Home » 2000 Cross Country Road Trip

Grand Teton National Park, WY

Friday, July 28, 2000 - 3:00am by Lolo
60 miles and 1.5 hours from our last stop


This was actually our second time to the Grand Tetons. The first time was back in 1992, when we just drove through the park on our way to Yellowstone, enjoying the tremendous views of the Jackson Hole Valley and mountain peaks along the Teton Park Road, but hardly doing the park the justice it deserved. This time, our plan was much better--to experience the park from our inflatable raft while floating down the Snake River through the Jackson Hole Valley.

Herb and the boys rafting the Snake RiverHerb and the boys rafting the Snake RiverRafting trips are always a logistical nightmare because you have to leave your vehicle in one place and then float downstream about 10 miles only to have to figure out how the heck to get back to your RV at the end of the day. However, rafting this river was something we wanted to do so badly that we figured we'd raft first and worry about the logistics later.

We put the raft in at the Moran Junction raft launch right off US 191 south of the Jackson Lake Dam. The water along this stretch of the Snake River was pretty gentle (Class I and Class II rapids), but quick moving and very braided, which meant that there were many islands where you had to quickly make a choice as to which side to go on. The wrong choice could bring you to a dead end in the river with no easy way to get back to the right choice. We thought that we would just follow other rafts that had guides, but surprisingly, and quite pleasantly, there was no one else out on the river, so we, or more correctly Herb, had to read the way the water was flowing to try to pick the main channel. He did great. The scenery along the way was absolutely incredible, with views of the Jackson Hole Valley and the snow-capped Teton Range to the west of us.

Tom with tiny fishTom with tiny fishThe river was moving so fast that our 10-mile trip was going to be over in no time at all. We were having too good of a time for it to end so soon, so we kept pulling up onto beaches to explore and fish. "Nature Tom" had his Animal Tracking field guide along so the kids spent some time wandering up and down the river trying to identify the numerous tracks along the shore. At one point along the river's edge, we came across some wet sand that acted like quicksand, sucking our sandaled feet below the surface. It was quite a struggle to get them out. In fact, Andrew's sandal was pulled right off his foot and we had to quickly reach down with our hands to pull it out before it disappeared completely. I don't think we were going to actually get sucked down too far, but it still was rather disconcerting.

Some friendly little family fishing soon turned into a fierce competition to see who could catch the most trout. Tommy was winning with two, when I decided to put down my book and give it a try. In three casts, I caught 3 trout--1 rainbow, 1 brown, and 1 cutthroat. The third one came off my line right before I pulled it on shore, triggering a heated debate from Tommy as to what the criteria was for considering a fish caught. To this day, we still haven't resolved this issue.

Lolo hauling in a big oneLolo hauling in a big oneAs the afternoon wore on, thunderclouds started building over the valley, so we got back in the raft and let the swift current of the river carry us to our takeout at the Snake River Overlook. We still had to figure out how to get the RV. Herb decided to walk up to the highway and hitchhike back to Moran Junction. He wasn't having much luck at all on the highway--after a day on the river he was looking a bit grungy. Finally, he got the idea of going to the Overlook parking lot where he could approach people and convince them that he was not a threat. A family accepted his offer of $10 to drive him the 10 miles back to Moran Junction, which is where they were going anyway. Herb even gave them a tour of the RV.

While all this was going on, the kids and I were deflating and cleaning the raft, hoping the thunderstorm would miss us, which it fortunately did. It seemed like Herb was gone an awfully long time so were very relieved when we saw the RV pull down the hill to pick us up.

We packed the raft back into the bag that lived on top of the cab at the foot of the kids' bed. Our little "boat in a bag" had done it again. For the third time this trip (first Pictured Rocks, then St. Mary's Lake in Glacier, and now the Snake River), it had given us the kind of day that no amount of money could buy.

Somewhat tired, but very satisfied, we left the Grand Tetons to find a place to stay for the night.


Grand Tetons National Park's 485 square miles encompasses the Jackson Hole Valley and the Teton Mountain Range which towers 7,000 feet above the valley floor. Although the park is best known for its three most prominent peaks, the Grand, Middle, and South Tetons, there are other equally spectacular mountains in the Teton Range, 12 of which are higher than 12,000 feet.

Herb and boys fishing for trout on the Snake RiverHerb and boys fishing for trout on the Snake River At the base of the mountains lies a string of 7 glacier-carved lakes, fed by mountain streams. Beyond the lakes lies the beautiful Jackson Hole Valley with 50 miles of the Snake River winding through it. The wetlands along the braided sections of the river provide a rich habitat for wildlife, such as moose, elk, pronghorn, bison, black bear, deer, bald eagles, blue herons, river otters, and even pelicans.

Most of the major observation points and attractions can be seen from the Teton Park and Jenny Lake Loop Roads, which meander 25 miles along the Jackson Hole Valley from Moran Junction to Moose Junction, providing spectacular views of the Tetons along the way.

The 4-mile paved Signal Mountain Summit Road climbs 1,000 feet to the summit of Signal Mountain, where there is a tremendous 360 degree panoramic view of the Tetons and Valley below. A mile before the summit is the Jackson Lake Overlook, from which William Henry Jackson took his famous photographs of the Grand Tetons. Unfortunately, the Signal Mountain Summit Road is so narrow and windy that RV's are prohibited.

The one-way scenic drive on the Jenny Lake road along the shores of the lake brings you to one of the busiest and most popular sports in the park. A very popular hike from this area is the Cascade Canyon Trail to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. To get to the trailhead you can either walk the 2.5 miles around the southern end of the lake or take the shuttle boat, which runs every ½ hour, across to the West Shore Boat Dock. From there, the fairly strenuous trail climbs 420 feet over one mile. At the ½ mile point is Hidden Falls, one of the most beautiful spots in the park. A ½ mile further is the aptly named Inspiration Point with a spectacular view of the lake, surrounding mountains, and the valley. If you wish to continue further, the trail levels out after this point and the views get even better. On the way back, you have the same choice of hiking the lakeshore or taking the shuttle boat.

Grand Teton National Park location map in "high definition"

Javascript is required to view this map.