Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks (Summer 2021)

Last summer, our family made the trek to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. It felt like our first big trip since Covid shut down the world, and we were eager to experience these two national parks. We loaded up the car and began our journey through Nebraska and Wyoming to GTNP, at the northwest edge of WY. We made stops along the way, experiencing parts of Nebraska that we had never visited before, including the Sandhills of western Nebraska and Scottsbluff National Monument.

Our first destination was Grand Teton National Park. We rented a cabin at Jackson Lake Lodge and spent our first afternoon on a gentle hike, just getting our bearings.

We began the next day, which also happened to be my birthday, with a 3 hour horseback ride up into the mountains right outside of GTNP. The ride was by far the most adventurous one we’ve ever done. We climbed up steep terrain, crossed rivers, and navigated tricky turns. It was a wonderful experience! We told tales of our kind horses and daring adventures over dinner that night in the Mural Room at Jackson Lake Lodge. (I highly recommend this restaurant. The views were breathtaking, the staff was so welcoming, and the food was delicious. Definitely make a reservation!)

We spent the following day on a long (7 miles!) hike around Jenny Lake. It was by far the longest hike we’ve ever done as a family, and we experienced all the highs and lows that came along with it. The views were beautiful and the girls even enjoyed a quick–and cold–swim in the lake at the end.

To celebrate our successful hike and our last night in GTNP, we spent the evening in Jackson Hole, which was just as lovely as advertised. The following morning, we packed up and started the short drive to Yellowstone National Park.

Our first stop in Yellowstone was the Grand Prismatic Basin, which was decidedly other-worldly. We stopped for a picnic lunch and then made our way to Old Faithful, where we connected with C’s sister and her family.

After a full day of sightseeing, we drove through the park to our hotel, Canyon Lodge, which was a modern and well-appointed hotel right in the center of the park. (Yellowstone is enormous. If you can stay inside the park, you will save yourself hours of driving during your trip.) We also explored the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which was one of my favorite Yellowstone sights.

On our last day full day in Yellowstone, we drove to the north entrance of the park in Gardiner, Montana, for a river rafting trip with Flying Pig Adventure Company. We had a blast on our rafting trip, and we’d definitely sign up for the half-day tour if we were to do it again.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the Mammoth Hot Springs area near the north entrance, which was my favorite area of the park. I loved watching the bison take steam baths in the hot spring terraces and the general “corner store” vibe of the nearby amenities.

All told, we had a great experience in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The two are so close together that it’s likely you wouldn’t visit one without visiting the other, but we all preferred GTNP over Yellowstone. Not only did we love being in the mountains, but Yellowstone felt very crowded, and we spent a LOT of time in the car. In Grand Teton NP, we had the chance to stretch our legs, enjoy the mountain air, and really relax. I’d love to go back!

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