First of all, I would HIGHLY recommend Grand Teton National Park for a family camping trip! It was gorgeous, not crowded, had perfect weather, and very few bugs! This was our first real family vacation since two years ago when the kids were diagnosed and it was basically everything we dreamed of!
Day 1: We left at 8am Friday morning and drove 15 hours straight to Jenny Lake. Seth REALLY wanted to camp at Jenny Lake after doing extensive research on the park and learning that it was the most popular spot. The whole campground is first-come first-serve so he wanted to be first in line to get a spot. We lost an hour driving (due to time zone change) and spent a total of about 60 minutes stopping for gas/food/bathroom. Our kids did awesome in the car playing with dollar store toys that I got the day before. They had a total of about 2 hours of iPad time during the 15 hour drive.
We arrived at Jenny Lake at 2am Mountain Time and we were SECOND in line for a campsite which just completely blew my mind. Who are these people?? The next people pulled behind us in line at 2:45am! We slept in the car for about 5 hours and then at 8am got what I would argue to be the very best spot in the whole campground! (Spot #7)
Day 2: We were obviously pretty tired from our drive and short night. The people in spot 7 didn’t leave until their checkout time of 11am so we drove around getting a $12 permit for our inflatable raft and boat inspection and buying our National Park Pass since the booth was closed when we arrived at 2am. At 11am we set up camp and Oliver and I took an amazing 2 hours nap! Seth took Eliza swimming in Jenny lake which was about a 2 minute walk away from our campground.
Day 3: We got up in the morning totally refreshed and went on a 16 mile bike ride. Grand Teton National Park has an amazing bike trail separate from the road that has incredible views. We got ice cream and headed back to the campsite. In the afternoon we took our inflatable raft across Jenny Lake and Eliza got to swim some more! A bear walked right through our campground!
Day 4: We headed out in the morning for a hike around Moose Pond. This hike was 4.5 miles total which was a little more than our kids could handle in 85 degree weather and we were running out of water so when we got to a parking lot area around mile 3.5, Seth ran back to the campsite and got the car to bail us out for the last mile. They hiked almost all of the first 3.5 miles though! In the afternoon we relaxed at the campsite.
Day 5: We took our boat down the Snake river! There are multiple sections of varying difficulty and we did the “beginner” which moved at about the pace of a lazy river. Seth locked his bike at the exit area so when we were done rafting he biked back to get the car from the start to pick us up. Both kids fell asleep in the raft and we were able to see lots of fish and birds from our boat! It took about 3.5 hours to go 5 miles down the river. After the river we stopped at Mormon Row which is a collection of historic houses and barns. We saw prairie dogs and even bison off in the distance.
Day 6: This was probably my favorite day! We took the boat out to String and Leigh Lake. String Lake is only about 4 feet deep all the way across so the water is really warm and totally clear! The water is fed through a stream and drains to another lake so it wasn’t murky and gross or anything. Eliza swam and swam in String Lake and jumped off boulders. Seth paddled a total of about 9 miles. We portaged our raft about 100 yards between String and Leigh Lake. There was almost no one out on Leigh Lake, it was so peaceful!
Day 7: Our last full day we headed to Jackson Hole, WY which has similar vibes to Whistler, BC. We went up the gondola and did a 1.5 mile loop hike at the top of the ridge. The wildflowers were unbelievable. Eliza “ran out of energy” on her way up the 650 feet of elevation gain so Seth carried her a bit on the way up. Oliver was getting really close to nap time by the time we headed down so I carried him for the descent. Other than that the kids hiked on their own the whole way!
Day 8: We packed up camp and headed out by 9am. We drove through Yellowstone on our way out and we were SO glad we decided not to stay in Yellowstone. It was PACKED like Disneyland packed with people. The parking lot of Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Springs were both insane. We stopped briefly at Old Faithful to use the bathroom, but left once we saw how crazy it was. We did stop at Biscuit Basin, which was similar to Grand Prismatic Spring, but had way fewer people. Eliza was thrilled that she thought she got to see a “real volcano” when a geyser erupted. We drove about 11 hours today and stayed in a hotel in Missoula, MT.
Day 9: We would have just driven all the way home in one day, but Eliza had to have a COVID swab done in Seattle on Saturday afternoon so we drove from Missoula to Seattle for the swab and then back home to Bellingham! We were home by 4pm and almost all the way unpacked by 10pm!
I’m going to write later about our meal plan for the trip, more tips for camping/hiking with kids, etc. but I think this is enough for now! I feel like the Grand Tetons get overshadowed a bit from being so close to Yellowstone but if you are headed that direction, definitely don’t skip over it! I just can’t recommend this national park enough!