We had originally planned to go straight from Bear Lake to Yellowstone, but Mr. TypeTwoFun has been itching to see the Grand Tetons for a long time. I think he may be planning a crazy adventure there some time in the future… you never know with him. He actually had been to Grand Teton National Park when he was a kid, but didn’t remember much about it. He did remember Jackson, Wyoming, and insisted we needed to visit that little town on our trip, so it was worked into the plan.
When planning our trip to Grand Teton, I discovered that there weren’t any campgrounds in the park that accepted reservations. This made me a little anxious. I didn’t want to arrive with a camper in tow to discover that there were no available campsites in the park. I did a little research, and discovered that the Gros Ventre Campground was fairly large and typically only fills late in the afternoon during the peak season, if at all. Another perk was that it was only about 15 minutes away from the town of Jackson. We worked Gros Ventre into the game plan, and I am so glad that we did.
Gros Ventre Campground was not what we had anticipated, and initially, I was disappointed. At first, I thought it was the ugliest campground we’d visited. The sites are tightly spaced and the scenery is a mix of cottonwoods and sagebrush — not what you would expect from a national park situated in some of the grandest mountains around. We arrived and checked in, and the staff could not have been more helpful. They were so kind. They recommended a spot, but gave us the opportunity to drive the park and find a spot we liked better. The spot they recommended was actually a little too far from the restrooms, so we picked a closer spot. The campground was actually quite empty, so we had no problems finding a nice spot.
There are no hookups in Gros Ventre. In fact, I think the only hookups in the park are at the Coulter Bay RV Park. We weren’t interested in staying at an RV park, so this suit us just fine. We did have some shade, but there weren’t many “shade trees” around, so I can image it gets pretty hot during the height of summer. There were lots of mosquitoes. The Gros Ventre River is close by, and that means lots of bugs, so bring your bug repellent. The bathrooms were pretty sparse, but clean. While we really enjoyed being away from the crowds that come with RV parks, we missed having unlimited electricity. We had no way to gauge how much battery life we had left. This prompted us to install a battery monitor as soon as we got home, so we can now enjoy the less crowded spaces without the worry of how much battery power we are consuming.
The sites all had picnic tables and fire rings with grills. Our site didn’t have much room for camp chairs, and the setup of the site itself was a little weird, so we left the chairs packed. The spaces were also pretty tight, and many of them would not accommodate a pop up camper very well. The site we picked had a better parking area for the camper than most, but it was still an awkward fit. It took several tries to get things lined up right.
Once we set up camp, we headed into town. Just like Mr. TypeTwoFun had promised, Jackson was a great little place. We were able to find a pizza spot for lunch, do some souvenir shopping, visit the famous antler arch, and get all our supply shopping done in just a few hours. The kids enjoyed walking the streets of Jackson and were a little sad to head back to camp. There are plenty of things to do in town, and we could have stayed a few more hours. We were also able to hit a Smith’s (Kroger) grocery store to load up on supplies (get firewood and charcoal here!) on our way out of town. Jackson also had plenty of fuel stations so we could get gas for our tow vehicle and propane for the tank in the camper. It was really convenient.
After making sure camp was stocked, we visited the Visitor’s Center at Moose, WY (which is really close to Gros Ventre Campground) to learn all about the park. We were incredibly impressed with how much information was presented in a fun way for the kids to learn. They spent the better part of an hour exploring the Visitor’s Center and Gift Shop. There were displays about the major animals in the Tetons, complete with a hands-on exhibit with different types of animal pelts for the kids to touch. There was even an exhibit about rock climbing in the Tetons, which Mr. TypeTwoFun loved.
After exploring the Moose Visitor’s Center, we hit Mormon Row on our way back to the campground. Mormon Row is a pretty popular place to take pictures, so I’m sure you’ll recognize some of the buildings. It used to be a Mormon pioneer homestead, but it was bought out by the government when they were expanding Grand Teton National Park. Now it sits deserted, but it is a great reminder of how difficult the early settlers of this area had it. You can find informational brochures outside the buildings. The buildings themselves aren’t open to explore, but you can walk around the outside of them and snap as many pictures as you’d like.
As we were packing up camp the next morning, we were surprised by some moose who decided to wander through. They are such amazing creatures. We were told that Gros Ventre Campground was the place to see moose, and it didn’t disappoint. They walked right through camp, and we were able to watch them for about 30 minutes while we were packing up. It was the only time we saw moose on our entire trip, so it made Gros Ventre worth the stop.
What we loved:
- Proximity to Jackson, WY, the Moose Visitor’s Center, and Mormon Row. We were able to see all these sights within an afternoon.
- Wildlife! We saw moose, wolves, bison, and elk in Grand Teton NP. In fact, there were herds of bison grazing right outside the Gros Ventre entrance. That was our first experience with bison. So awesome!
- Peace and quiet. Even though Gros Ventre is close to Jackson, it feels pretty isolated. Except for the lone inconsiderate camper a few sites away, we had the place to ourselves. Most of the night was peaceful and quiet… and those stars! Oh, man! You could see ALL of them.
What we learned:
- We needed some way to monitor battery usage. We tackled that project as soon as we made it home.
- There has got to be a better way to dump our gray water tank. Dragging that tank along the road is SO loud. Thanks to those hard plastic wheels, which announce your arrival, everyone in camp turns to look at you. 🙁
- We still struggled with the outdoor camp kitchen. We actually cooked outside on the fire as much as we could, because it was easier.
We only stayed in Grand Teton NP for one night, and honestly, it wasn’t enough. We didn’t have a chance to do any hiking or visit any of the areas inside the park gate. I would love to go back and spend more time there. As we were heading to Yellowstone, I got just a taste of how beautiful the rest of the park is. If you’re headed that way, I’d recommend spending a few days there to soak it all in.
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