It was so tempting to stay curled up in my warm bed at the Colter Bay cabin. I began to wonder if I shouldn’t have just booked the cabins for two nights and skipped the sunrise…
We needed a place to sleep tonight, and I had my eyes set on Jenny Lake. Plus, we drove a week to come to the mountains, the least I could do is make the effort to get up early. We piled into the car, the kids still half asleep. We took Teton Park Road down to Signal Mountain. Give yourself plenty of time. At this hour, there was no traffic, but the roads curve and you have to watch for wildlife so it takes longer than you would anticipate just looking at the map.
The moon was still out:
We made it to the top of Signal Mountain just as the sun was rising. The morning was a bit chilly, but the scenery was so beautiful. The wildflowers were in bloom.
Now it was on to Jenny Lake. The National Park system has different procedures at different parks, though there are some similarities. For sites that you can’t reserve ahead of time, like at Jenny Lake, you can pick up an envelope outside the camp office. When we got there, the campsite office wasn’t open yet. This was my first time doing this so I was a bit confused. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to wait in line.
Hubby took the kids and started driving around the campground to find a campsite. In the meantime, the campsite host came by and informed me to find a site with a tag with today’s date on the post (i.e. meaning those occupants were leaving today) and to go ahead and put a new tag with our name and date we’d be leaving on top.
Final step is filling out the envelope and placing payment and putting it in the payment box. For $28 and waking up early, you too can camp by the mountains!
Next, we ate some breakfast and set up the tent. Note: This is bear country. Jenny Lake is really strict about having food out when you are not eating. We were worried at first, but we didn’t have any run-ins with bears, park rangers and enjoyed a nice meal at the site.
After breakfast and cleanup, we walked over to the ferry at Jenny Lake. Here, you have two options. Option one is to take a ferry across the lake and then hike to Hidden Falls and up to Inspiration Point. The other option is to hike around the lake and continue to those points. We went for option 1 since we weren’t sure how the five-year-old would be on a hike around the entire lake. Plus, the boat ride across has some beautiful scenes!
When we finally reached Hidden Falls, it is truly amazing. It had warmed up while we were hiking, but the area right by the falls was nice a cool. We took pictures and ate a snack. Then it was up to inspiration point.
After we came back to the ferry, my older son convinced us to take another hike. Not a good idea. The little was got too tired and decided to throw a tantrum. We got to our destination, had a lunch and were all a bit grumpy. The teenager and I went back to the campsite to get our car and bring it closer to our location to pick up the rest of the family.
Lesson: Don’t push your luck with little ones. If you complete your hike and everyone is happy, mix it up and find another activity to do.
We decided that we could use some ice cream, so we drove back to Moose Junction and visited Dornans. We looked into doing a float trip but the minimum age was six; the same with horseback riding. That’s why we were lucky to find the riding stables in Palo Duro Canyon, where my little one was able to ride. We ate some ice cream, hubby got his coffee.
Next, it was back to the campsite to start cooking dinner. We made some campfire chili and s’mores. Yummy. Afterwards, we cleaned everything up, locked up the food and decided to go back to the main road to watch the sunset.
Unfortunately, it was cloudy so we didn’t actually get to see the sunset. It was beautiful just the same. We decided to go over to Colter Bay to shower, but by the time we got there, the showers were closed! Again, every campsite is different so don’t forget to check ahead of time.
We brushed our teeth in the bathroom, washed up and changed. Then we drove back to Jenny Lake. As we drove we could see lightening behind the mountains. It was truly a spectacular site!
Finally, we got to our campsite. We got into our tents and went to sleep. Okay, I tried to sleep. But the wind really picked up and I was concerned that the tent would actually fly away!! I was terrified all night!
The next morning, the camp host came by. It turns out, the wind is pretty common up here. The trees in Jenny Lake actually protect the tents and he’s never seen one fly away before.
Did I mention the spectacular view? Sitting with beautiful mountain vistas in the background and drinking coffee in the morning was another highlight of the trip. I almost wish we could have stayed longer but it was time to move on to Yellowstone.
We packed up our tent and car and hubby said he wanted a hearty breakfast. We went to the campstore at Jenny Lake where the lady working there suggested breakfast at Jackson Lake lodge.
If you haven’t been to the lodge, it’s a beautiful place to check out. The lobby has these incredible glass windows that frame the mountains.
I highly recommend visiting and just grabbing a cup of coffee, even if you don’t eat a full meal here. After breakfast, we piled into the van and headed up to Yellowstone.