Tag Archives: Grand Tetons

Wyoming – Grand Tetons

 I love, love, love Grand Teton National Park.  I think that it is an often overlooked national park and people don’t give it the consideration that they should since Yellowstone is so close.  I do enjoy Yellowstone, but the 2 times we’ve been to Wyoming, I’ve found that we spent most of our time in the Tetons.  Why do I like it so much?

  • Size – Relatively speaking, it’s scale is more compact, especially when compared to Yellowstone (approximately 310,000 acres compared to 2.2 million acres).  And yet there is so much to do in the park.
  • Many differing levels of hiking - You can go on multi-day hikes or an hour or so hikes, both that take you to amazing places.
  • Wildlife - Many animals make the Grand Tetons your home.  While we were there on this trip, we saw moose, elk, mule deer, bison, and coyotes to name a few.  If there is a specific animal you want to see, ask a ranger at one of the Visitor Centers where’s the best place for viewing.  For example, if you want to see moose, you should look on the Moose-Wilson Road fairly close to the main Visitor Center.  We knew if we set out early in the morning, we were pretty much gauranteed that we would see one.
  • Water Activies – From swimming to canoeing to boating, there is so much to do on the lakes in the Tetons.
  • The Views – The Tetons are spectacular.  Because of how they were formed, you don’t have foothills and they appear to rise straight up out of the ground and lakes.
  • Proximity to Amenities – Grand Teton National Park is right outside Jackson, WY.  I loved that we could go to a regular grocery store.

Here are a few pictures as an overview to our trip to the Tetons.  This first picture is from the most popular hike in the Tetons.  The hike takes you to Hidden Falls (first picture) and Inspiration Point (second picture).  You can either take a ferry over to a trailhead at the bottom of the mountain or you can hike over from the South Jenny Lake Visitor Center.  Since the kids were joining us for the hike, we took the ferry over.

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This was a bison we saw from the main road between the Grand Tetons and Yellowsone.

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View from the road up Signal Mountain.

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Wyoming – Junior Ranger Program and Young Scientist Program

 I loved both the Junior Ranger Program and the Young Scientist Program!  They both helped our kids get really engaged in the parks.  And I learned a lot too from the programs.  Here’s how the programs work:

Junior Ranger Program

The Junior Ranger Program is a program that many of the National Parks offer.  The activities you do are different for each park so that you learn about the park.  Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton required that the kids go to a Ranger Talk and do some activities like word searches or answering questions about the animals in the park.  The activities you have to do change based on how old you are.  Aftering completing the activities for your age group, you return your newspaper to a ranger at any Visitor Center.  They review your work and swear you in as a Junior Ranger.  At Grand Teton National Park, you have a choice of a patch or a badge pin.  At Yellowstone, they only had the patches (which I preferred, but my sons preferred the pins).

Grand Teton National Park asked for a $1 donation to participate in the program.  Yellowstone was free of charge (I think because this year is its 20th anniversary, the program paper actually had $3 at the top of the paper).  Here’s a link to the Grand Teton program newspaper.  Here’s a link to the Yellowstone Junior Ranger page.  There are links on the page to the newspapers.  There is one for 5-7 year olds and one for 8-12 year olds.  Anyone can participate in the Grand Teton Junior Ranger program, even adults.  One of the shopkeepers in the park told us about that and said his wife did it.

The Grand Teton National Park has another route to earning your Junior Ranger badge for 8 – 12 year olds.  They hold Junior Ranger program event at the South Jenny Lake Visitor Center.  It’s an hour and a half program.  You can make a reservation for your child at any of the Visitor Centers.  The day of the program you drop your child off at the flag pole outside of the Visitor Center.  At the end of the program, you meet your child back at the flag pole where they perform the swearing in ceremony and receive their badge.

Showing the Ranger their work in Yellowstone

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Swearing in Ceremony after the Grand Teton Junior Ranger Program

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Swearing in at the Grand Teton Visitor Center After Completing the Activities

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Young Scientist Program

This program was really neat.  The program consists of an activity book that kids 5 and up complete to earn a Young Scientist patch or keychain.  The activities revolve around the geyers and thermal features and the amount of activites you need to complete is dependent on your age.  The basic premise is the kids need to hypothesize if geyers are alive.  They then complete activities to test their hypothesis.  This booklet does take awhile to complete, so be prepared to spend at least 3 hours.

The program is only offered at the Old Faithful Visitor Center in Yellowstone and costs $5.  As part of the program, you can check out a Young Scientist backpack to use free of charge.  Included in the backpack is a wheel that shows you how hot a thermal feature is based on the color, colored pencils, rock samples, and a laser thermometer.  The laser thermometer was so cool!  You pointed it at the various thermal features and it would tell you how hot they were.  The highest reading we got was 185 degrees!

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National Parks Passport and the Junior Ranger Program

I want to make sure our kids learn something while enjoying our vacation to Wyoming.  There are so many topics that you could choose to try to teach them that it can be a bit overwhelming.  I did a Google search to try to find lesson plans.  Unfortunately, most of them were for on-line learning instead of learning while at the parks.  But I did come across a great resource that we’ll be using when we go – the Junior Ranger Program.  Kids “complete a series of activities during their park visit, share answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger badge or patch and Junior Ranger certificate.”  The program has activities at many of the National Parks, including Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Yellowstone also has a Young Scientist Program.  In this program, kids “investigate the mysteries of Yellowstone by completing activities in the visitor center and the field…Once your investigation is complete, you will be awarded an official Young Scientist patch or key chain.”

The National Parks Rangers have a series of programs at both parks.  At Grand Teton National Park, they hold Campfire Talks, Featured Creatures, and Jenny Lake Twilight Talks (and many others) for kids and adults alike.  Click here to get the listing of current activities around the Grand Tetons and here to get the listing of current activities around Yellowstone.

We want to expose our kids to as many National Parks as we can.  When I told a friend about that, she suggested that I look into the National Parks Passport.  It is a booklet that tells you about the National Parks and gives you a place to collect stamps at the National Parks that you visit.  They also have a Kids’ Passport.  I really like the Kids’ Passport even for adults.  The Kids’ Passports organizing the National Parks by theme (e.g. Civil War Stories, Stories about African Americans, Stories about Our War for Independence, Stories of American Presidents, etc).  eParks.com sells both of these items.  If you are interested in both, I’d suggest getting the Passport to the National Parks 25th Anniversary Edition and Kids’ Passport Companion Set.  This comes with both items and a National Park System Map and Guide (wall map).

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