We concluded our getaway at Grand Teton National Park and boy, was it the cherry on top of our transformational trip. After all the hype and excitement Yellowstone provided us with, it was nice to wind down at yet another treasure the U.S.A has to offer. Fun fact, Grand Teton is only about 27 miles or a 45 minute drive from the South Entrance of Yellowstone.
Our first impression driving into the park was awe-inspiring. It could not have been a more perfect day to come across the unparalleled stunning view of the Tetons. Pictures and videos do not do the scenic view justice. The sun beamed, the sky was vast with opportunities, and the birds chirped gleefully – it somehow felt like I was teleported to a Disney princess fantasy. I must admit, I was thrilled to encounter the heat; the Miami girl in me jumped on the opportunity to wear shorts.
On our drive into the park, we had to stop and take pictures. I could not help marveling at the juxtaposition of the Teton range and the yellow daisies. For the most part, I struggle with living in the moment. On this day, I savored every second and took mental images of it all.
Ok so, I am a morning person – more so for productivity than anything else. On vacation, I love to milk my days and do as much as possibly, but there are also those days when I want to sleep in. Let me just say, mornings are in fact made easier with mountains. I valued my morning view at Signal Mountain Lodge, it actually may be what I miss most from the trip. I consider myself to be a spiritual person and mountains have a way of enhancing that part of myself. Not only that, they make me feel undeniably blessed and thankful.
I know what you’re thinking, how can mountains do all of that? And why can’t you be grateful without an incredible view of mountains? Hear me out, I am thankful for every moment – for everything, really. Mountains just have a way of providing retrospect, that whatever I may be feeling or going through, it could always be worse and there is light at the end of the tunnel. They remind me that there is more to life than the tangible – there’s family, love, and the undeniable beauty in things that we cannot explain.
FYI, the mountains appear to be A LOT closer than they actually are. Maybe it was just me, but I swore that they were in touching distance.
We all loved our Lakefront Retreat room. With a view like the one I included above, do you blame us? I wish I could wake up to a view like that every morning. Unlike the other lodges we stayed at, WIFI was included and it worked really well! The lodge itself was adorable, featuring antiques in the lobby, along with complimentary, quality coffee. Our room was spacious and cozy. Joyous dance parties were done, family Clue face-offs were had, homemade breakfasts were thoughtfully crafted and later devoured, reading sessions were enjoyed on all the various seating areas, and restful nights were experienced. Along with awesome lodging, Signal Mountain Lodge also yielded us with incredible perks. Including (but not limited to) convenient and delicious restaurants, a useful and well stocked general store, and a laundromat that made our lives 100 times easier.
I find it important to highlight Signal Mountain Lodge’s sustainability efforts. The lodge was named as a member of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership Leaders Club for offsetting our electrical power usage by purchasing renewable energy credits. Additionally, all three of the Lodge restaurants (The Peaks, Trapper Grill and Leek’s Pizzeria) were the first businesses in Wyoming to achieve certification by the Green Restaurant Association. Signal Mountain Lodge was named a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Restaurant Business Leader by Teton County, Wyoming and they are partners with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Just like the lodge we stayed at in Yellowstone, there was a fountain to fill water bottles in the lobby.
As we waited for our room at the Signal Mountain Lodge to be ready, we decided to explore the larger, more popular option – Jackson Lake Lodge. I will not lie, it was gorgeous and vast. The view when you walk into the lobby was absolutely breathtaking. Although I may be partial to the more placid and quaint option, I cannot deny Jackson Lake Lodge’s irrefutable grandeur. If given the choice again, I would have still chosen the same.
The emphasis placed on quality fresh ingredients in this part of the country was not lost on me. You may be thinking, “oh, if such high regard is placed on quality then quantity must be lacking”. I’m here to tell you that the portions over here are huge. It is the best of both worlds, quality AND quantity! All the restaurants I went to incorporated gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian options, so there was always something for everyone to eat.
Many of our meals were had here and honestly, everything we ate was amazing (the phenomenal view of the Tetons also helped). We dined here for breakfast, lunch and dinner (we even did takeout on a lazy night) and every dish we had was fresh and abundant. Remember what I said about quality AND quantity? The menu offers a large array of options that everyone can enjoy, diet restrictions and all.
My Dad grew up in Jersey and he recalls seeing kids at school bring sandwiches with alfalfa in them. He asked his Cuban Mother if she could put alfalfa in his sandwiches too. Let’s just say, it is not exactly easy to explain alfalfa to a non-English speaker. I must admit, alfalfa has a way of heightening a sandwich – it makes you feel fancier. The Trapper Sandwich hit the spot. I usually feel that if a dish is named after the restaurant, it will be good one. I normally tap out of eating chips, but these homemade chips were marvelous. Yet again, the potatoes did not disappoint.
I was really excited to try this beer. Although it was hoppy and not as malty as I had hoped for, I still appreciated it after a long day in the heat.
The quesadillas were immense. I believe two people could share them and still be content. They also have a half portion that was still substantial in comparison to quesadillas back home. If you are not a fan of spicy, ask for the quesadillas without jalapeños!
The trout tacos were recommended to me by the waitress and I am glad I got them. Although the angle of the shot does nothing for them, the tacos were indeed jam packed with fish and slaw. The crunchy sweet potato fries coupled well with the tacos.
Anyone that knows me knows that I have a severe sweet tooth – I LOVE sweets! Trapper Grill concocts delectable homemade desserts. I am obsessed with huckleberry and I have always loved Crème Brûlée, therefor I had to give it a shot. It exceeded my expectations. It was so incredibly divine that I did not care that my stomach went wild afterwards (you know, the type of wild when you have these incomprehensible dreams).
There are times when selecting Benedict Florentine would be an unwise choice, this was not one of those times! I started my day on a high point by demolishing this lovely benedict.
I was not all the hungry one of the nights, so I opted for the chili and corn bread. It turned out to be a larger portion than I expected, but it was pretty good.
The blackberry pie is their specialty and after having it, I understood why. It is made with Marion blackberries and the crust was tender and scrumptious. I had multiple delicious desserts at The Trapper Grill and this was by far my favorite.
In addition to all the food pictured, I also had the abundant cheese curds, the Wyoming whiskey chocolate pecan pie, the cheesy & flavorful brussels sprouts, the healthy hummus plate, and the famously mountainous nachos. Although the nachos are one of their signature dishes, I was not a fan of the meat nor the sauce used.
This place was a bit difficult for us to find at first. Teton Thai is still a part of Teton Village, just not in the main area (thus, making the whole locating thing a bit challenging). The fried tofu chunks were colossal and exemplary matched with the sweet & sour dipping sauce. The dumplings were also delightful – all the ingredients were heavenly amalgamated. Looking around we noticed the dinner plates were you guessed it, humongous. Not wanting to over stuff ourselves, we shared two noodle dishes – one with rice noodles and duck and the other with clear noodles and chicken. The duck was exquisite. My only complaint was that in the clear noodle dish there were too many bean sprouts (I loathe bean sprouts. To me, they are fake noodles).
Leeks’s Pizzeria is the ideal spot in Grand Teton to enjoy yummy eats while still reveling in the good outdoors. The view of Jackson Lake and the Teton Mountain Range was gorgeous. Spending a day like this one indoors would have been a waste. I sated my thirst with a Milk Stout that resembled a Guinness, which I adore. Apparently, the pizza was really tasteful. Since I was trying to limit my dairy consumption (although, I am sure you have noticed I am not always good at restraining myself), I opted to have the gratifyingly fresh Chicken Pesto Wrap (without cheese, of course)
All of their breakfast and lunch menu items are made to order. Pre-made and pre-packaged selections are also available if you are in a hurry. This was one of the best (if not the best) breakfasts I have had at an airport. The breathtaking view of the mountains solidified the positive experience.
Teton Park Road
This road winds around the base of the Teton range, offering an overview of the park. The jaw-dropping views of the Teton range are not to be missed. If I had a view like this when driving in Miami, I probably would not mind driving so much. Pictures do not accurately depict the scenic view, so take videos! Attach that GoPro to the car and capture the wondrousness of it all.
Star gazing in Yellowstone can be frightening with all the animals freely roaming about. Although there are still plenty of animals in Grand Teton, it is not as unnerving. My Dad was obsessed with going out when it was pitch black to star gaze and take pictures. We do not see a magnitude of stars back home, so naturally we had to take advantage of it. To my surprise, shooting stars were occurring liberally. Last time I spotted a copious amount of stars was 8 years ago in Utah. One of the nights that I was star gazing, I heard a noise and swore that something or someone was out there with us. Turns out, there was a buck right by us munching loudly on his late night snack.
Kick back and relax
Grand Teton is a great place to indulge in some family time. Since there was no TV in our room, we spent our days dancing to music and our nights playing board games. The quietude and serenity of Lake Jackson can also serve as an excellent reading spot. I woke up every morning and read while peering at my view of the lake and mountains.
Those Mormons sure knew what was good – incredible choice of location! The view they had was unbelievable. Fair warning, the area is heavily populated with Columbian ground squirrels. Be careful not to fall in the holes they make in the ground. If you do, I fully expect you to disguise the fall with a Tom Cruise Mission Impossible stunt. I give you full creative liberty to select the move of your choice.
Jenny Lake was on every Grand Teton must-do list that I saw. I found it startling that people were actually in the water. I’m a born and raised Miami girl, so I tend to struggle with getting into cold water. The Jenny Lake area was filled with things to do – hiking trails, shuttle services, canoe and kayak rentals, an evening cruise, etc.
The parking area was closed, so we had to park further and walk a bit more. Grand Teton as whole is not as hiker friendly as the other parks, especially in comparison to Yellowstone. From what I saw, we were some of the few crazy people to do this trail on 4th of July. The isolated trail was daunting. I was waiting for a bear to pop out at any moment. To add to the eeriness of it all, there were barely any signs and when we did happen upon one it said, “Beware of Bears”. Safe to say, I had my bear spray, whistle, and bell handy. As we were climbing uphill, we noticed feces that looked like it belonged to a larger animal on the path – yeah, not gross at all. There was a point in the trail that was inhabited by a plentitude of butterflies and moths. People with giant nets appeared with the sole mission of trying to catch them (don’t worry, they said they had permits). I would recapitulate this trail as a lengthy uphill battle with heaps of bees and bugs, narrow pathways, and personal space invading grass. Trust me, I loved the view and of course, the feeling of completing a trail (the elation caused me to take bit of a tumble), BUT I was still totally spooked.
There was point on our drive to Teton Village where we had to take the narrow, dirt road entitled Moose Wilson Road and it was…for the lack of a better term, interesting. Teton Village is a darling ski village, that was surprisingly packed in the summer. I can only imagine what it is like in the winter. We visited on 4th of July, so there were certain festivities taking place. Even though it was 4th of July and many were out and about, their ice cream place was closed. We eventually found ice cream at the general store. I, of course, had the huckleberry ice cream and it was great, as usual. It was different than the other ones I have had, a bit creamier. Before leaving, we hopped on the complimentary gondola lift and it was awesome – it took us to the top of the mountain.
We drove up to see the firework viewing area and it was more of a drive than we expected. On the way up, we saw a doe with a pretty badass scar, along with a momma bear and her 3 cubs. I was so excited! The viewing area was beautiful and already packed with people waiting for the fireworks to begin. Although we did not stay for the fireworks, I’m glad we got to see the scenic view while the sun was setting.
On our last day we drove 45 minutes to visit Jackson, WY. It was honestly the cutest town we have been to while on this trip. It was lively, touristy and very western. It had an adorable toy store (how old am I?), several restaurants and shops, and the iconic Antler Arches of Jackson that are made from naturally shed antlers. Next time I am in Wyoming, I am definitely down to go to a rodeo!
I mentioned earlier that we encountered bears and deers while in Grand Teton (we even had a buck right by our room window twice, assuming it was the same buck). Our animal sightings continued up until we were leaving to catch our flight back home. Three bucks bid us farewell and wished us safe travels.
A while back I went to Washington D.C. for the 4th of July and that was the most patriotic 4th of July I have ever had. It was unfathomable for me to think that any 4th of July destination would ever beat that. Being in Grand Teton was a whole other experience – not better or worse, just different. I spent the day appreciating my country’s natural beauty. America has a lot to offer. You don’t have to travel out of the country to see resplendent views.
Planning a trip to Grand Teton National Park? Keep in mind that Signal Mountain Lodge & Marina’s 2019 dates of operation are from May 10th to October 13th.
Check out my VLOG on Grand Teton: