This is our trip report from our recent vacation to Wyoming. This portion is from our three nights in Jackson. We stayed in the Rawhide Motel. It was just myself and my husband (mid thirties). We started (and finished) our vacation in Estes Park, CO, if anyone is interested, here is the trip report from that portion of the trip.
Day 4 – Tuesday 3rd September – Travel
We left Estes Park bright and early (we were on the road by 6:45. The drive was long, but incredibly scenic. We stopped numerous times to get gas, use the restroom, eat and of course, excitedly take a picture of the ‘Welcome to Wyoming’ sign! We stopped in Rawlins for pie in Penny’s Diner. If we see a traditional American Diner, we try and stop if we can, because we have nothing like that here in Ireland. They pie was excellent, and lovely coffee, but the portions were a bit small, where are all these huge American portions we hear so much about! The scenery on the way was truly amazing, our GPS sent us via Rawlins-Lander-Dubois which I’m not convinced is the shortest way, but it was fantastically scenic. I didn’t expect to see such a variance of scenery; it was almost like being in Arizona or Utah with the endless skyline and red rocks. My one regret is that we didn’t stop in Dubois, it looked like such a pretty town, but at that stage, we were just keen to get to our destination. The big thrill of the day was just outside the boundary of GTNP when we saw cars pulled over. Remembering the advice about pulling over if we saw other cars, we stopped and were delighted to see three bears! They were actually quite close, maybe 100 metres; they looked like a mother grizzly and two yearling cubs. What an exciting start to our Wyoming vacation! I can’t remember exactly where they were; I think it was around the town of Hatchet.
Hint 1: If you see cars pulled over, stop and pull over if safe to do so, 9 times out of 10, it’s nothing too exciting, but every now and then, you get an amazing sighting like that!
This route actually brought us through the park, so we stopped at a couple of overlooks, Snake River Overlook and Elk Ranch Turnout where we saw bison in the distance. The sun was too hazy on the mountains to get a good clear look.
Hint 2: Early morning is really the best time for viewing the Tetons and especially if you want nice photos. The afternoon sun creates too much of a haze to get good shots.
We arrived in Jackson at 16:45, exactly 10 hours after setting out. In addition to stops, we lost quite a lot of time in road works; the road works in the area are quite frustrating in that we quite regularly were stuck for 20-30 minutes with no movement from either direction. I’m not sure if it was the very comfortable car (Dodge Charger) or the quality of the American roads, but we did a few long drives and never felt fatigued. We checked into Rawhide Motel and were very pleased with our room, large and clean and with a good TV and fridge. It was very good value for the price we paid, accommodation in Jackson is expensive so to get a nice, central location for less than $150 per night was great. We had a look around Jackson and popped into a few shops. We had a drink in the Million Dollar bar, but it is a bit gimmicky and not much atmosphere. We ate in the Silver Dollar bar at the Wort Hotel, it was crazy busy, but we were lucky enough to get seating straight away. We had lovely nachos to share and a burger each. It was really good and not too expensive, for nachos, two burgers, a beer and a soda; it came to $51 incl tax. There was a bluegrass band playing and it was fun to watch people dance, they really had some moves! It was wet and cold when we left the bar, so we just head back to the motel for an early night.
Day 5 – Wednesday 4th September – GTNP
Up bright and early and the weather was looking a little overcast. We ate the remainder of the pastries we had picked up in Estes Park for breakfast. We went out looking for somewhere to pick up lunch and decided to go to Great Harvest Bread for sandwiches. They were really good, but possibly a little expensive. We set off for Mormon Row first – keeping an eye out for moose on the way as I believe this is an area they can be spotted – we saw nothing. Mormon Row was very disappointing, the clouds were completely obscuring the mountains and we really could see nothing. There was a photographer there who reckoned it was down for the day and that we would probably get heavy rain. I was very disappointed to be honest. We drove on to Jenny Lake, but again, nothing to see here. I was beginning to feel a bit down when all of a sudden, the clouds started to clear and the mountains started peaking out. We got talking to a lovely couple, I forget where they were from, but he worked as a geologist in the Black Hills before he retired and they were so pleasant and knowledgeable to talk to. He reckoned it would be a lovely day, so I decided to believe him ahead of the grumpy photographer! They were staying in Jackson Lake Lodge and told us that there was a moose hanging out there the previous few days, so I made a mental note to go up there later. The weather was really clearing now and we were getting to see those million dollar views so we drove on up towards Jackson Lake Lodge, stopping at overlooks as we went. We decided to leave the moose hunt until later. We went up to have a look at Sacred Heart church which is very pretty and ate our lunch at the shore of Jenny Lake, we parked at a turnout on the scenic one way route round Jenny Lake and had a lovely peaceful spot to ourselves.
After lunch, we went to the Church of the Transfiguration – absolutely stunning! I am not religious, but I do love churches and graveyards for some reason and drive my DH crazy on vacation dragging him in and out of churches of various denominations – but this was one that he didn’t mind lingering at! We decided to go back to Mormon Row and get those views we’d missed earlier. Now I see why it’s one of the most photographed spots in the park! Just beautiful. We decided to head back towards Jackson Lake Lodge for the great moose hunt. On the way, we saw people parked at the entrance to Schwabacher landing, so we decided to walk down for a look. It was very hot at this stage and we were running low on water, so maybe I am not a good judge, but in my opinion it’s not worth the walk. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful view, but there are lots of beautiful views at any number of overlooks, so I don’t think Schwabacher is worth the walk. But as I said, it was very hot and was 3pm, so maybe we would have a different opinion if done first thing in the morning when it’s cooler and the sun is at a better angle. So onwards we went to Jackson Lake Lodge. We were over-sunned and over heated from being out, so JLL was a welcome cool oasis and most importantly, Mr Moose was indeed there! He was a bit of a distance away, so I ran back to the car to get the binoculars, and in that time, he decided to have a sit down for himself and was barely visable when I returned :( I had also missed him giving a bugle, double :( There was people there with scopes, so we were able to see him through those (albeit just his antlers!) I think the early mornings were catching up with us, so we decided to hang round JLL and have a drink (or 3) well, it would be rude not to ;) Jackson Lake Lodge is lovely, the lobby area with the picture window is lovely and relaxing. So we passed a couple of hours there and then stopped at Dornan’s on the way back to Jackson. We got a pretty good meal here, and the view from the upstairs terrace is just million dollar. It’s a bit of a strange system the way you order at the counter and then order drinks separately, but considering the location, it’s excellent value and my lobster penne was really tasty. So whether due to the sun or the adult beverages at JLL, I was pretty exhausted, so we headed back to our room to watch some TV.
Day 6 – Thursday 5th September – GTNP
Another early start and we breakfasted in the room on leftover snacks from the previous day. We were going to have another stab at seeing Mr Moose up at Jackson Lake Lodge this morning. We stopped at Oxbow Bend overlook on they way… WOW! I think this was my favourite view in the park (maybe tied with Jenny Lake!) We got some lovely photos with the reflections of the mountains in the water. Actually, there is another small pull in area about 100 metres further on from Oxbow Bend on the left and I think it actually offers better photo opportunities, there is more greenery in the foreground that makes for a more interesting photo. Anyway, on we went to JLL and there was not one, but two moose there this morning! So we sat and watched them for an hour (got a good close look through a scope) and had a nice coffee and pastry. We finished up our second breakfast and drove down to Jenny Lake, where we had planned to rent a kayak. The morning had turned a little cloudy and it looked like rain so we weren’t sure it was a good idea, but we decided to bite the bullet and power across the lake (when I say power – I mean row very slowly while stopping every 2 minutes!) It is surprisingly tough to paddle one of those things! So, the plan was to paddle across the lake and take a nice gentle walk up to hidden falls and cascade canyon, sounds easy doesn’t it??? So we pulled the boat up at a little beach area and my husband reckoned he could hear the falls and that they were just through the trees. So cue 20 minutes of wandering through trees, undergrowth, bushes, across swamps, fallen logs and god knows what other gooey stuff that I kept putting my hand in! I was terrified, I honestly thought we were going to be lost forever or eaten by a bear. Thankfully neither of those two things happened and we made it up to the falls in one (albeit scratched) piece. I was so shaken, I barely looked at the falls and we decided against walking on to Cascade Canyon. Now the problem was finding our boat, there was no way I was going back the way we came, so we walked back to the boat launch and decided to walk along the shore of the lake to find our boat. This involved taking of our shoes and actually wading through the lake! I was never as happy to see a kayak! After another tough row back across the lake, we returned the boat, tired, wet and ready for our lunch! It actually was great fun and the staff at the boat rental are lovely. He only charged us for two hours, even though we had the kayak for closer to three hours. We had a well earned lunch at the shore of the lake, we got nice sandwiches in the shop at Jenny Lake and they were actually very reasonable, a lot cheaper than you would pay back in Jackson.
After lunch, we took a look at Signal Mountain Lodge and Jenny Lake Lodge, nothing much to see at either of those. We drove up Signal Mountain, what amazing views and lovely to see the other side of the mountains. We decided to drive back to Jackson via Moose-Wilson Road as I heard that was a hotspot for bears, sure enough we saw a black bear cub in a tree. The rangers were being very strict with keeping traffic moving and not allowing people out of there car, so we only have a blurry photo as proof! It was still pretty early, so on a whim, we decided to drive over to Idaho (some of you may remember that we are on a mission to get to as many US states as possible and get a fridge magnet from each) It is a lovely drive over the Teton pass and there are amazing views over the valley. I would really recommend this drive if your itinerary allows. And it’s nice to get an alternative view to the Tetons. We drove as far as Victor ID and stopped for a soda and of course the crucial fridge magnet!
We drove back to Jackson and had a look at a few restaurants, we couldn’t really see anything that took our fancy, so we just ate in the Silver Dollar again. My DH had the kobe burger which he said was the best burger he ever had. I had the elk sliders and onion rings which was only ok. We had some Huckleberry Ice-cream from the ice cream store after dinner. I know I am probably going to get banned from the Wyoming forum for ever, but I wasn’t that keen! The flavour was nice, but there were too many ‘bits’ for my liking.
Day 7 – Friday 6th September – Travel to Yellowstone
We were off to Yellowstone today, so we had a bit of a sleep in (must have been at least 7am LOL!) and treated ourselves to a lovely breakfast at The Bunnery. This is a really nice place, so warm and welcoming and they do a great breakfast. I would recommend getting there early though, when we finished at about 9am, there was a huge line waiting to get in. They also do lovely cakes, so we got some pie for later. We checked out of the motel and had a look around the shops. I have to say, we found Jackson very expensive. There are lovely independent stores, no chains at all, but the prices are very steep. In fact, we found the US as a whole has got a lot more expensive since we were there two years ago. So it was more window shopping than actual shopping! Though I was very tempted by a pink Stetson hat for my dog, but at $29, my DH firmly removed me from the store!
So we left Jackson at about 11am and drove straight to Yellowstone…. I shall pick up the trip report in a separate post for Yellowstone!
I have to say we loved Jackson and the Tetons. I was glad that we stayed in Jackson, as it is a lovely town and we enjoy being able to window shop in the evening and have a choice of eateries. If we hadn’t so many other stops and different accommodations, I would probably recommend spending one night in Jackson and one night in the park. I think it would be nice to see a sunset and sunrise in the park without the danger of driving in the dark (especially if you can splurge on the Jackson Lake Lodge!) We enjoyed our stay at the Rawhide Motel, I would recommend it for anyone looking for a budget stay. It is no frills and there is no breakfast, but it is clean and comfortable and the location can’t be beat!
Some of you may remember that I was considering adding a night to GTNP, it can be hard to know how long you need when you’re not familiar with the area. I would say three nights is a perfect amount of time. It gave us the chance to recover from the drive, have a look around the town of Jackson and just be able to take a breath and relax. However, if you are short of time and don’t plan to do any hiking (or kayaking LOL!) then two nights would probably be sufficient, you really do see a lot in one and a half days.