Although we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, many families are flocking to the national parks. As the summer months heat up and school is out, the national parks (especially in the mountains) small tourist towns surrounding them are getting flooded with people. I’ve written a blog for those families wanting to travel with their children to my absolute favorite national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone, with tips and advice on what’s open and closed, a suggested outline for your trip and what we found was super fun for our kids.
Flying into Jackson Hole:
The only advice I have for airline travel is when flying into JH, sit on the right side of the plane to get the most amazing views of the Grand Teton mountain range out your window. It is breathtaking!!
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
I highly suggest staying in Jackson Hole near the town square while visiting the JH and Grand Teton National Park areas. The only lodge open in GTNP is Signal Lake Lodge and it is booked up for the year. The grand lodges in GT and Yellowstone usually book up a year in advance. Some of my favorite hotels and motels in JH are below:
Hotels, Motels & Cabins
The Anvil is a sweet, boutique hotel located a block away from the square in JH. Its atmosphere is low key and the hotel was designed by artisans and has a vintage feel throughout.
The Rustic Inn offers hotel rooms and cabins. Its nestled along iconic Flat Creek which allows for a great ambiance and wildlife watching.
The Wort Hotel
This historic hotel is centrally located, beautiful and has the best nightlife for deserving parents. They have a great restaurant, bar, live music and dance floor!
Cowboy Village Resort Cabins
This cute log cabin hotel is located by one of our favorite breakfast spots- Bubba’s
The Bunnery Bakery and Restaurant
One of the most popular breakfast eateries in JH. Be prepared to wait in line but it’s worth it.
This is not a pharmacy…it’s a soda fountain/bar/cafe and it’s a must visit!
Hatch Taqueria & Tequilas
Great selection of tequilas and excellent Mexican/Spanish flare…but not comparable to TexMex 😉
Bubba’s BBQ & Restaurant
This is a BBQ restaurant but my most favorite place to eat breakfast! Order the Mexican Scramble and their Italian donuts!
Snake River Brewing
A must visit if you love beer! Get the sampler!
Places to visit in Jackson Hole & Grand Teton NP Area
Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center (located in JH)
On your drive between JH and Grand Teton NP, keep your eyes open for deer, moose and elk. You will most likely see all of them at some point!
Take your picture at the Grand Teton National Park sign with the mountain range in the background!
Jackson Hole- Snow King Mountain summer activities
Check out this site. There Are lots of summer activities for all ages just a few blocks from Jackson square such as tree top zip lining, summer cowboy coaster, mini golf, alpine slide, a scenic chairlift ride and much more!
Moose Wilson Road
This drive starts just past the Craig Thomas Discovery Center and ends near Teton Village ski area. It is a must drive and you will most likely see a moose, elk or bear on this tiny road.
Jenny Lake Visitor Center
Take a boat ride across Jenny Lake and hike the easy half mile walk to the beautiful waterfalls. Reservations aren’t needed as these shuttles boats run about every 20-30 minutes across the lake. Bring water, sunscreen, bug spray and a snack for the kids!
Drive along Teton Park Road for some spectacular views and stop along the many turnouts for hides and picture taking.
String Lake Picnic Area- for swimming etc.
I can’t stress enough how beautiful this picnic area is. The beaches on String Lake are very shallow and perfect for a dip in the cold water. You can also bring a canoe or stand up paddle board. We could have stayed here all day and leisurely waded in the water, picniced and napped.
Signal Mountain Visitor Center, Lodge, Marina & General Store
Tip: The General Store (gas station) has great food to grab and go such as cold cut sandwiches, salads and burgers and fresh made coffee etc. They also have great breakfast burritos and a selection of breakfast food. We bought our kids the cutest fishing poles here and they were well worth it!
Mormon Row and T.A. Moulton Barn
This quick stop is well worth it. This is the most photographed barn in the world and makes for a great photo with your family!
National Elk Refuge Road and Historic Miller Ranch
This is a great drive to take late in the evening. You will see elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep!
The best wildlife viewing times are very early in the morning and at dusk in the evening! We love to take a drive around before or after dinner to spot some moose, elk or bison our for dinner.
Jackson Lake Lodge
Unfortunately closed for the season due to Covid, this is the most majestic of the lodges in Grand Teton. Make note to visit it on your next trip!
Boating & Fishing
We aren’t quite ready for real fishing in our family yet, but there are great and beautiful places to do so in the park. Boat rides are great for anyone and you can bring your own or take a scenic boat cruise. Check out the link for all this information and more.
Currently there are no lodges open in the park and only cabin style reservations can be made but they are booked for the year.. There are a few campgrounds available. My suggestion is driving from JH to the southern areas of Yellowstone and making a day trip of it. You could leave early and easily see Grant Village, Old Faithful and Midway Geyser Basin in one day. For the rest of the park, you will probably want to get a hotel room near the northern part of the park. Three full days is probably what you will need right now since a lot of the park is closed. There are no ranger and junior ranger talks and activities scheduled in either of the parks which is disappointing. Everything closes early in Yellowstone at the moment; gas stations, visitor centers, shops etc were closing by 7pm.
I could write a novel on all the things to do and see in Yellowstone. My best advice is read through the website and download the app.
Here are some of my must sees:
Midway Geyser Basin- all the geysers along this stretch of highway are a must see!
Canyon Village and The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Yellowstone Falls
Mammoth Hot Springs
Norris Geyser Basin
West Yellowstone, Montana
This is a great town to spend one or two nights to see the northern parts of Yellowstone. They have a great visitor center, Imax and Grizzly Bear Encounter (a must see for everyone). You will easily find affordable hotels but that’s about it. Most of the town are t-shirt shops and the food was mediocre.
Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center
This is another great option for overnight stay to see the northern part of Yellowstone.
- Visit the national parks websites and read it all before your visit.
- Download Grand Teton and Yellowstone’s apps for your phone. Remember, you will get very spotty mobile service in the parks.
- Have a park map handy and even better, use your navigation on your vehicle or bring/rent GPS.
- Bring LOTS of water. The dry climate makes anyone super thirsty!
- If you are able to bring your bikes…do! There are lots of paved trails for family bike riding!
What we learned about camping in a RV (our very first time!):
- It’s so very easy! The class C RVs are big and they drive like a big van.
- It’s very easy to fill up the tank with water, dump the sewer and hook up electricity. RV’s ( most I believe) come with a generator so you can park and run the AC, appliances, water pump etc.
- You can travel without having a reservation anywhere and pull over at a rest stop to sleep.
- KOA campgrounds are very convenient. Most are very nice too! We stayed at the KOA in Colorado Springs, CO on the way there and on the way back and it was super nice. They had a huge playground, swimming pool and golf carts you could take at your leisure. We did reserve the last space both times so it’s safer to make a plan of how long you might travel and make a reservation a few nights in advance.
- Grand Teton & Yellowstone (I’m assuming this is the same at most other national parks) have campgrounds you can make reservations (which book up very far in advance), and campgrounds that are first come first serve. We left Houston with NO reservations which freaked us out a bit. I called the campgrounds in Grand Teton and they assured me that we’d most definitely get a space, just to arrive in the morning early when campers were checking out. Gross Ventre campground has over 300 spaces which is huge! We were able to look out our window and see the Grand Teton mountain range!
- The campground vibe was so awesome and friendly. There were groups of kids running around playing and riding their bikes and scooters together. That was my kids favorite time of day, in the late evening when everyone was sitting around their camp fires, making smores and playing.
- We rented a minivan once we arrived in Grand Teton so that we could zip around the JH and the parks easily which was so great!