Free Camping at Grand Teton National Park

Free Camping at Grand Teton National Park

We left Colorado in early July and drove north towards Wyoming, our plans were vague as usual, but we wanted to see Grand Teton National Park and maybe Yellowstone too.  We stopped for about a week at Granite Springs and were bowled over by the beauty of Wyoming.  The wildflowers were in full bloom and the weather was really comfortable, low 80's most of the time.  I didn't think it could get prettier than Granite Springs until we drove about an hour north through Jackson, towards Grand Teton National Park.  

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The Teton range is what you imagine when you think of mountains...snow-covered peaks surrounded by valleys of sage, lakes that reflect the mountain peaks, and shady green forests filled with wildlife.  Everywhere we turned there was a view worthy of a postcard.

As always, we used Campendium to find our next boondocking site.  We've only paid for four nights of camping in over three months and those four stops were all in our first 10 days on the road. We've been able to camp for free on National Forest land ever since, relying on Campendium for almost every stop.

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We planned to try the Upper Teton View site in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.  Access was pretty easy, the road was gravel and narrow in parts but nothing that gave us any trouble.  When we reached the Upper Teton area, we found it pretty crowded and for good reason-the view of the Teton Range was unbeatable.  We didn't bother even pulling in. We're pretty averse to crowds and although the view was incredible, we couldn't justify squeezing in along the ridge next to 10 other RVs.  We didn't have to search for a site for long though because directly across from the primo view was a side pull off surrounded by trees, giving it almost complete privacy.  The only thing keeping it from being a perfect site was the complete lack of Verizon coverage.  

Our first day in the area we drove through GTNP to see how crowded it was and decide which areas to explore first.  Cars packed the visitor centers' parking areas and lined the roads near popular trails.  Based on the crowds we decided to make our park visits as early in the mornings as possible.  As gorgeous as the national parks are in the summer, it will be nice to visit some during non-peak months. 

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We visited the park several times during our stay and each time we arrived no later than 8am, giving us at least 2-3 hours of quiet before the park began to fill.  Our first visit was to Jenny Lake where we rented a kayak and, with the exception of the shuttle boat, had the entire lake to ourselves during our two hour trip.  The water at Jenny Lake was clear and we could see huge trees submerged under the water and in shallow areas, the cutthroat trout.

Later in the week, we explored Shwabacher Landing.  Another early start time meant we had the river trail to ourselves.  Low clouds covered the mountaintops and kept the weather cool in the early morning but burned away to perfect blue skies later in the day.  We saw our first moose on this hike.  Alex spotted her through the trees and she watched us, decided we weren't interesting and continued on her way.  

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Cunningham Cabin was a short 3 mile walk from our campsite so we took Jane with us at sunset one evening to explore the former homestead.  Cunningham Cabin is part of GTNP and has a self-guided loop trail circling the cabin.  Built in 1888, it's one of the last remaining cabins from the Jackson Hole homesteading era. 

We took a short visit to Mormon Row-a homesteading community built by Mormon settlers in the 1890's.  The houses are boarded up and barn swallows have dozen of mud nests in the eaves of the old homes.  You can walk around the homesites but not through them.

Since Jane isn't allowed on most national park trails, we decided to spend a day exploring Gros Ventre Wilderness. Encompassing 285,567 acres, the Gros Ventre has all of the beauty of the nearby national park but without the crowds.  There, we found an abandoned homestead or trapper's cabin, the three buildings were crumbling and nature was slowly reclaiming them.  We walked through the old rooms,and touched the rusty nails sticking our of the walls.  Later we walked along the Gros Ventre River and let Jane wade and paw at rocks.

We made a few trips into the town of Jackson, population 10,500, to grab supplies and see what the town had to offer.  At first glance the town seems mostly tourist driven with lots of shopping and dining options, a very busy laundromat, and a Saturday Farmer's Market, all packed with people.  But it's more than just a tourist town.  The Wednesday People's Farmers market at the base of Sun King Mountain gave us a better view of Jackson.  There we saw the local, slow food movement hosting a pitch-in, the cycling club offering free bicycle repairs, the astronomy club of Jackson providing eclipse information, the farmers, the artisans, the brewers...It was nice to see the side of Jackson that was more than just t-shirts with moose on them

So that was our time at Grand Teton National Park.  The weather, the sunsets, the mountains, the lakes, the homesteading history, the fantastic town of Jackson...this park officially tops my list as my favorite so far. 


Dumpsite/Water Fill-Up: Colter Bay Campground in GTNP
Recycling: Albertsons Grocery in Jackson at 105 Buffalo Way
Propane:  Snake River KOA
Free wifi: Teton Library and Jenny Lake Visitor Center 

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