The photos above (4th is a landstat image from NASA, a larger copy of which is at: NASA aerial photo of Teton Range, 1st, 3rd, 6th courtesy of NPS), 7th © E J Peiker http://www.ejphoto.com/grand_teton_page.htm used with permission, 8th is my own,
give you an idea of why the Tetons are so majestic and awe-inspiring. And why the word magnificent is used so much to describe them.
Sailboat photo below © E J Peiker http://www.ejphoto.com/grand_teton_page.htm
Note the size of a sailboat’s sails (with sunset color) and Jeep on the road in relation to the peaks:
Unlike most mountain ranges, which have foothills, the 40 mile long, 7 to 9 mile wide Grand Teton range is fronted by vast expanses of land then the mountains abruptly rise 3,000 to more than 7,000 feet above the 6,500 to 6,800 feet elevation plain. They are rugged and craggy with some snow and over a dozen glaciers and perennial ice fields on top year ’round. There are eight peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. The highest peaks are: Grand Teton (13,770 feet), Mount Owen (12,928 feet), Middle Teton (12,804 feet) and Mount Moran, at the center of the photo below, (12,605 or 12,594 feet, depending on the source).
For a close-to-home comparison, De Anza College sits at 274 feet elevation. Montebello Ridge above us is at 1,800 to 2,400 feet. Castle Rock Ridge above Saratoga runs at about 2,800 to 2,500 feet with Summit Rock and Castle Rock at 3,076 and 3,214 feet above sea level.
The edge of the Tetons are dotted with lakes: intimate-easy-to-swim-across-sized like average six to ten feet deep String Lake,
mid-sized lakes like Jenny Lake, (2 miles by 1 1/4 mile, 226 feet deep), or massive lakes like Jackson Lake, almost 14 miles long, 445 feet deep. Along the base of the range there are 7 moranial lakes. Among the peaks and canyons there are over 100 alpine and backcountry lakes and a dozen glaciers to keep some of them quite cold.
This swimmer braved Lake Solitude at 9,000 feet with some snow still along the shoreline:
Below, a photo of a visitor center raised relief map. Jackson lake is the biggest one, with Jenny Lake and Leigh Lake to the upper left of it. At the bottom are Two Ocean and Emma Matilda lakes.
Almost all the lakes do not allow motorboats. Jet skis and submersibles are not allowed on/in any park waters. Underwater diving/ snorkling are allowed only in Jackson and Jenny lakes, within existing limitations on swimming. Limitations on swimming/wading include not within 150 feet of the downstream face of Jackson Lake dam, not within marinas, boat mooring areas or in the vicinity of the Jenny Lake ferry boat concession. Floating any river or stream within the park on an air mattress, float tube, inner tube or similar individual flotation device is prohibited. Windsurf boards are only allowed on Jackson lake and they and all other boats, canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards must have a boat permit which you can obtain at any visitor center. (Always check current regulations as this website can’t be kept completely up to date as well as park service websites.)
The 2018 De Anza Outdoor Club trip to Grand Teton National Park is planned for about August 14 – 29, (more or less).
Participants can stay for a shorter, longer or much longer trip. Often people go to Yellowstone National Park, just north of Grand Teton, as well. Some couples/groups have visited many states/parks on the way to or from the trip.
Pictures from the 2017 trip are at: Total Solar Eclipse in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton trip 2014 video by Jennifer Chiou
How long you stay (a long weekend, a couple of weeks or a long road trip to 6 or more national parks),
How you get to the Tetons, (fly all the way, or get a cheap ticket to fly part way and then rent a car and drive the last 6 hours, drive by yourself or in a small or huge carpool) Grand Tetons trip transportation
Meals, (cookout, restaurant)
etc. is/are up to individuals on the trip, but each of these is usually coordinated somewhat with most of the group staying at the same place (Colter Bay) and a few meals, or some years, most meals, taken as a small or large group at a restaurant or as a cookout.
Our plans include:
(people can join us for just one planned activity, or if they have the time, everything we do)
- We will have three, four, or … official kayaking or canoeing mornings/days suitable for beginners. If it turns out we can’t transport the kayaks your trip fee will not cover rentals for that many days. (Weather could cancel some kayaking as we do not risk kayaking during thunderstorms.) Kayaking will probably start with a brief outing on Colter Bay, just down the road from the campsites/cabins. This is flat water with little current and is a good way for people with no kayaking experience (such as our spring break and October Monterey trip) to get a first experience.
We also plan Sunrise kayaking on Oxbow Bend and on another day, a five mile stretch of the Snake River from Jackson Lake Dam / Cattleman’s Bridge could come next. See Grand Tetons trip kayaking.
- We plan to do a short to quite long (your choice of distance, with or without a Ranger Naturalist), hike into Cascade Canyon. Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park Your trip fee includes one ride on the hiker shuttle boat across Jenny Lake for the all day Cascade Canyon hike on a day picked by the group. ($15 per adult in 2018). (The boat shuttle takes four miles off the round trip hike, allowing people to hike farther into the mountains.) Day to be chosen once we are in the park. People can choose other hikes, with or without a Ranger Naturalist, to the many canyons and lakes.
- People usually do some or a lot of sightseeing. We know the best places to look for elk early in the morning and where a pair of bald eagles usually nest (and when we bring people to these locations we make certain they don’t disturb the animals).
- People usually have meals (cookout or restaurant) together. Your trip fee includes one fabulous brunch, on a day picked by the group, after early morning sightseeing at the best brunch in the park. (NOT the one with cold scrambled eggs.)
Stargazing is so much better than in the city and the Milky Way is in full view on the mostly uncloudy nights. Or we occasionally enjoy a full blast thunder/lightning storm (or maybe a little snow).
- We often get a wilderness permit for an optional kayaking overnight camp, usually limited to 12 people by the size of the permit and the number of kayaks we might be able to bring. If we can’t transport the kayaks your trip fee will not be enough to cover this long of a rental. (And again, weather could cancel any kayaking as we do not risk kayaking during thunderstorms.)
Below, a photo of Jenny Lake, Leigh Lake and part of Jackson Lake. Our overnight wilderness campsite is usually on the left hand side of the lake in the middle, Leigh Lake.
(Looking at visitor stats for the last decade we find that only slightly over 1% of the total recreation visits to the park involved back country camping.)
- Many people on the trip work towards getting their park Young Naturalist or Junior Ranger certification and go to Ranger programs together.
or earn a Junior Blue Goose Ranger badge at the National Elk Refuge (Forest Service) Visitor Center in town.
- We have previously taken a short excursion on a sailboat
and in 2005 on a deck boat on Jackson Lake. In the picture below the girls jumped off the deck boat into Jackson Lake and swam, and encouraged the guys to join them (but they didn’t).
If we do this year it will be subject to availability, date and time to be decided when we know who/when is going and what budget they have.
- A previous trip participant wrote me a thankyou email:
- “Thank you for the entire Teton trip. I have never done so many activities in such a short amount of time in my life.”
Even on a short trip you can expect to see elk and bison, (often moose) especially if you are out early. Fall trips have more chances to see animals than in the summer. The moose calves will be about 2 1/2 months old, the elk calves about 3 to 3 1/2 months old and the cows (mothers) will not be hiding them as much.
It will be the start of elk mating season and the bulls will be bugling and gathering harems.
If you are lucky and spend enough time in the park you may see Bald Eagles, otters, beavers, grizzlies and see or at least hear coyotes and wolves. More details about flora and fauna are below.
The club has gone in August/September 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and June 2003.
De Anza owns ten tandem (two-person) kayaks. These are not the kind of kayaks with spray skirts that your legs are stuck in, they are more like small canoes. The total number of people who can sign up for this trip and expect to kayak regularly is 20 unless we take turns or rent extra boats.
Some could bring their own craft. (The club would like students who will bring their own craft to sign up with us and do proper Risk Management paperwork even though they are not using De Anza owned kayaks. There are how-to pictures at: loading a kayak on a car.)
If all goes as planned, the kayaks/paddles/lifejackets/drybags will be transported to the park. (2017 canoe or kayak rentals: $55 to $85 for 24 hours, or as much as $20 an hour. If we kayak on and off for only a week we save $100 or more per boat.)
Our typical day
with an early morning kayak starts by getting up early enough to really see lots of animals. By the afternoon moose and elk are usually napping somewhere cool and hidden. Getting up early can be 5 a.m. or even earlier if we want to see the sunrise. We eat a little (juice, power bar, fruit), get coffee into people who can’t function without it and try be on the road quickly, getting to
(There is a bigger copy of the winter shot at:
winter Grand Teton National Park )
Oxbow Bend and launching shortly after, often paddling into the mist. We spend so much time out watching ducks, birds and animals we usually miss the last of breakfast seatings at the fancy buffet at Jackson Lake Lodge (until 9:30) and end up eating at the Colter Bay Ranch House, or missing breakfast altogether. Then we finally get a shower and sometimes a nap to make up for lack of sleep the night before, or we start on mid-day activities.
If you want to go kayaking or canoeing with us on this trip you MUST read Grand Tetons kayaking . The page has lots of pictures of the animals we have seen.
it’s Ranger walks, museums, hikes (we will skip the early morning kayaking on the day of the all day Cascade Canyon hike Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park), other driving and/or kayak tours.
For your safety hiking, the Rangers warn “… Always carry bear spray and know how to use it… solo hiking and off trail hiking is not recommended, a considerable number of rescues involve solo parties that were unable to self rescue and remained alone in the wilderness, sometimes with life-threatening injuries, until rescuers could locate them.” Your safety in grizzly bear territory
Trip cost includes part of the cost of the bear spray, which is required for everyone to carry. Each trip member is required to attend a ranger program on safe bear spray use and watch an online video and read about bear spray before they go hiking, biking, kayaking or even walking away from developed areas. The ranger programs are offered every day at at least one Grand Teton National Park visitor center. (The material to read is at: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/reducing_risks.htm and https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/bearspray.htm and the Yellowstone bear spray video is linked to at that page.) In a dozen years of club trips no one has had to use (spray) any bear spray.
We usually plan to bring trail snacks/picnic food rather than take the time to go to restaurants for lunch, but the burgers at the take-out window at Jackson Lake Lodge sometimes call to people.
Each year people have planned time to make a half day or longer caravan trip around the main park loop road for general sightseeing. Pictures and info about visitor centers, Cunningham Cabin, Menor’s Ferry, Chapel of the Transfiguration, Cascade Canyon, Signal Mountain summit road, Colter Bay Indian Arts Museum, and Morman Row are at: Grand Tetons sightseeing The page has a link to details about Cascade Canyon, our intended all day hike, the date of which will be chosen when we know who is coming and when.
Horseback riding: In the fall the corral at Colter Bay sometimes closes before we are there, Jackson Lake Lodge is often open longer and you can take a horseback trail ride: 307 (543-3100) from their website in 2018:
Short Ride (Approx. 1 hr) $45 adult
Standard Ride (Approx. 2 hrs) $75.00/adult
breakfast horseback ride $79 at Colter Bay, dinner ride $84 at Colter Bay
Riders must weight no more than 225 pounds and must wear closed toed shoes (long pants recommended). No backpacks, video cameras or binoculars allowed by most outfitters. Recommend you apply sunscreen and insect repellent PRIOR to the ride. Suggest you carefully read all their rules in advance.
On the 2011/2012 trips there were enough people who wanted to go white-water rafting that they reserved their own raft from a guide company and did not have to share with strangers. See also: Grand Tetons whitewater rafting. (2018 approx. $82 to $99, more with a meal included.)
Experienced surfers could bring their surfboard, when we go in early summer, there are sections of the Snake River (from West Table to Sheep Gulch, especially Taco Hole and Lunch Counter, or search for King’s Wave just north of Astoria) you can surf in place on a rapid for as long as your legs hold out (or until a raft needs to go through or someone else wants to take a turn). Some really are only for experienced surfers, (some of whom will tell you they thought they were going to drown the first time they tried it in early season), and the wash out below the rapids can have serious rapids/large boulders as well. Much of the surf potential depends on how much water the Bureau of Reclamation releases from Jackson Lake Dam, and the best ‘season’ for this surfing is early summer, sometimes into July. You know without asking this is not a college-sponsored event.
In 2010 some of the group went to an outdoor concert with Willie Nelson.
Most years, free concerts are offered every Sunday at 5 p.m. at Teton Village.
the climbing gym in town was a tempting place to spend a rainy day and we hope one can reopen.
In the meanwhile Phil Baux Park, at 10 E Snow King and S Cache, Jackson, Wyoming (at the base of Snow King Mountain) has artificial climbing boulders, (is one of them still the world’s largest artificial boulder?), open to the public for free (except when booked by a group) with built-in hand/foot holds.The main adult sized is 30 feet long at the base and 40 feet wide at the 12 foot high top. Another is kid sized. The park foam footprint was made of preconsumer recycled material. Again, you know without asking that climbing is not a college-sponsored event.
Grand Tetons biking has rules, advice and suggested routes in and out of the park for mountain and road bikes.
It includes warnings and statistics about cyclist (or trail runners) encounters with grizzly bears.
Get your fishing license at the Wyoming State Information Center as you drive through Jackson Hole, Wyoming on the way to the park.
We sometimes end the day with a dinner picnic at a pond we know of to watch a beaver family that comes out in the evening, or a fancy or simple restaurant dinner, or burgers or cook-out at the picnic area at the beach down the road from the cabins/campground most of us stay at, or a sunset dinner at Lunch Tree Hill or …
Most meals on these trips have been picnic or cookouts, but on each trip most people have eaten out at least a breakfast (or two or even three of the most fabulous brunch), and sometimes a dinner. Restaurants in Grand Teton National Park are non-smoking, many others in Wyoming and Montana allow smoking. There are dozens of restaurants in the town of Jackson. They vary from burgers, Chinese, Mexican, sushi, pasta, Italian, steakhouse to four-stars with “an award-winning wine list”. Most lean towards family or casual atmosphere.
The drive from Colter Bay to the edge of Jackson is about 42 miles. A climbing school warns its customers:
“It is very important that you arrive on time, so please allow enough time for travel from wherever you are staying. Speed limits in the Park are low to protect wildlife and visitors, and rangers ticket offenders regularly. We want your entire experience here to be positive, so please do not speed.”
The photo below shows only part of Jackson Lake. The main Jackson Lake Lodge building is the tan rectangle at the top of the section of forest at the bottom of the picture, with the hotel cottages, parking lots and swimming pools below it. Lunch Tree Hill rises to the right just above the forested area. We’ve watched most sunsets (occasionally with thunderstorms and rainbows) from Lunch Tree Hill.
When we have sunset dinners there we’ve had the top of Lunch Tree Hill almost to ourselves, most of the tourists being crowded on the back deck of the lodge. Pilgrim Creek, Third Creek and Second Creek flow through the broad expanse of Willow Flats, (the center third of the photo) an extensive freshwater marsh with streams dammed by beavers. (The flats are a major elk caving ground, closed to people “from May 15 to July 15 or when posted.” We’ve always seen elk and moose with our binoculars and telephotos. Mount Moran is the peak to the right. It’s not the highest peak, it just looks like it in this picture. Colter Bay, where most of us have stayed previously on this trip, is just out of the photo to the right.
Photographers should remember that the maximum intensity of sunset colors is often a while after the sun sets, so bring warm clothes/rain gear and stick around even if the weather is interesting. (We have never had a mediocre sunset, and no, these photos were not touched up, the colors really were that brilliant.)
NPS photo below of a fiery Teton sunset on Jackson Lake by Jackie Skaggs, who said the 1976 sunset lasted almost 30 minutes at this intensity.
For the 2018 trip (mountain daylight time) civil twilight will begin at about 5:56 to 6:14 each morning, with sunrise from 6:27 to 6:44. Sunset will be between 8:28 and 8:03. Moonrise and set is different each day.
There will be quite a few nights when the moon rises a couple of hours after sunset, giving us a dark sky for great stargazing. (For many people on this trip it is the first time they have seen the Milky Way.)
(Note that the following times vary according to the height of mountains the sun rises and the moon sets over the peaks of.) On Sunday, August 26, 2018 there will be a full moon. Sunrise will be at 6:40 a.m. and the full moon will set at 6:41 a.m. This means that, depending on the weather, you might be able to get a photo of the full moon next to mountains colored by the sunrise.
Stargazing is much better than at home. As Jack Turner said in The Abstract Wild,
“At night the stars shine like crystal rivets in the blue-black sky”.
photo above by Enrique Aguirre used with his permission. http://www.enriqueaguirre.com
More potential activities:
Yellowstone National Park, with Old Faithful Geyser, is just north of Grand Teton National Park.
Since your trip can start and end when people traveling together mutually want it to, you could add in an overnight visit in Yellowstone. Info about the hotels and cabins in Yellowstone is at:
http://www.ynp-lodges.com/ Campgrounds usually do not all fill during the fall season.
Most previous trip members have at least done a one or two day sightseeing drive into Yellowstone. The south border of Yellowstone is only 8 miles from the north border of Grand Teton. It’s 56 miles from Colter Bay to Old Faithful.
Old Faithful erupts on the average every 60 to 110 minutes, for 1 1/2 to 5 minutes, with an average height of 130 feet. See https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/oldfaithfulgeyserfaq.htm for an app of the next eruption prediction. “The famous geyser currently erupts around 17 times a day and can be predicted with a 90 percent confidence rate within a 10 minute variation.” Our favorite memory of an Old Faithful eruption was at night with light from a full moon and lightning from a thunderstorm in the background.
I put lots of links to Yellowstone info at Yellowstone , including a link to a mini-video of an elk redoing the paint job on a Cadillac that you should watch.
In summer many Grand Teton elk migrate into Yellowstone, the biggest free-ranging herds of bison are in Yellowstone and the most wolves.
Below NPS map from 2010 of wolf pack territories, compare to 2017 further below.
A 2017 Wyoming Game and Fish Department wolf report listed the minimum number of wolves “known to be present on Dec. 31, 2017”, in packs that reside in part or in whole in Grand Teton National Park, including 7 in the Huckleberry Pack ( the purple almost circle on the map below to the right of the Teton Range), 5 in Lower Gros Ventre (the light blue colored blob below that), 11 in Pinnacle Peak ( the blue one below the Lower Gros Ventre wolf pack), 8 in Pacific Creek and 8 in Togwotee. 2017 Yellowstone wolf pack minimum size pack totals were 97 and the Wind River Reservation total minimum number of wolves was 12. 238 wolves, in 40 wolf packs, with 19 breeding pairs were known to be in Wyoming. In the map below you can see the wolf packs locations in Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks in 2017:
See a larger copy of the entire state of Wyoming map with wolf packs on page ten of the 2017 report.
October 2017 “the bison population in Yellowstone National Park measured around 4,800 head, down from the estimated 5,500 bison present in Yellowstone around this time in 2016.” A July 2012 report said “almost between 2000-4000 bison live in Yellowstone National Park, and almost 1000 bison reside in Grand Teton National Park.” 1,000 bison were counted in the Teton winter range in 2007, 840 in the winter range 2012. Yellowstone 2009 late winter estimate of 96-98 wolves, 3,000 bison, 6,000+ elk. August 2012 saw a Yellowstone bison estimation of 4,230 including 600 calves born that year. In 2004, 719 bison in the Jackson herd, over 4,000 in Yellowstone.
Parts of Yellowstone can be a bit more crowded than Grand Teton. A NPS photo of a crowd dispersing at Old Faithful:
Yellowstone safety basics really worth reading:
Don’t be one of the people who puts their fingers in the boiling pools in Yellowstone
to see if the water really is that hot.
Every year people are badly burned when they fall into thermal features in Yellowstone. Most of this is due to not staying on the boardwalks, (including intentionally walking out on thermal features, which can get you a $1,000 fine) or playing/running on the board walks. A park news release said: “Yellowstone park visitors are reminded that for their own safety it is important to stay on boardwalks and designated trails while viewing all thermal features in the park. Scalding water underlies thin, breakable crusts; many geyser eruptions are unpredictable, and many thermal features are near or above boiling temperatures. Boardwalks and trails help protect park visitors and prevent damage to delicate formations.”
read details at:
Please don’t be tempted to swim in hot springs. Thermal waters can harbor organisms that can cause fatal meningitis or Legionnaire’s.
Backpacking will not be an official part of this trip, but you could get a permit for a backpack adventure if you plan ahead and bring appropriate gear. A few details about permits, etc. are at Grand Tetons backpacking.
Tempted to climb a peak or two? Mountain climbing is not an official part of the trip, but here are a couple of links:
Commercial Climbing Guides
Exum Mountain Guides (307) 733-2297 http://www.exumguides.com/
Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (307) 733-4979 http://www.jhmg.com/
A park service page with lots of pictures/advice about getting to the Grand Teton summit:
Each of the local climbing guide companies will require that you do a lesson or two with them before any peak bagging to prove that you are capable. They also give advice, for example about the Grand Teton climb:
“Climbers should be in good physical condition before attempting this climb. We recommend scheduling some days of hiking in the Tetons to acclimate to the altitude. You may take the schools and make the climb on consecutive days, or even better, insert a day after the schools to rest and hydrate.”
“Altitude: the high elevations in the Tetons have stopped otherwise fit people who didn’t take the time to acclimate. We strongly encourage our participants, especially those coming from sea level, to arrive a few days early in Jackson…To help one’s body adjust to the thinner and drier air, first of all HYDRATE. Exertion at altitude demands hydration. Drinking enough water markedly improves athletic performance and helps to prevent altitude mountain sickness. Before and during your climb, aim for 4-5 quarts of fluid a day…In the days before your Grand Teton ascent, assist the acclimation process by going to some higher elevations, above 9000 feet, and get some moderate exercise…Some people simply acclimatize more slowly; they often find that allotting a few extra days to acclimate is helpful for performance.”
The advice above for climbs to 10,000 or even 13,000 plus feet also applies to our stay. We are mostly staying at 6,800 feet elevation. On hikes we can go much higher (up to 9,000 feet in Cascade Canyon). You will probably feel out of breath at first and may even get a headache and lose appetite. You can get more sunburned. Read At altitude for advice. It includes why your tent mate might seem to stop breathing.
Art gallery tours
There are 35+ galleries in town that you can visit on your own or during our fall trips we can attend parts of the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival. Go to: http://www.jacksonholechamber.com/fall_arts_festival/
for details, including (September 5-16, 2018) historic ranch tours, cowboy jubilee concert, at least one galleries walk and the Taste of the Tetons sampling from valley chefs, restaurants and caterers, (and a juried art fair as well), in the town square as well as a Western Design Conference exhibition and sale of handcrafted works.
The galleries walk(s), has various studios offering not only displays but also demonstrations. The gallery walks are free and have much more to see (including oil and watercolor paintings, prints, glass vessels, outdoor sculptures, furniture, pottery, quilting, jewelry, rugs) than the local (fee) museum our group was disappointed with on the 2007 trip.
The Jackson Center for the Arts (dancer’s workshops, recitals, theatre company, art exhibits, touring ballet/bands/choir/dancers/guitarists/pianists/blues/blues rock/funk/jazz/western swing/bluegrass/cowboy balladeer/hootennany/puppeteer) is at 265 S Cache, 2 blocks south of the town square. http://www.jhcenterforthearts.org/
OffSquare Theatre Company (Wyoming’s only year round professional theater company): http://www.offsquare.org
In Pinedale, Wyoming: http://museumofthemountainman.com
In Jackson: http://www.jacksonholehistory.org
In Dubois: http://www.bighorn.org
Teton Mountain Bike Festival Aug. 31 – Sept. 3, 2018 http://www.tetonbikefest.org
Jackson Hole Rodeo 2018 “starts at 8 pm. Rodeos are Wednesdays and Saturdays from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day excluding June 23rd and Fair week, Including Fridays, June 29th, and every Friday in July and August ending with our YETI Finals August 31st and September 1st” $20 to $35, team roping, barrel racing, bullriding, calf roping, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding. http://jhrodeo.com/
Old Bill’s Fun Run (fundraiser for local charities, including the Red Cross, Fire/EMS, Grand Teton Park Foundation and the Murie Center) is held the second Saturday in September. http://www.cfjacksonhole.org/old-bills-fun-run/ People from our trip volunteered at it for four years.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming has a description of the main streets and how to find the Albertson’s, K Mart, Ace hardware, Teton County library, St John’s Medical Center, skate park, city parks with sand volleyball and/or tennis courts, artificial climbing boulders and more.
Where will we stay overnight or camp?
Where people stay is up to each person. It can be difficult to coordinate timing of activities if we don’t all stay in the same area, so we’ve all stayed at Colter Bay for at least part of the time on previous trips. Cabins and campsites are available at Colter Bay within walking distance of each other and walking distance to a restaurant, small store, the lakeshore, visitor center, art museum, laundromat/showers.
If you will be staying in a Colter Bay cabin, go directly to Colter Bay cabins, Grand Teton National Park for details about the cabins and the logistics of sharing one.
If you want to get a better room, or even a suite with fabulous view, fireplace, fridge, etc, read more at: Grand Tetons hotels, cabins, lodging.
For our fall trips, no reservations for campsites are needed unless you want a motorhome hookup site. We know the best campsites to ask for at Colter Bay.
At Colter Bay there is a picnic area with tables, firepits and restrooms at lakeside just down the road from the cabins and campground, hang a right at the Visitor Center parking lot.
Look for the black and white aerial photo at: Colter Bay, Grand Teton National Park to find the picnic area, cabins, Visitor Center, grocery, campground, where you can find free WyFi, etc.
Many years we get an overnight backcountry permit and kayak in to a remote lake. If you want to go on the kayak overnight you MUST read String Lake to Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National park
(If we can use the college trailer and it’s not full, we can probably bring some camping gear for a few people along with the kayaks.
The club and/or the drivers will not be responsible for the safety of items we transport for you.)
Flora and Fauna
Fall trips (mid-September)
The first aspen will be turning yellow, enough for some great pictures, with other shrubs and trees turning yellow, gold, red or orange. The peak fall color will be later than when we are there, but most of us can’t miss the first week of classes. (The amount and timing of fall colors depends on the weather. In 2009 there never really was much color.) Last of or the start of the crop of lots of kinds of ripe berries for birds and animals.
There will still be some wildflowers.
The Lady’s thumb knotweed (an aquatic plant) will be blooming on the edges of some waterways giving the impression, in the early morning low angled light, of a pink mist floating on the water.
Probable sightings of bison, a shaggy, dark brown cow-like mammal, (10 to 12 foot long, 5-6 feet at the shoulder), (larger herds in Yellowstone: summer 2008 estimate of 3,000 in Yellowstone, summer 2009 3,300, winter 2009 2,900); elk (5 feet tall, 9 feet long), moose (7 feet tall, 9 feet long with 5 feet wide antlers, eat 40 pounds of plants a day).
photo below of a dining moose courtesy of http://rickkonrad.com/
We will mostly see moose wherever they find food. Your first moose sighting could be while hiking, out paddling, or even in a hotel parking lot (when these people got too close) or at a gas station:
In 1992 estimates had the moose population in excess of 3,500 but the total shrank to around 1,700 by 2003, due perhaps the poor nutrition and predation. A NPS report said, in 2014, “The Wyoming Game and Fish Department makes an annual winter estimate of herd size based on the number of moose counted in aerial surveys. The count for 2014 totaled 241 moose (50 within Grand Teton), producing a Jackson herd estimate of 450 animals. Ratios were estimated at 33 calves and 96 bulls per 100 cows.
On warm days moose will seek relief from the heat, at least deeply shady moist spaces. They can’t tolerate temperatures warmer than 55 to 60 degrees and head into the water to cool down when the temps reach 75 to 80 degrees.
If you have never seen elk or moose before, a size comparison is at
Hawk migrations going through (with some Cooper’s, Sharpshinned and Marsh Hawks as well as a few kestrels, merlins or peregrin falcons). Possible sightings of Canada geese “v”s by mid September, great blue herons, osprey (sometimes hover 30-100 feet above water before diving for a fish, then arranges the fish with it’s head pointed forward to reduce resistance while flying),
trumpeter swans (8′ wingspan; mate for life), American white pelicans (their huge yellow beak and throat pouch distinguish them from swans), peregrine falcons (dive at up to 200 mph and strike prey in mid-air), Bald Eagles, deer, beavers and muskrats.
When the Bald Eagle was taken off the Endangered Species List on June 28, 2007, there were 12 nests in Grand Teton, 18 on private land in Teton County, six in Bridger-Teton National Forest and one in Bureau of Land Management territory. Most were close to the Snake River. As of 2012 there were 16 nesting bald eagle territories “but not all nests are active and fledge young each year. All territories are monitored for activity by the NPS. Known territories are located along the shorelines of the Snake River, Jackson Lake, and adjacent riparian areas. The park establishes, and enforces a 0.5 mile seasonal area closure from February 15 to August 15 around bald eagle nests to minimize human disturbance. . .”
We saw 4 to 7 northern river otters while out kayaking in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2009. One source says they are able to stay underwater for up to eight minutes, another says 2-3 minutes while swimming at 6 miles per hour. Fast humans who can do a 100 meter freestyle in 1 minute are swimming at 3 miles per hour.
From a distance it can be hard to tell which small animal you see swimming. But each swims differently. River otters undulate through the water. When a beaver swims, only his head shows above the water, not his tail; muskrats show both their head and part of their back.
We might see coyotes and will probably hear them if we are out in the morning or evening. On the 2006 trip we heard wolves early one morning. Coyotes sing in more of a yip, wolves have the deeper howl.
Hear a wolf howl at http://www.nature.nps.gov/naturalsounds/
Gray wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone Park in 1995/6 and spread. In 1997 the first wolves were spotted in Grand Teton. In 1999 the first litter of wolf pups in Grand Teton in over 70 years was born.
A total of eight wolf packs were believed to have used parts of the Teton Valley in 2006. In 2007 four wolf packs had territories that overlapped parts of Grand Teton Park. (Estimates) The Buffalo pack (9 adults, 6 pups) and Huckleberry pack (7 adults, 2 pups) denned in the park. The Teton pack had 3 adults and 5 pups, the Pacific Creek pack had 9 adults and 4 pups. Yellowstone estimated 171 in 2007, 124 in 2008, and 96 to 98 in 2009. In 2008 Grand Teton had 6 packs with 45-50 wolves.
In 2010 five packs likely denned in the Jackson Hole area, including Phantom Springs (9 wolves) and Pacific Creek (12-14) packs in northern Grand Teton National Park and Buffalo (14), Antelope (4) and Pinnacle Peaks (4). A park resource page listed a minimum of 59 wolves in 6 packs in the Jackson Hole area and also listed the further south Phantom Springs pack (9).
A 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wyoming annual report had more details about Yellowstone packs, but listed 38 known wolf packs in Wyoming with 230 wolves and had a map/listings as of December 2011 with Snake River (7), Huckleberry (6), Pacific Creek (12), Phantom Springs (13), Lower Gros Ventre (3 wolves) packs within Grand Teton park.
A 2012 newpaper report quoted Grand Teton park as saying there were “six packs made up of about 50 wolves.”
A 2014 map from a Grand Teton National Park webpage showed home ranges of 6 wolfpacks, all of which were both in the park and in surrounding areas. From the north, going south, they were Snake River, Huckleberry, Phantom Springs, Lower Slide, Lower Gros Ventre and Pinnacle.
The report with the map said, in part: “At the end of 2014, at least 333 wolves in 44 packs (25 breeding pairs) inhabited Wyoming, including Yellowstone National Park . . . Six wolf packs had home ranges that overlapped portions of GRTE (Grand Teton) in 2014. Three of these packs were counted as breeding pairs at year‐end. Within GRTE, the wolf population reached a peak in 2009 – when 76 wolves in 7 packs were documented. Total numbers have declined since then, but the number of packs has remained stable.”
You don’t need to be afraid if you are lucky enough to hear wolves howling or see wolves. In Rocky Mountain Natural History, by Daniel Mathews, we read: “wolves don’t hurt people. I’m not saying never ever not even once, but it’s so rare, we could have fun listing housepets and house hold objects that pose more danger. Um, pit bulls, bobby pins…”
In areas where wolves dominate instead of coyotes, Pronghorn (antelope) fawns are three times more likely to survive, because the wolves favor larger prey.
Pronghorn (can run 30 mph for 15 miles with spurts up to 70 mph, from the Smithsonian “communicate with each other visually by raising the mane on the back of the neck into a stiff brush and erecting the white hairs on their rump”) are often seen on our trips. About 300 summer in the park
A 2013 newspaper article said there were about 18 mountain lions and an equal number of cubs in the Jackson area.
Bears may start digging their winter dens that they will occupy from November +/- (females with cubs earlier than males) until (males) March or (females) April (First bear tracks were reported March 15, 2013, for example.) They will still be foraging for food to put on their needed fat layer to make it through the over half-year winter. From the Smithsonian “Grizzly bears are omnivorous, consuming everything from mosses, fungi, herbs, grasses, fruits, berries, small vertebrates, insects, birds, and fish—especially salmon during their spawning run.” They will be trying to eat 20,000 calories a day; picture yourself eating 35 Big Macs.
Grizzlies are seen more frequently in the Tetons than in previous years, and not just up in the high mountains, but occasionally down in the flatlands where we camp or cabin overnight and do most of our sightseeing and kayaking. The odds are will not see any, but you must read your safety in grizzly bear territory. One trip member saw a mom and three young grizzlies on the 2007 trip. Two of us watched a sow for quite awhile on the 2010 trip.
From a 2007 Grand Teton National Park press release:
“Despite the fact that visitors to neighboring Yellowstone National Park have typically had many opportunities to see grizzly bears, the visible presence of grizzlies in Grand Teton National Park has not been as common until recently. Researchers have increasingly radio-collared and tracked grizzly bears in the park since the 1990s. Although some local residents, and park visitors believe there are few if any grizzlies in Jackson Hole, current research indicates that grizzlies can be found anywhere in Grand Teton.”
In 2007 there were 571 grizzlies (estimate) and in 2010, 602 grizzlies (estimate) in the greater Grand Teton / Yellowstone area, about 10 to 15% collared. A Wyoming Game and Fish department report said in Wyoming in 1982 there were 102 and 469 in 2010.
A 2012 park video said there are usually around 100 black bears and 70 grizzlies in the park.
“In May 2006, a ten-year-old female grizzly bear emerged from her winter den somewhere in the Bridger-Teton Wilderness with three newborn cubs in tow. This bear family living in the heart of Grand Teton National Park has become a highlight attraction for park visitors and local residents alike. Glimpses of the young family bring out cameras, smiles, and exclamations of delight. The female and her offspring serve as one of the most visible examples of grizzly bear recovery efforts that have been underway for several decades throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. These bears are also a vivid reminder of the need for park managers, staff, and visitors to be continually vigilant in ensuring conservation of these grizzlies and other park wildlife…”
Elk bugling, a low bellow/grunt followed by a higher-note-than-the-first-soprano-faculty-advisor-can-reach whistle that carries a long distance, will be at its peak. (The high notes waver around a G three octaves above middle C, and down to a grunt resembling the G an octave and a half below middle C.)
The largest bulls bugle to amass harems of up to 60 cows and the younger ones try to. (From the Smithsonian: Elk “herds can include 200 or more animals. Males and females usually congregate in separate herds until the breeding season, in late September or early October. Then adult males use a variety of ostentatious behaviors to distinguish themselves and compete for access to reproducing females. They use their elaborate six-tined antlers, which may measure nearly 2 m in length along the main shaft, to clash with one another, they call loudly, and they spray urine.” The Yellowstone Park website said “Bulls bugle to announce their availability and fitness to cows and challenge other bulls. When answered, bulls move towards one another and sometimes engage in battle for access to the cows. They crash their antlers together, push each other intensely, and wrestle for dominance. While loud and extremely strenuous, fights rarely cause serious injury. The weaker bull ultimately gives up and wanders off.”
In A Field Guide to Mammal Tracks, Olaus Murie described an elk bugle, or as he called it “Wapiti music: … It rises with a glide to a high-pitched silvery note, then glides down again, to end in some guttural grunts.”
In his memoir Teewinot: Climbing and Contemplating the Teton Range, Jack Turner, Exum guide and corporate president writes: “The sound the bull elk makes during the rut is, everyone agrees, difficult to describe. The word bugling leaves too much to the imagination, but attempts to be more specific usually end up being humorous. The early English hunters were particularly eloquent and fanciful. Sir Price said: ‘It is a decided whistle, not unlike a soft note on a clarinet, ending with a very mild sort of grunt at the finish–a most difficult sound to describe, but one which I am happy to say we became very familiar with before the hunt was over. It is the most gentle musical sound that emanates from any animal I ever met with.’
“Not to be outdone, Baillie Grohman said: ‘It is very hard to imitate, or describe. It is neither a whistle or a bellow. Not unlike some tones produced by an Aeolian harp, it might also be compared to the higher notes produced by the flageolet, and of course it is entirely different from the red deer’s call.’
“Olaus Murie’s description in The Elk of North America is, in the best tradition of American pragmatism, more prosaic, but it rings true: ‘The call begins on a low note, glides upward until it reaches high, clear, buglelike notes, which are prolonged, then drops quickly to a grunt, followed by a series of grunts. The call may be very roughly represented thus: A-a-a-a-ai-e-eeeeeeeee-eough! e-uh! e uh!’”
Please note it is against park regulations to imitate an elk bugle or wolf/coyote howl
or use any artificial or natural audio attractants (including rattling antlers)
to attract or disturb wildlife.
A report from 2014 said the Jackson herd numbered 11,423 elk
Elk graze near the streets of Mammoth and the Albright Visitor Center in Yellowstone. An Oct. 2007 report said that ten cars in Yellowstone had been gored that fall by rutting bull elk who “are prone to take their frustration and hormones out on anything that stands in the way of their cows.” Another report said a bull elk charged a big yellow dump truck. A ranger who works in the fall at keeping people away from the elk said “We try to create as safe of an environment as we can, but we can’t make the park risk free. But every time you get off your sofa, you have an elevated risk.”
photos below of bison, moose and elk courtesy of NPS
To see elk in the spring, summer or fall, don’t head for the National Elk Refuge, at the edge of the town of Jackson. You may have seen pictures of 10,000 plus (one year the estimate was 17,000) animals who are only fed there in the winter from around December to March. (2007-8 winter had roughly 8,000 elk at the refuge of a total of 12,370 in the Jackson elk herd.)
For your safety while wildlife viewing, enjoy viewing them from your car, or a safe distance away (25 yards at least for most wildlife, and 100 yards for bears, moose, elk, bison and wolves).
How far away is 100 yards? Picture the length of a football field without the end zones.
25 yards? picture four car lengths or six kayak lengths, or the width of the De Anza College swimming pool.
You will r e a l l y want your own binoculars.
The club owns a few pairs of waterproof binoculars, but not enough for a large group. With binoculars you can see the river otters up closer when we are out paddling:
Flora and Fauna
Summer trips (late June)
See the description for fall above, with these notes:
The trees and shrubs will be leafed out in their new bright green or dark green. Mid June is the fullest flush of wildflower bloom. June is birthing time for many animals.
Most of the migrating birds will have moved back into the park and will be building nests, sitting on eggs or hatching eggs. (some nesting started as early as March.) As we remind people on our ocean kayak trips, keep the noise down. Any unnecessary expenditure of energy can harm a feeding or nesting bird or animal. Nesting birds may fly away from the nest exposing unprotected eggs and hatchlings to the sun’s heat or predators.
There will be some kinds of baby ducks and they really do swim behind mom in a line and even try to climb up on her back for a ride.
The adult Canada Geese we saw flying in “V”s in fall will still be molting and will be flightless.
The large hoofed mammals, such as elk, deer, moose, bison and pronghorns, give birth in June and by early July will be letting their babies out of hiding a little more, but they will still be very protective and dangerous. These mammals will have shed their heavy winter coats.
By early August most of the bird nesting activity is over. By mid August the Unita ground squirrels go back into their winter burrows for hibernation.
What kind of weather should we plan for?
We usually have some sunny days warm enough to swim in the lakes. It will probably rain part of the trip and we could even a have a light dusting of snow. In 2007 and 2014 we had a couple of huge thunderstorms. It can be cold at night. Grand Tetons Weather has the details.
During a thunderstorm, don’t take a shower or use a sink, including washing dishes. Don’t talk on a land line phone. Don’t use your I pod. Please read Thunderstorm and lightning safety
GEAR TO BRING:
You’ll need warm weather gear, including your swim suit, and cold weather gear, especially for early morning paddling and any overnight camping.
Grand Tetons trip equipment has details and advice based on previous trips.
You will really want your own binoculars.
No drones. Use of drones is illegal in National Parks. Animals get aggressive when people fly drones around/over them, endangering everyone in the vicinity. Do not approach people using a drone, but please try to get the vehicle license number (and if possible make, model and color) / campsite number and description of anyone using a drone and report them to Rangers. If you have cell phone coverage, call park dispatch. The phone number for dispatch is usually in the park newspaper you receive when you enter the park. (When people fly drones around forest fires, the helicopters with firefighters and tankers with sprays to put out the fire can’t fly!)
Since different people will have different budgets: drive or fly; some may camp, some may get a hotel room / suite, (most usually get a cheap cabin), the trip cost will vary.
Think you can’t afford this trip? Think again, and read Grand Tetons trip cost , it has examples of
The cheap trip,
The not-so cheap trip,
The slightly more costly trip, but less driving time,
also known as the I-can’t-get-much-time-off-work trip,
and The expensive trip.
photo by Wendy Sato
photos below by Quang-Tuan Luong/terragalleria.com, all rights reserved.
More details, info:
Grand Tetons trip transportation has flight info, driving distances and guesses at gas cost, previous trip examples, AND trip notes with where to find some mega-cheaper gas stations and ways to keep from driving the slow route through towns we need to go through by not taking the obvious freeway exit.
In an emergency in the park, call 911 as usual. But your cell phone would get to park dispatch faster if you dial 1 (307) 739-3301 (2017).
In a not quite emergency, there is a medical clinic on the grounds of Jackson Lake Lodge, near the gas station, ten miles from Colter Bay, open 7 days a week in the summer, usually 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (307-543-2514, 307-733-8002 after hours). No appointment needed. See the map at: Jackson Lake Lodge vicinity
Grand Tetons September 2004 has pictures from that trip, including two bull moose head-to-head.
The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce site is at:
Another big site of info is at:
and yet another is at:
Be careful when you request info from these as some require that you give them your email address and they will give it out to lots of their advertisers.
The Jackson Hole News and Guide (newspaper site) is:
We found Wyoming public radio with the usual Morning Edition, All Things Considered, BBC Newshour, Fresh Air and late evening classical music or jazz at 90.3 (Jackson) and 91.3 (Dubois).
Park Service maps of Grand Tetons are at:
Black and white aerial photo/maps are at:
Teewinot, the park newspaper, is at:
The park publications page is at:
especially check out the flowering times of flowers and shrubs at
Geology of Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, U.S.A, at:
has a geologic map and cross-section of the rocks of Grand Teton, and discussions of the geologic structure and glaciation.
NPS Teton geology lesson:
photos below used with permission from Ron Niebrugge: http://www.wildnatureimages.com/
My page of: Grand Tetons recommended reading
includes links to on-line bird and mammal field guides and The Journals of Lewis and Clark
Clark: “…bison were so numerous and loud that the men had difficulty sleeping.”
Worth reading: the wildife section at: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/resourceandissues.htm
A live shot of Old Faithful geyser (in Yellowstone) is at: http://www.nps.gov/yell/oldfaithfulcam.htm
Old Faithfull erupts on an average of every 79 minutes, with a huge jet of hot water up to 204 ° F and up to 180 feet high.
A map of Grand Teton and Yellowstone webcams with links is at:
The trip is open only to De Anza students/staff. Answers to most questions about how the club works are at: Outdoor Club Basic Info The main rules common to most of our trips, including who is eligible to go, are at: Outdoor Club trip rules.
For details about club events and on how to find us to pay for a membership, sign up for events or volunteer, go to:
We can expect sunny days and rain, or possibly even a little overnight snow. Interesting weather does not cancel club events. Club activity areas, and all park restrooms or other buildings are non-smoking. Even though there is smoking allowed in Wyoming restaurants, all National Park restaurants, etc. are non-smoking. No alcohol or drug use is allowed during club activities. This is not just a rule written to make the College happy, it is a trip rule.
The trip will only be an official club event while we are kayaking (or canoeing), and possibly a hike or some other sightseeing or a group meal at a restaurant.
How you get to Grand Teton National Park, where you stay overnight, most meals, most sightseeing, any bike riding, whitewater rafting or horseback riding, going to a movie in town, etc. will not be official club business.
The faculty advisor must be along for all kayak/canoe use, and all safety recommendations by the advisor, park and De Anza
rules must be followed.
Only currently enrolled De Anza students can go on club events. People who want to go on an event between quarters must be enrolled in the following quarter. For example, to go on a late summer trip you need to be already enrolled in Fall quarter. Faculty are subject to various rules depending on whether they are full time, ten month, part time, on sabbatical or Article 19 and should contact the club advisor well in advance of an event they want to participate in.
Grand Tetons trip pages index has brief descriptions of most of the pages about this trip.
Photo below by Fred Hanselmann http://www.hanselmannphotography.com/Pictures_of_the_tetons.html)