Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Grand Teton National Park : Day 2 {Hiking the Lakes}

I hope you've been enjoying the recaps of our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We tried to squeeze as much into every day and opportunity as we could. If you haven't read about our road trip to Wyoming, check it out HERE. And if you missed Day 1, 2, 3 or 4 in YNP or Day 1 in GTNP, read them HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Welcome back to everyone who had to click away and get caught up on the previous posts ;) Now that we're on the same page, let's get right into Day 2 (our first and only full day) of our Grand Teton trip. We're calling this one "Hiking the Lakes."

[Note - We were camping in Gros Ventre Campground so the order in which we did everything was due to where we were coming from. If you are staying somewhere else, you might want to look at changing where you start/ finish.]

Here's a list of everything we did/ saw on Day 2 of our Adventure in Grand Teton National Park {and the order we did it}:

A. Craig Thomas Visitor Center

#RealTalk: We stopped here because someone needed to use the potty before we started our morning. We got there a few minutes before it officially opened (so I was able to use that time to stamp my passport since they had those goodies outside) and once they opened the doors we checked out the store and I even snagged a #FindYourPark National Parks tee (the profits went to help support the parks, it was made with recycled bottles and, of course, it was on sale ;)).

Doing my best impersonation of a moose ;)

B. Menors Ferry 

This is another spot that wasn't originally on our schedule, but we noticed it in the park "newspaper" and added it to the list. There's a replica of the ferry that crossed the Snake River at the turn of the century and some historic buildings to check out on the short walking path that looped around the area. It looked like during the summer times you can actually go into some of the cabins on the property, but of course they were closed up when we went by. It was pretty interesting to learn about how Bill Menor built the ferryboat and cableworks. Definitely worth the quick detour in all of our opinions'.

This is one of the replica ferryboats.  

1. Hike Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point

The first (and main) event for the day was going to be hiking around Jenny Lake, with our eventual destination being Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The hubby and I were planning on hiking around the lake (about 2 miles one way) while the hubby's dad and his wife were planning to take the shuttle. We figured by the time they waited in line for the boat, we'd be able to power hike over to where they'd be dropped off, then we'd meet at Hidden Falls and hike to Inspiration Point together (they would then take the boat back to the other side of the lake and we'd hike back). 

Let's do this thang!

Loved seeing the mountains reflected in the lake on our hike.

In theory this was a great plan. The issue arose when apparently we arrived to Jenny Lake about an hour or so before the first boat was set to depart. The hubby and I had started hiking, but when the hubby's dad and his wife found out about the wait they decided to just hike themselves (figuring they'd take the boat on the return). With that said, we got to Hidden Falls and waited and waited, expecting they would've gotten there before us or shortly after we arrived. We waited for about 30 minutes and then decided that the hike to Inspiration Point looked a little more intense than they might've been expecting so figured we'd do that portion of the hike and hopefully by the time we got back to Hidden Falls they'd be there.

Hidden Falls.

Like we thought, the portion of the trail from Hidden Falls (which was pretty empty when we first got there) to Inspiration Point was pretty much uphill the entire time and rocky. The hubby and I were able to do it without any issue, but while we were making our way up we did mention a few times that it was probably best that his dad and wife didn't do this portion. 

You definitely needed to watch your footing on this trail.

Towards the top of the climb some of the trail turned into stairs which was super conveniet!


I snapped a picture of this critter right off the trail. He seemed like a weasel but he scurried
away too fast to confirm. The hubby thought he might have been a small fox of some sort. 

You can totally understand where Inspiration Point got its name... the view was breathtaking (and not just because you had to huff and puff your way to the top ;))! We could have stayed a while to soak in our surroundings, but we didn't want to miss the hubby's dad and his wife, so we snapped a couple pictures and made our way back down to Hidden Falls.

Hiking at elevation could have had something to do with the huffing and puffing too ;)

There were quite a few folks at the point, so we were able to have someone snap a picture of us together.

Jenny Lake is one of the most visited areas in Grand Teton National Park.

Shortly after we returned to Hidden Falls (which was now much busier, seeing as the shuttle boats were starting to deliver passengers) the hubby's dad and his wife arrived. They told us about deciding to hike over. They agreed that the views were awesome but they were a little tired (especially since they weren't originally planning on hiking this portion in the first place), so checked out the falls and made their way to the boat for a lift back. The hubby and I took off pretty quickly after they arrived since we'd be hiking back and figured they would probably beat us back to the car thanks to the water taxi.

It was pretty cool being tucked away at the base of the Teton Range.

Once we got back, we stopped in the general store so that the hubby could get a slush (it was getting toasty by the time we finished) and we snagged an awesome magnet for our fridge. On the way back to the car we stopped by the first park entrance station (it was moved in 1960 to Moose, but it once functioned as the park's first entrance station).

Am I the only one who's first thought when seeing "log cabins" is Lincoln Logs?!

We arrived at the parks a week or two too early for a large chunk of locations to be open.

In total (including the hike around Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls, the trek to Inspiration Point and then back) the hubby and I got in 6.4 miles. It took us less than 3 hours, which included the chunk of waiting time as well as all of our photo stops :)

The park guides said it should be 6 miles, so we were pretty spot on considering short detours.


C. Cascade Canyon Turnout

Although the hubby and I stopped at our fair share of turnouts the day before, his dad and wife went to relax in their hotel room so were seeing the Tetons for the first time (when they drove from Yellowstone to Jackson Hole the clouds were covering the range and they couldn't see their majesty) so we pulled over at this stop to snag a picture and enjoy the view.

You could hike out on this trail, but after the Jenny Lake hike folks were okay with staying near the car to snap a photo.

2. Hike Leigh Lake Trail

Because we originally thought the hubby's dad and his wife would be taking the boat to and from Hidden Falls, we added an "easier" hike we could all do together. You can make it as short or long as you'd like, but we figured we'd walk to the kayak/ canoe portage area between String and Leigh Lakes and turn around (which was about 2 miles roundtrip). 

Leigh Lake, located at the base of Mt. Moran, offers awe-inspiring views coupled with outdoor adventure.

This down tree served as a perfect spot to stop and enjoy the views.

The portage from the top (left) and bottom (right). Think of it like a ramp - a way to cross dry land between the lakes.

The hike is fairly "boring" compared to the one we had done earlier, but the volunteers reminded us it was still bear country so we did our best to be loud and keep our heads on a swivel so we were constantly aware of our surroundings.

The views definitely do NOT suck!

The lakes were gorgeous and we took a few minutes to soak up the stunning views all around us. We chatted about how awesome it'd be to kayak or hike to some of the backcountry campsites, and then, not more than two minutes later, we ran into a family who had done that exact thing and they told us how amazing it was. #PutItOnTheListOfThingsToDo

The hike was flat, which our legs appreciated after the morning's adventure.

3. Jenny Lake Scenic Drive 

This is a one-way scenic road near Jenny Lake. It was awesome. It felt a bit more secluded and woodsy. I don't remember there being any turnouts you could stop at, but thankfully I was in the backseat so could just soak in all of the views.

D. Signal Mountain Overlook

Technically we did this stop on Day 1, but since the hubby's dad and his wife missed it, we took the drive up the hill again.

The views of the Teton Range are awe-inspiring.

I couldn't get enough of them!

The hubby might not look very excited, but I promise he was loving it all!

Obviously the main event is the range, not our silly faces, but it's always great to snap a selfie or two ;)

GORGEOUS, right?!

I mean, you can't get enough of this view, can you?! Well, at least the hubby and I couldn't... We could've stayed all day!

4. Oxbow Bend

The hubby's dad and wife said they were okay with skipping some of the stops we had already seen (let's be real, you're viewing the same mountains, just from different locations, so I guess it could get somewhat repetitive, but I loved it nonetheless!). PS Originally this stop was scheduled for Day 2, but we knocked it off the schedule the day before.

5. Snake River Overlook

Same as the last spot... The hubby's dad and wife said they were okay with skipping this one. Originally this stop was supposed to be here in the itinerary, but we were able to fit it in the day before so passed on going a second time.

6. Schwabacher's Landing

Schwabacher’s Landing is a location that truly highlights the immense beauty of Grand Teton National Park. It's a spot on the Snake River, almost exactly east of Grand Teton, where the terrain flattens out and allows easy access to the river. The reflection of the Teton Mountains in the still, flat water of the Snake River is majestic, making this a perfect spot for photos. I think this was my favorite pullout area because you are lower and are right next to the river. The hubby and I meandered down the little path. We were hoping to see some beavers, but they alluded us. These views did NOT suck!

One positive of visiting early in the year is the lack of bugs!

Jumping for joy!

A little panoramic shot of the area. Not too shabby if I do say so myself...

I might not have been able to catch a reflection of the mountains in the water, but it was still stunning!

7. Glacier View Turnout

Don't get me wrong, the views are what you come to Grand Teton for, but at this point in the day it seemed like most folks were "over" stopping to get a slightly different view of the same thing, so we skipped this turnout.

C. Hike Phelps Lake

Technically this hike was supposed to be on Day 3 of our adventure, but the hubby and I chatted about it and we still had enough time in the day to squeeze it in. Our thought was that if we got it in on Day 2 instead, we could sleep in a little longer the following morning and then we wouldn't be sitting in the car all day after getting all sweaty and potentially gross on the hike (we had about 8 hours of driving from Grand Teton National Park to Capitol Reef National Park that we would be exploring on Sunday). We decided this was the better choice for us, even though we had hiked 8+ miles already.


Once the hubby's dad and his wife dropped us off at the campground (they had a rental car, so we were using that to drive around the parks all day and left our AdventureMobile at our campsites) we jumped in the truck to head to Phelps Lake.


We didn't get to the trailhead until almost 5pm. Seeing as I'm an early bird (the hubby's a night owl), I prefer waking up and getting my activity done first thing in the morning, but we were excited to get in this hike so were making it work. There are some shorter hikes, but we wanted to do the full Phelps Lake Trail, which is over 6 miles, so we knew we'd have to keep a good pace to finish before the hubby's dad and his wife were meeting us at our campsite for a fire.


I'm not sure if it's because of what time we started the hike or if it was due to the dirt road we had to take to get there, but it seemed a little more off the beaten path than some of the other things we did. Don't get me wrong, we came across folks from time to time, but overall it felt a little more rugged than some of the other hikes we did around the park. 

Even though it felt secluded, the trail was extremely well cared for!

You start off hiking next to a stream before making it to the lake and circumventing it (it's sort of like a lollipop). We went clockwise, but you could've gone either way. There was a short detour off the trail to Huckleberry Point (a piece of land that juts out into the lake), so when we were deciding which direction to hike we picked clockwise and go to the point first.

I'm not sure why I am doing this in the photo, hehe.

Shortly after Huckleberry Point we entered a marshy area. There was a raised path to walk on and the hubby made a comment that it was a perfect moose habitat. No more than two minutes later we came across a hiker going in the opposite direction who said there was a HUGE moose laying next to the trail in about a half mile. We always appreciate a heads up from fellow friends on the trail and we do our best to give others the same courtesy (don't get me wrong, we had our heads on a swivel the entire hike since it felt pretty secluded and we knew the possibility of wildlife encounters). 

Such a beautiful place to enjoy an afternoon/ evening hike!

Just like the hiker said, we came upon the bull, who seemed to be bedding down for the night. We made our presence known (we don't want to be annoying or disruptive on the trails, but we also don't want to walk up on something and startle it, so we do our best at making noise so we don't scare anything/ anyone by sneaking up on them), always kept the moose in view (never turn your back on wildlife), continued moving (#RealTalk - I would've loved to sit and watch him, but we didn't want to be seen as a threat) and wished him a great night (I'm weird, but I talk to animals #CallMeCinderella).

As I'm sure you can imagine, the low quality is because it was taken as we walked by... No stopping near this big guy!

This is a video of the moose as we walked by him (we tried to stay as far away as possible {since, per the park safety and wildlife guidelines, you should give them at least 25 yards of room} but could only do so much due to the trail we were on):

After that excitement our hearts were beating a little faster, as you could imagine. We continued hiking around the lake (we hadn't even made it to the halfway point yet) and definitely tried to do a very, very meticulous job of keeping our eyes peeled. We came upon a portion of the trail that sort of meandered away from the lake. As we were going up a small hill the hubby said "Car, STOP!" Now, if you know the hubby, you know he is quite the funny, fun-loving guy, but in situations like this I know he is probably not joking around. Calmly he asked me to walk back to him (I was maybe four or five steps ahead). He pointed to our right and I saw what he had seen... A mama bear and two tiny cubs. Because we were on a bit of a hill, we were above them and far enough away to hopefully not be seen as a threat. The bears heard us and the mama backed the cubs away to a tree and had them scurry up. I snapped a few quick pictures (I had my phone out because of the moose we had just seen) but we kept moving {and, of course, I talked in soothing tones to the bears, letting them know they had a gorgeous place to live and we were just passing through so there was no need to fret}. [You may think I'm crazy, and I might be, but if you have time, check out this article... Seems like talking to the bears works!]

This was the quick series of the bears I snapped. In the first photo you can sort of see the cubs were
 walking on the downed tree. In the second one you can see mama looking at us and her getting the cubs
 on the large tree. In the third she is standing guard at the base of the tree while the cubs scamper up. In
the fourth the tiny cubs had made it quite a ways off the ground and mama was watching us skit-skat-skadoodle!

I'll be honest, I was a bit freaked out. I know black bears are more skittish and tend to run away from you (as opposed to grizzlies who have no problems attacking), but if a mama feels threatened and thinks she is protecting her cubs, who knows... I made the hubby walk with the bear spray "ready" for at least a quarter mile. It was pretty awesome to see these amazing creatures in the wild and I was very thankful that we were a safe distance away when we saw them.   

Let's be real, it took me a good 45 minutes to calm down from our sighting and be willing to "joke" about the bears ;)

The rest of the hike was less eventful. Don't get me wrong, we saw our fair share of rockchucks and the views were stunning, but the BIG wildlife must have been getting ready for bed because we didn't see any more large mammals. 

Phelps Lake is the sixth largest lake in the Grand Teton National Park.

Once we got back to the truck we had added another 7+ miles to our daily hike total and had just enough time to get back to the campground to scarf down our food before the hubby's dad and his wife came over for a final campfire.

Loved all of the buildings on the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve.

We may have taken a wrong turn and added a little extra onto the hike... OOPS!

Made it back to the campsite just in time for yet another gorgeous sunset!

8. Mormon Row Historic District**

Technically this should be crossed off the itinerary here, seeing as we skipped this stop on Day 2, but that's only because we heard it's better to go just after sunrise because the lighting is better with the sun illuminating the Teton range. (I also didn't want to add a Day 3 recap post only for this one stop, so I decided to leave it in with the asterisks ;))

Did you notice the moon in the top portion of the photo?

The new game plan was to leave our campsite around sunrise so we could stop by Mormon Row when the sun was up, snap a few pictures and then hit the road since we had a LONG day of driving ahead of us (~475 miles / ~8 hours).

John Moulton Barn

TA Moulton Barn

Chambers Barn

Thomas Murphy Barn

Although there were probably a TON of things we missed, we felt like we did the area justice and got in quite a bit while we were in the two parks. On the way to Yellowstone we broke the drive up over four nights, but on the way back we were going to try and do it in two. We decided to drive all day on Saturday so we could spend the majority of Sunday in Capitol Reef National Park (a new-to-us national park). I will recap that in its own post (it was really the "special" thing we did on the trip back home, since everything else was just keeping the pedal to the medal), so check back in the coming days!

Have you ever been to Grand Teton National Park?

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