Grand Teton National Park: A Primer for the 2014 Season

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The recent weather in Jackson Hole doesn’t seem to herald the arrival of summer—or even spring, really—but Grand Teton National Park is pushing on, opening its roads, lodges, and campgrounds. By June 1, everything in the park will be open. (Although most trails that go above 7,500 feet will still be covered in snow.) If you’re planning an early-season visit to the park, here are the dates you need to know, along with some insider tips.   Already open You can get permits for overnights in the backcountry as well as learn about the park at the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center in Moose, at the park’s southern entrance. May 1 Teton Park Road, the main road through the park, opens. May 2 Gros Ventre campground opens. FYI, this campground isn’t in the heart of the park, but closer to the tiny enclave of Kelly. Still, there are sites along the Gros Ventre River and many sites enjoy shade from giant cottonwoods. May 9 Signal Mountain and Jenny Lake campgrounds open. Signal Mountain is in the center of the park on Jackson Lake. Jenny Lake is towards the park’s southern end. Both of these campgrounds are extremely popular and reservations, even early season, are recommended. Signal Mountain Lodge, the only lodge in the park with rooms actually on Jackson Lake, opens. Also, Signal Mountain Lodge serves the biggest plate of nachos in the universe. May 10 Colter Bay Visitor Center, on Jackson Lake, opens. May 16 Jenny Lake Visitor Center opens.

 May 19 Jackson Lake Lodge, a beautiful lodge and restaurant set back from Jackson Lake by an expanse of grassy willow-ed flats (often frequented by bears), opens. Whether you stay here or not, you should splurge on a meal at The Mural Room. May 22 Colter Bay campground, Colter Bay RV park, and Colter Bay cabins open. May 25 The historic Triangle X Ranch opens, offering overnight cabins with delicious dining for guests, and horseback riding and raft trips for the general public. May 31 Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve is one of the park’s best-kept secrets. Off the Moose-Wilson Road, the preserve includes a LEED-certified visitor center with lounge chairs on its front deck and the park’s only flat(ish) hiking trails. Parking at the preserve is limited to 50 cars to allows visitors to feel removed from the hustle and bustle in many other areas of the park. June 1 My favorite breakfast in the valley, at Jenny Lake Lodge, opens along with the entire lodge. Also, the Headwaters Lodge, and Headwaters campground and RV park at Flagg Ranch open. Flagg Ranch is in in the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, north of GTNP and south of Yellowstone. Grassy Lake Road, one of the more adventurous drives in the park—part of it is unpaved—opens. Be warned though that snow drifts might remain for several weeks, limiting access. June 6 Jenny Lake Ranger Station opens. You can get permits here for overnights in Garnet Canyon as well as pick the brains of the park’s legendary climbing rangers.

  Later Moose-Wilson Road, the narrow, winding connector between the park and Teton Village, fully opens once snow melts. The park does not plow this section of road. This usually happens by mid-June. Until it happens, it is open to Death Canyon from its northern end. The park’s fabulous pathway system also opens once it melts out naturally. Again, this usually happens by mid-June.

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