Visually stunning. Those are the first words that come to mind when I think about our two visits to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
This is due in large part to the fact that the Grand Tetons don’t have the typical foothills leading up to the base of the majestic peaks. Nope, they just erupt almost vertically from the earth and leave observers stunned. Our first view drew a huge “wooooowww” from every occupant in our vehicle.
And right behind those first two words? Immensely enjoyable.
All the words add up to my enthusiastic and unflinching advice for you to visit Grand Teton National Park as soon as you possibly can, RV or no RV. I believe it will absolutely feel like the “trip of a lifetime” for you…well, assuming that majestic mountains, abundant wildlife, grand vistas and unforgettable hikes are your idea of a good time.
(There’s a very good reason that this was my son’s choice as his favorite RVing spot after thousands of miles and many dozens of parks and campgrounds along the way.)
My family had two very different RVing experiences on our two separate trips to this park in 2017 and 2018. I want to cover the relevant details of each visit to help you understand how to make the best of your time there depending on what your priorities are for your RV trip. I believe this will be the best way to prepare you and help you plan a national park visit for the record books!
Grand Teton National Park: A Visitor’s Guide for RVers
In June 2017, we headed north out of our home state of Texas for what we knew would be the adventure of a lifetime. We planned to live in our RV with our family of five (four, sometimes) for at least a year as we traveled around North America to see everything we could possibly see and indulge the growing sense of wanderlust that we were all experiencing. You can read all about our process of hitting the road here.
Can there be any better way to start off an RVing adventure like this than heading into the Rocky Mountains? Well, not in my book. It just felt perfect as we made our first real climb, 26-foot travel trailer in tow, over Raton Pass from New Mexico into the great state of Colorado (our second home).
I should also point out that four out of five of us in my family picked RVing destinations in the Rocky Mountains as our favorites in this post I mentioned earlier. That doesn’t happen by accident. You need some Rockies in your life!
After making stops at Royal Gorge in southern Colorado, the Denver area to visit my brother’s family and some old friends, and Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, we continued our trek north toward Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park.
Our First Visit: RVing Outside the National Park
Coming from Colorado, you pretty much have two options for getting to the park: entering from the south via Hwy 191 through Jackson, or entering from the east via Hwy 287 and Hwy 26 through Dubois and Dunoir. Because it was simpler, required less advance planning and provided us with full hookups for the RV, we chose to stay on the east side of the park in the town of Dubois during our July visit.
There is a great RV Park and Motel there called Longhorn Ranch Lodge where we had a great stay for three nights. I will tell you that this one is on the spendy side of the spectrum at around $99 per night for a full hookup site.
This park had fantastic restroom facilities and other amenities, comfortable sites with fire pits and a top-notch crew of folks that make you feel very welcome. I have no regrets at all about spending the extra money for the full hookups and just dealing with the extra drive time. Believe it or not, we actually had a SIXTH person in the RV with us for this visit to Grand Teton, so those full hookups were an absolute necessity (as well as plenty of time outside the RV!).
Travel Time to Key Locations
The drive from the RV park to locations within the park is anywhere from 60-90 minutes for the most part, and probably close to two hours for a visit to the great town of Jackson. We made trips in every day for the three days of our visit: most of one day visiting Jackson and enjoying the sights, restaurants and attractions available there (including the Snow King Mountain Alpine Slide and Cowboy Coaster), one early morning for a sunrise and perfect hike on Cascade Canyon Trail, and a third day just checking out all the park had to offer from north to south (including visitor centers for some park education).
In all, we probably spent 9-10 hours driving in those three days. It felt like a lot at the time, but looking back I feel that it was completely worth it for the benefits that we received at the RV park. I have no regrets at all about it, but I was determined to try and stay in the park and cut down on our drive time if we were actually able to make a second visit later on.
Our Second Visit: RVing Inside the National Park
In September 2018, during the waning days of our RV travels, we made a return visit to Grand Teton National Park as we followed the Rocky Mountain range south toward our home in Texas. If you’re curious about the best time to visit this national park, I will have to say that it depends on your preferences. But for my money, a visit in the Fall just cannot be beat. (Fall is literally my favorite time of the year in just about any location, so take that for what it is.)
We had just spent two weeks exploring Glacier National Park in Montana, watching the leaves turn before our eyes. That is my new definition of perfection. But as we continued south into Yellowstone National Park and then Grand Teton, we continued to enjoy nature’s show with a kaleidoscope of autumn colors that seemed too vibrant to be real.
Finding a Place to Live
*Start by visiting this official page to get details about camping options in the park. Not all campgrounds accept reservations, so your arrival time, and the time of year you are visiting, may become pretty crucial to your success here.*
We showed up at Grand Teton without any type of reservation guaranteeing us a spot. No, I had gotten it in my head that we would be just fine at this time of year showing up without a plan, without a space, just counting on the fact that something would be available that provided us with adequate connections. With only four of us in the RV at the time, and restrooms available in the campgrounds, we knew we could get by with just electric, but no water or sewer hookups.
So we first made a stop at Gros Ventre Campground (open early-May to early-October), which sits to the southeast of the town of Moose. I had made a call here on our way into the area and found out that they had a small number of sites still available with electric hookups, so we showed up hopeful but uncertain. As it turned out, the man that arrived just before me got the last site with any connections. Sigh. All they had left were dry RV sites, so our search continued.
A quick call to the Colter Bay Campground (open mid-May to late-September), located near the shore of Jackson Lake in the northern portion of the park, gave me a little hope that we would be able to secure a spot with electric connections…but we had to hurry! Those $55 per night sites were on a first come, first served basis, so we made the 25-30 minute drive to the north and waited in line to find out that…yes! They had a spot for us for five nights! Hallefrigginlujah.
(*Note: These sites are only available to those with verifiable disabilities as they are considered ADA accessible, as far as I understand. The rest of the RV sites are dry camping with no connections and cost $32 per night. Advance reservations are only available for group sites. See the Colter Bay page for full details.*)
The campground offers 22 restroom facilities with running water and flushing toilets. If you want to take a shower, however, you will have to pay a few bucks over at the Colter Bay Launderette (adjacent to the campground). You can do your laundry here at the same time for added convenience and grab a few grocery essentials at the tiny grocery store next door.
The campground is in a heavily wooded area with plenty of wildlife around. We were told that a black bear had been wandering through earlier in the day, and we were able to hear the elk calls echo through the night as we sat outside in the evenings by our propane fire pit. What more can you ask for?
Travel Time to Key Locations
Since we were already in the park, we only had to drive 20-30 min to most locations that we wanted to visit. This meant that we were able to catch both sunrise and sunset at the vista point for the entire Teton range several times and it was so nice to have that option. In addition, we had more wildlife encounters because of those early morning and late evening outings. So overall, we probably spent half as much time driving compared to our first visit and got to experience much more with this stay inside the park.
Popular Spots for Capturing that Perfect Photograph
If you happen to be interested in flexing your photographic muscles and testing your chops in this endless land of photo opportunities, we want to give you a few of the best photography spots you can’t miss.
- Oxbow Bend
- Snake River Overlook
- Schwabacher Landing
- Cascade Canyon (fantastic hike also)
- Jackson Lake
- Taggart Lake
Of course, the time of day you visit makes a world of difference. We found that for most of these spots, an early morning visit for sunrise was the most spectacular experience. But there’s no doubt that sunset would also be a prime time to visit to capture some of that golden glow.
Don’t Forget About Yellowstone!
This may completely obvious to you, but I can’t risk the possibility of you missing out on this 2-for-1 national park experience. Because in case you weren’t aware, Yellowstone National Park is actually adjacent to Grand Teton National Park; they’re basically sister parks. There is no reason for you to not visit both parks in the same visit.
Even if you take just one day to go explore the “hot spots” in Yellowstone, it will be well worth it. Just hitting Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs and maybe one or two other locations will make it worth your time, no doubt about it.
So don’t neglect the Yellowstone! Head north into a completely different experience and max out your adventure meter. But be prepared for bison traffic jams! They are a real thing, my friend…and they’re pretty awesome if you just bring your patience along.
Start Planning Your RV Trip to Grand Teton National Park Today
Obviously, we are strong advocates for the RV experience and the positive impact it can have on your life, whether it’s a weekend trip or a year excursion. But if you want to consider renting an RV for a national park adventure like this, be sure to take a look at our post covering five things you need to know about renting an RV. The more you know, the better your RVing experience is likely to be.
It’s also extremely important ahead of time to know what the size limits are for the campground or RV park that you intend to stay in. It would really stink to pick out the perfect campground or campgrounds and then end up with an RV that is too large to fit it any of the sites there. Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, do your research and ensure that you have a match between your RV and your chosen campgrounds.
So, with that out of the way, it’s time to jump in and start planning your trip to this unique and unforgettable national park. If you’re looking to rent, get started with an RV Rental search and don’t look back!
Todd Bonner is the slightly quieter half of the dynamic TREKKN duo. He spends most of his time sharing information about RV travel and safety, RV accessories and tips, and the National Parks he has visited and still desperately craves. When he’s not busy working on TREKKN, you will often find him staring at breathtaking pictures of Glacier National Park, probably his favorite spot on earth.