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Trip Report Quick Trip Report for GTNP, Yellowstone and Montana

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I received lots of help for our trip, so I wanted to return the favor with a quick overview of our trip out West. I am more than happy to answer questions or help in any way.

My husband, 10-year old daughter and I flew from DCA to Jackson Hole on Frontier. We have never flown Frontier (but I've been on Midwest) and it was a great experience (really!). We spent one night at Jackson Hole at the Wort Hotel which is centrally located and was ideal for our purposes (walking around, getting ourselves oriented before we went into the Parks). We spent the afternoon shopping, went to the "shootout" which they do every night which, in our opinion, was a complete waste of time--it is very odd and lasts about 5 minutes--and then to dinner at the Rendezvous; great dinner, atmosphere and service. It is casual with an upscale feeling--highly recommend it. I had made reservations on Open Table before we left and that was essential.

The next day we went first to the Laurence Rockefeller Preserve in the Grand Tetons. This area is the last piece of land the Rockefeller's gave to the Park Service and it is a lovely place. If you bring children, be sure and ask for the Junior Naturalist backpack which is this fabulous program that your child does as you hike; the backback has a journal, binoculars, colored pencils, wildlife guides, and suggested activities. My daughter did the Junior Ranger Program at both Grand Teton and Yellowstone and doing this program "counted" as one of the requirements. Just want to warn you, that the Junior Ranger Programs are seriously alot of work--fun, but both took several days to complete. After that, we went and checked into Jackson Lake Lodge which is a great place. We were lucky to have what they call the "View Room" and the view was spectacular. Our room was very nice, fairly basic, but really well laid out and the view from our porch was beyond description. We ate that night in the Mural Room (make reservations when you make your room reservation) and it was excellent. Not cheap, but really fine, innovative food in a beautiful setting. The next morning, we did the 8:30 Ranger Hike (you need to do one for the Junior Ranger program!) to Inspiration Point leaving from Jenny Lake. You will read that this is a completely overrun trail, but we quickly discovered that the Parks are like Disney--if you get up early and get going, you will beat the crowds. When we were on our way back to the boat across Jenny Lake, there were literally a hundred people waiting on a boat. If you are an old hat at National Parks, you will know that the Ranger Hikes and Talks are the best--you learn so much, the Rangers are incredibly enthusiastic and they cover not only wildlife, but the history of the parks (which is incredibly interesting for both Grand Teton and Yellowstone).

We had spotty weather for this trip (it goes without saying that the weather changes rapidly in the mountains; on more than one day we went from 70 degrees and sunny to cold rain in the space of 30 minutes), so layers are the key. We had lunch at Signal Mountain where the food was great and it is a pretty little marina. It is the one lodge in GTNP not owned by the main concessionaire (but their contract is up and that may be changing). Anyway, it is a nice spot.

We were going to have dinner at the bbq at the pool but it was rained out (Jackson Lake has a pool which is nice with kids), so we HAD to go back to the Mural Room for dinner. We had breakfast both days at the Pioneer Grill which is a fun diner next to the Mural Room. I should add that all the parks have really good kids menus.

I won't even try to describe the Tetons--you need to see them for yourself to understand how beautiful they are; we saw abundant wildlife--elk hang out in the meadows below the Lodge, we also saw moose, picas (adorable little rabbit-like creatures), lots of ground squirrels and osprey.

The next morning, we took a float trip down the Snake arranged through the Grand Teton Lodge Company. Very convenient because you go from the lodge and they drive you down to the river and drive you back. It was beautiful, our guide was great and we saw eagles, osprey and moose. The lodge gave us a late checkout since we were on the trip, so all in all, we had a great experience at Jackson Lake Lodge. On the way out of GTNP, we stopped at Coulter Bay for lunch (very good) and for my daughter to be sworn in as a Junior Ranger and get her patch. The ranger made a big deal of it, so that was fun. Coulter Bay also looked like a nice spot and it is also another pretty marina.

On to Yellowstone. . .I will post more later.


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