As wanderers and adventurers, we’re always looking for an epic weekend trip. One of our best weekend trips took us to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, with a side of Yellowstone sprinkled in to keep things interesting.
In this one weekend, we flew from opposite sides of the country, drove 4 hours, slept in our car, hiked 20 miles in one day on one of the most epic trails in the world, saw a huge black bear, got upgraded to a suite at Jackson Lake Lodge, watched a thunderstorm traverse the Teton Range, saw Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, and hiked around upper and lower Yellowstone Falls and saw a bunch of bison. All that, and we were back at our desks on Monday morning.
Here’s your 10-step guide to an epic weekend in Grand Teton National Park:
Step #1: Fly to Salt Lake City. Yes, you can fly to Jackson Hole, which is much closer to the Tetons. But for those of us on a budget, flights to SLC are often 2 or 3 times cheaper than flights directly to Jackson Hole. Check it out yourself.
Step #2: Rent a car, buy hiking provisions in Salt Lake, and drive to Grand Teton National Park. This drive is around 4 hours. Not unreasonable, even if you get in somewhat late on a Friday afternoon or evening. Taking a half day off from work would make this drive a lot less painful, but we didn’t have that luxury.
Step #3: Sleep in your car on Friday. Why not? It’s free and we were getting there at 2am anyway. Why pay for a hotel when you want to get an early start on the trail anyway? Besides, it’s much more epic to talk about later.
One of our FAVORITE travel hacks:
Get access to the entire Lonely Planet catalogue via Amazon Kindle Unlimited. We read over 30 guidebooks on our trip around the world for about $30.
Step #4: We slept in the Jenny Lake parking lot in the park, because we wanted to take the first ferry across the lake in the morning to reach the trailhead for the walk we wanted to do. Catch the first ferry at 7am. You can walk around the lake, but this adds mileage to an already long hike. Plus, this mileage isn’t the stunning part of the walk, and the boat run across the lake is fun and scenic.
Step #5: Do the hike. This is one of the best hikes we’ve ever done. You head up Paintbrush Canyon, over Paintbrush Divide (10,000 ft+), down past Lake Solitude, and back down Cascade Canyon to Jenny Lake. Almost 20 miles of diverse, beautiful high alpine scenery.
Step #6: Get lucky and see a bear. That happened for us, and it could happen for you. We were back down at the ferry and turned around to see a bear wandering along the trail toward us. We were at a safe distance and it was awesome to see.
Step #7: Stay at Jackson Lake Lodge. This is one of the National Park system’s most epic in-park lodges. The view itself makes it worth it. Besides, you slept in your car the night before so you can afford to splurge a little bit Saturday night.
Step #8: Spend some time on your porch soaking the views. We were treated to an epic late afternoon thunderstorm.
Step #9: Get up the next morning, grab breakfast in the Lodge, and head to Yellowstone National Park, immediately north of the Tetons. Yeah, that’s right. Two of the most epic National Parks in the United States are right next to each other – capitalize on this. Stop by Old Faithful geyser and watch the show, hopefully before most of the crowds get there. Continue your drive through Yellowstone, checking out Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls and hopefully getting a chance to see some bison.
Step #10: Take your time getting back to Salt Lake City. Stay somewhere cheap and close to the airport for your Monday AM flight home. Try not to brag too much to your colleagues about the absolutely epic thing you just did.
Have you ever had a more epic weekend? Let us know in comments!