Row Historic District
The Mormon Row Historic District is located at the southeast corner of Grand Teton National Park, in a gently sloping sheltered cove formed by Blacktail Butte and the Gros Ventre Mountains. The District is defined by a linear array of uniform building complexes lining the Jackson to Moran road. The Teton Range to the northwest and is a dominant visual presence of the landscape.
We didn’t stay too long at Mormon Row Historic District. Actually, we only stayed just long enough for me to snap a few photos and that was it. It was a neat area but not somewhere where we felt we needed to get out and walk around. As we drove slowly, we could see everything we wanted to see from the car window. I’d rate this a 7/10 based on the history and photo opportunities.
Instagram – @Navigator.Nick
Let me tell you about the best place to have lunch for FREE in the Grand Tetons, it’s Schwabacher Landing. You would need to pack a lunch, so not completely free, but its as close as you’re going to get.
Take a left turn off RT 191 and on to Schwabacher Landing Rd. Follow the gravel path into the parking lot and park. If you have an SUV, like we did, back up (with the Tetons in your rearview mirror) and open up the back door. It gives you a perfect spot to sit and enjoy your lunch while still in the shaded comfort of your vehicle, priceless. There are outstanding views here even from the parking lot and if you walk about 100ft down the trail, the views are even better. Highly recommend this spot, 10/10.
Snake River Overlook
If we could turn the clock back 78 years, we could see the bend of the Snake River as Ansel Adams found it in 1942. Unfortunately, trees have since grown tall enough to obscure much of the river. It is still a breathtaking view whether you have a camera in your hand or go there just to enjoy it! Ansel had it tougher than we have it now. The highway from Moose Junction to Moran Junction wasn’t built until around 1958. Ansel would have had to drive over rough dirt roads from a spot near present day Lost Creek Ranch
Snake River Overlook was another quick stop on our journey. It offered great views of the Tetons and Snake river peaking through the tall pine trees. Although, I can imagine in 5 to 10 years, this overlook will be overgrown. I would give this stop an 8/10 for the scenic views.
The next quick stop was a side street off RT 89 that featured a boat launch. The road was Gt Park R Access and it’s about a half mile past Snake River Outlook. There was nothing special to see here besides for the fact you could get in the river.
Moving on, before we started to head back South, we stopped quickly for a view at Oxbow Bend.
Along today’s itinerary we had marked a few notable places, but some place that I recommend checking out that’s not talked about a lot is, The Jackson Lake Dam.
As you head south, towards Jenny Lake, consider taking the detour up Signal Mountain for stunning views over the park.
Spend the afternoon in and around Jenny Lake. One of the most popular things to do in Grand Teton is to take the boat across the lake and hike up to Inspiration Point.
Visiting the Teton Village
If you weren’t aware, you can take the Gondola up the mountain for free Tuesday through Sunday evening from 5pm to 8:30pm. It is first come, first served, so get there early!
Traver Tip: Get to the Gondola ride before 5pm to make sure you get a good spot in line. Limited capacity!
We left our glamping tent in the rearview mirror, but before we started our journey north to Yellowstone, we absolutely had to stop at the infamous Persephone Bakery. The wait was long and hot, but honestly, it was the best Blueberry muffin I’ve ever had. I’ll rate it a 4.5/5 for the Blueberry but not the wait.
Jackson hole was charming and you can’t help but notice the small shop lined streets, flowers and horse drawn carriages. If you have time, be sure to stop and take a look around to visit.
We left Jackson hole and made our way to Colter Bay Village, where we stopped to use the restrooms and stretch our legs with a walk down to the marina.
If you’re feeling adventurous, there is an option to walk the Lakeshore Trail. This flat, easy trail is 2 miles long, takes about 45-minutes, and offers decent views of Jackson Lake. It also makes a great way to spend lunch!