Grand Teton National Park is one of my absolute favorites, because it’s accessible and awe-inspiring while remaining unpretentious. This smaller park is often overlooked in the shadow of big brother Yellowstone, but in fact, families can easily settle in here for a week or more. We’ve come back time and again, picking a different style of adventure each time. Here are three of our favorite Grand Teton experiences.
Want to kayak and camp? Do both at once during a 2-day Jackson Lake trip with our preferred outfitter (bookable through our Family Vacation Advisor team), which departs and returns to and from the Signal Mountain boat dock on Jackson Lake in the heart of Grand Teton National Park.
Day 1 takes families across open water to lunch at Marie Island, then approximately 5 more miles across the lake to Grassy Island, in the shadow of Mount Moran. This outfitter is the only one with a permit to camp on Jackson Lake, ensuring their groups are always all alone, within a hair’s breadth of the Teton range.
Dinners consist of hearty burritos with fresh, homemade salsa (the veggies and herbs chopped up in front of us) or salmon over a grill. Guides do the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively; all families are required to do is paddle during the day and set up their (provided) tents at night.
During Day 2 and Day 3, it’s all about exploring the Tetons from the vantage point of the water and trails. During our trip, we broke camp after a leisurely breakfast each day and hit the water around 10 a.m. During our full day on the lake, we paddled to Bearpaw Bay, where we caught the trail to Bearpaw Lake and Leigh Lake. This 2-mile hike doesn’t include much elevation gain, which meant even the youngest in our group could navigate it while the rest of us still found it to be a decent length.
The outfitter also is able to access a part of Jackson Lake and Grand Teton you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see, and show it to you in a way that allows for family togetherness, relaxation and carefree fun. Pair it with two to three additional nights in the park or adjacent Yellowstone National Park, and know you’ll be in good hands!
Located within the park boundary and managed by Grand Teton Lodge Company, Colter Bay Village Resort comprises of a campground, tent village and cabin village clustered around the shore of Jackson Lake. The resort also includes a marina, visitor’s center, store, horseback riding stables and two restaurants. There is lake access along the marina. In short, you can experience the essence of Grand Teton without leaving the resort, but you’re still within easy driving distance of the main attractions when you do decide to venture forth.
The moment we arrived and found our double cabin (one bedroom on each side of a shared bathroom; fits six), we knew the kids were going to love this place. The winding paved roads joining the various cabins were similar to those of any standard campground, which made meeting other campers and riding bikes easy and fun.
The cabins had an air of authenticity, which we soon learned was earned: Each one was salvaged from local Teton ranches and brought to the current location when the village was constructed. Interiors are rustic but comfortable. There is no air conditioning (you rarely need it this high in the mountains), but each cabin does have a heater unit. Our bathroom had its own water heater, but no bathtub, only a shower stall. There also are no TVs, microwaves or fridges. You won’t need WIFI — the location of Colter Bay is stunning. We had a perfect view of the Tetons and Jackson Lake from the marina, just yards from our cabin.
We were in easy walking distance of the two restaurants, the marina, the visitors’ center and the store. If you opt to stay in the campground or tent village instead (canvas tents with wooden porches, bunks and communal bathrooms), you may have to drive to these amenities.
During our stay, we traversed the many hiking trails, rented a canoe at the marina to explore the lake and took the kids horseback riding.
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Want something truly immersive? Triangle X is the only dude ranch operating inside the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park. It’s all-inclusive, with great riding in a kid-friendly atmosphere, and structured with a “family camp” vibe. The Tetons are your backdrop for the entire week, and the children’s programming is at once intensive and casual.
While families can certainly take days or half-days off to hike, raft or relax, the primary focus of Triangle X is definitely horseback riding. It’s a dude ranch in the traditional sense: On the Monday morning of each weeklong stay, each guest is paired with a horse that will stay with him or her through Saturday. Two rides per day are scheduled, with multiple options for all riding levels. During our stay, the following dizzying array was offered morning and afternoon: fast ride, medium ride (sometimes a fast-medium ride), scenic walk ride, lesson ride, kids’ ride and teen ride. Within the lesson ride category, rides were organized into walking lessons, trotting lessons and loping lessons.
I’d describe the Triangle X cabins as upscale rustic. Ours, Berry Cabin, slept six, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms,; most were smaller, with one or two bedrooms. Each has electricity, a heater, a small refrigerator and a covered porch with chairs. It’s worth noting that cabins do not have WIFI, phones or TVs. Housekeeping service is available, or families can opt for fresh towels only.
Dining is camp- and ranch-style fare (not gourmet, but you’ll go home to your cabin each night happy). Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served communally in the lovely dining room, with coffee, tea, hot chocolate and water available at all times. Beer and wine are BYO, and can be brought to the table.
If — or rather, when — you need a break from riding, Triangle X also offers guided fishing trips and float trips. The ranch is just 10 minutes from excellent hiking, swimming and and kayaking in Grand Teton, and approximately 45 minutes from Yellowstone National Park. Jackson Hole, where most families plan to attend the weekly rodeo, is 30 minutes away. After a week with Triangle X, we left saddle-sore but happy, relaxed and ready to tackle the rest of our summer with renewed energy.
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