Jackson Hole, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone
You’ll find lots of tourists in Yellowstone. And I do mean lots. It’s Disney World with cars, motor homes, and busloads of tourists on winding roads that sometimes get backed up. Foot trails are snaking lines of camera wielding humanity, but still, we’re talking natural wonders, not Disney rides—but almost as many people.
We began our trip south of Yellowstone in Jackson Hole at the base of the Grand Teton Mountains. The views and hiking around the mountains and lakes are amazing and not nearly as crowded as Yellowstone. Be sure to take the shuttle boat across Lake Jenny. You’ll cut out a lot of walking around the lake and get directly to the best hiking up the mountain on the other side. The waterfalls and viewpoints are spectacular.
Robert Reoch and Joon hiking in the Tetons
Jackson Hole has Crappy Food
I don’t suggest dining out in the town of Jackson. The food was awful. Don’t just take my word for it, read the restaurant reviews online. I won’t sugar coat this. It’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to. Jackson Hole exists solely for the tourist’s dollar. That’s been their history since early settlers realized nothing grows there. And yet they still don’t know how to feed their paying guests properly. Unfortunately, they do know they’ve got you captive. I won’t mention the names of establishments we tried because they don’t even realize how bad their food is. Our hotel offered some decent free alternatives, but even the grocery store deli was a disappointment. Bottom line: Don’t dine in the town of Jackson if you can avoid it.
Downtown Jackson looks like Main Street in Disneyland with a more Western bent. Walking around, it resembles a Hollywood back lot of old west storefronts (but with bold paint colors like a modern mall). You won’t find a town with more t-shirt shops (except maybe Disneyland). Buy a shirt or a hat if you must, but I suggest you avoid Lee’s Tees. The proprietor of that particular trinket shop has a nasty attitude toward gay people and he shows it in a cowardly way. My partner and I went in to shop quietly. We aren’t the animated types, just mild mannered tourists like most everybody else. I’m not in the habit of wearing touristy t-shirts, so I selected a logo cap with a subtle design as a souvenir. When I went to pay, I noticed the eldest male employee in the store (probably the owner himself) was conspicuously moving away from the checkout counter as I approached. I was certain he had seen me coming. He then took up position at a nearby table and got busy folding t-shirts, doing his best to actively ignore me—passive aggression, they call it. It became apparent he wasn’t going to ring-up my purchase. Just as I understood the man’s unfriendly behavior, a young female assistant approached and kindly handled my purchase. Ignoring the grumpy man as we were leaving, I could hear him behind us making faked coughing noises, apparently directed at us—he did this a couple of times, desperately trying to make some lame point. Coward. Please don’t shop at Lee’s Tees. You can buy the same t-shirts and caps at nearby Visitors Centers at lower prices and without the dumb-ass attitude.
Jackson Lake Lodge
Moving away from Jackson, the good news is you can get a great meal at Jackson Lake Lodge just a few miles up the road! We went for a meal in the “Mural Room” restaurant with its breathtaking views. The real mural is the spectacular wall of huge windows framing the glorious panorama of sky and the majestic Grand Teton Mountains outside. It’s like being in a postcard and the food is superb. If you want to eat well while visiting the Jackson area, this is the place to go. Again, it’s The Mural Room at Jackson Lodge. I dined on their signature chicken pot pie (prepared with a flaky French pastry crust). It was amazing! There’s also a casual sports bar and grill at the lodge, as well as an additional family style restaurant. Something for everyone.
Onward north to Yellowstone: Yellowstone is definitely for families, tour groups, and anyone who can tolerate crowds and frequent parking challenges in order to experience the unique wonders that are Yellowstone National Park. Who knew Yellowstone was so mountainous? The entire park is elevated due to dynamic seismic action pushing up the earth’s crust. The main visitor areas of the park are within the boundaries of an immense crater, or caldera, caused by a volcanic eruption 640,000 years ago. The ongoing subterranean activity generates the fascinating geothermal features that Yellowstone is famous for, such as geysers and bubbling mud pots. The average elevation in Yellowstone is around 8,000 feet due to several mountains within the park including Eagle Peak at 11,358 feet. Most of the time, you’ll be at around 2,000 feet. Because of the elevation, even the healthiest hikers will notice some shortness of breath.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone
- Grand Prismatic Spring
Old Faithful Spouting Off
Old Faithful. . . or was this whale watching?
We stayed at the historic Old Faithful Inn. It was rustic, tidy, comfortable, and noisy well into the night. The atmosphere is like that of a summer camp, perfect for families with children (but we saw many happy elderly visitors too). The Old Faithful geyser spouts off right near the front of the hotel at regular time intervals. They even post approximate times in the hotel lobby. I highly recommend this locale. The food is edible too. There’s a huge dining hall and a small deli within the hotel as well as a large gift shop. Next door to the inn is a large general store with a hundred-year-old soda fountain (an old-fashioned term for fast food joint) where they serve burgers, fries, and malts at a long marble counter lined with stools. It’s just like your parents and grandparents knew in their day. We loved it.
We drove and hiked Yellowstone for three days, which is not enough time to see everything (which would take weeks). However, many of the views and points of interest are redundant. Once you’ve seen one steamy geyser or hot spewing mud pot, you’ve practically seen ’em all. (Kind of like Washington D.C.)
Hot water is free here. Comes right out of the ground!
So now, Yellowstone is now checked off our bucket list. It was worth the trip. We planned each day carefully and stuck to our plan, which allowed us to see more than we had hoped. In addition to droves of humans, we also encountered many bison up close, including one large brown specimen, which we initially mistook for a grizzly bear. It was walking alongside some cars in the road ahead of us, and after frantically locking our doors, we discovered it was merely a slightly confused buffalo. We never did see a bear, which was a bit of a letdown. Of course, being mauled by a bear never was on my bucket list.
The bear that wasn’t.
Thanks for reading!
Copyright Robert George Reoch