The more we travel the more we realize the importance of being flexible and being willing to stray from the agenda. If the kids want to spend the afternoon playing at the base of a waterfall it’s OK to let go of the activity we have scheduled for the afternoon. In order to make our trips enjoyable for the entire family we need to make sure the entire family has a say in what we do.
The kids had their hearts set on doing two things in the Black Hills – horseback riding and the alpine slide. Due to the weather we were not able to do either activity and the kids were really bummed. After the Black Hills we were planning to go to Rocky Mountain National Park but they too had unpleasant weather so at the last minute we decided to head towards Grand Teton National Park (my favorite!) instead. Sunshine was predicted for the Tetons so we would be able to go horseback riding and ride the alpine slide.
The drive from South Dakota to Colorado was probably my favorite of the day long drives on this trip. We drove through the almost the entire state of Wyoming and the scenery was largely comprised of prairies, farmland, and small towns. Much to my surprise part of our drive was on the Centennial Scenic Byway. About an hour or two out of the Tetons the scenery starts to change for the better. The road follows along the Wind River and you will pass through the DuBois Badlands which are near DuBois, WY. It seems as though the DuBois Badlands are a well kept secret because it was really hard to figure out what we were driving through. This is definitely an area we want to come back and explore.
The final leg before you enter Grand Teton National Park is through the Togwotee Pass. The pass takes you up to about 9,600 feet and across the continental divide. (Our window was so bug smattered at this point that I didn’t get many good pictures of the pass but trust me, it’s worth the drive.)
As you descend the pass you will get glimpses of the Tetons through the trees and eventually some incredible views. Unfortunately we did not stop at any of the pullouts to take pictures but if we’re in this area again you better believe we’ll be stopping.
If you are planning a road trip to the Tetons or Yellowstone and have the option of going this way I highly recommend it. The Tetons are incredible no matter where you view them from but the view coming off the pass is like no other.
This is a shot of the Tetons as we were headed towards Jackson Hole.
We had two goals to accomplish in this area – the alpine slide and horseback riding. First up was the Snow King Alpine Slide. The kids were in heaven! They have been talking about the alpine slide since they last rode it four years ago. For those not familiar with alpine slides, you take a chair lift up the mountain and the ride down the mountain in a cart on a track.
The view from the top of the lift is fantastic. The town of Jackson Hole is below and the Tetons are the snowcapped mountains in the back.
Last time we were in Jackson Hole the kids loved Miller Park so we stopped to relive old memories. The kids are growing up and are not as interested in playing on toys as they used to but we did play frisbee. I guess that’s our new thing.
I then got the frisbee stuck in a tree and got kicked out of the game. This was not the first time I had done that – it seemed to happen at every park. I might need to work on my frisbee throwing skills.
We also stopped in the town square for an updated antler arch picture. When in tourist country one must act like a tourist.
The next day we visited my absolute favorite national park –Grand Teton!
We did not have a lot of time in the Tetons and since our main objective was to go horseback riding our day revolved around making sure that happened. Pictures do not do this park justice. I live in a town surrounded by mountains but my local mountains have nothing on the Tetons.
This particular day was absolutely beautiful. We had perfect weather for horseback riding and I could not be more thrilled that we changed our plans. We chose the one hour ride at the Colter Bay stables. The wranglers were awesome and I would definitely ride here again. Both stables in the park offer $5 pony rides if you have little kids.
The backdrop for most of the ride was the Tetons and the wranglers provided information on the history of the park as well as the flora and fauna we were passing by.
About halfway through the ride the wranglers stopped to take family pictures so be sure to bring your camera.
After the ride we were able to give our horses a treat. Not everyone on the ride wanted to do that so Little Miss helped the wranglers make sure no horse was left out.
We did not have enough time to go hiking but stopped at several of our favorite picture spots. We were not there at the right time, and it was rather windy, so we did not get any share worthy pictures. The Tetons are best photographed in the morning as they become flat in the afternoon.
Mormon Row is where you’ll want to go if you want the classic Teton barn shot. In the late 1800s Mormon settlers established a 27 homestead community along Mormon Row. Many of the houses and barns still remain and you can walk along the street to view the properties. This picture is from a previous visit.
While we were on Mormon Row we got to see baby foxes out catching some rays. He’s a little fuzzy but he’s just to the left of the opening underneath the house.
As we were snapping pictures from afar with our zoom lens we realized mama fox was in the field on the other side of the road. One of our wranglers was telling us that fox sightings are rare so we were excited that we actually saw foxes.
Another great picture spot is at Oxbow Bend. This is also supposed to be a great spot to view wildlife early or late in the day. If you are there early enough and the water is still you will be able to capture an incredible reflection. This is a shot from a previous trip because the water was rather ripply when we were there.
We visited the Tetons several years ago on a previous trip and that post contains details on some of the other actives we have enjoyed in the park.
We stayed at the Jackson Hole/Snake River KOA just outside of Jackson Hole and aside from camping in the Tetons, I don’t know that we could have had better lodging. We stayed in a camping cabin and it just so happens that most of their cabins are on the Snake River. Jackpot! This was the view from our porch. All day and night we were serenaded by the river. It was absolutely fantastic.
While the cabin appeared to be the standard camping cabin from the outside it seemed wider inside and the bunk bed was much nicer than most. It was solid and had a lot more room in between the bunks.
Rather than the standard multi-person style bathroom this KOA has private bathrooms. Each one has a shower, toilet, and sink and they were really clean. There are several playgrounds with some pretty cool toys but they are on the bank of the river. If you have little kids you will want to make sure they are supervised. The only downside is this KOA is rather compact. I found the spots along the river to be the nicest. The cabins in the middle of the campground faced each other. If you have a preference be sure to place your request when you make your reservation.
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and it came time for us to head home. On the way we stopped at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City and I was totally impressed. Tons of luscious green grass, tall trees, lots of toys and even a splash park.
The toys from a distance. They had the longest swing set I have ever seen.
We spent the night at the Panguitch KOA in Panguitch, Utah. We stayed there four years ago but the KOA seems to have gone downhill since then. The grounds/cabins themselves were fine but the bathrooms were rather rundown. I don’t know that I would stay there again.
A fun/weird stop on our way home was the Eagles Landing Flying J at exit 188 on I-15 near Scorpio, Utah. In addition to the typical Flying J amenities they have a petting zoo with all kinds of animals. I’m not kidding – camels, zebras, this thing that looked like a cross between a zebra and a donkey. It was a very eclectic mix of animals for the middle of what appeared to be nowhere.
Our final stop was at the Navajo Bridge just south of the the Arizona Utah border. The bridge crosses the Colorado River and you are able to walk across it. There are actually two bridges – one for cars and one for pedestrians. The recreation area does not open until 9am and with the time change we were there early, which was a disappointment, but we were able to access the bridge from a small parking lot on the other side.
I hope that you have enjoyed our journey. Thank you for taking the time to read these posts. If you have any questions about the areas we visited please do not hesitate to ask or if you know of hidden gems in these areas please share. Happy travels!