We wound up this RV trip with stays at Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) and two state parks in Colorado. Grand Teton National Park has been a favorite of ours for several years, and this was our 4th trip in 5 years. We were a little early to get the best of the Grand Teton wildlife, and the smoke and haze from western wildfires was worse here than in Glacier and Yellowstone. At times, we couldn’t even see the Teton Range for which the park is named.
Grand Teton National Park: We love staying in the Gros Ventre Campground in the southern part of Grand Teton NP. It’s fabulous for moose-viewing in September and October, but even in August, it’s a relaxing campground that makes you feel like you’re really camping.
Using Gros Ventre as our base, we drove the Antelope Flats Road several times (usually a hot spot for wildlife, but not right now), revisited favorite drives along the Teton Park Road, and headed to two spots that were new to us.
Schwabacher Landing shows up in the books a lot, but we had never gone there because we were afraid the road was too rough. This year we decided to give it a try. There is about one mile of gravel road, but it was not terrible. At the end of the road, there is a lovely walking path along a fork of the Snake River. We can imagine that at certain times of the year or day, there are lots of bigger animals enjoying this access to the water.
We enjoyed a bit of a view of the mountains, plus just being alongside this waterway. Birds, bugs, and wildflowers gave us ample sights and sounds. We definitely want to come back to this spot, some early morning or evening in fall—next trip?
Last year we took the Jenny Lake shuttle boat and then hiked to Inspiration Point and up Cascade Canyon. This year it did not make sense to do a hike that was so dependent on seeing mountain scenery, so we did an 8-mile hike along String Lake and Leigh Lake (just north of Jenny Lake). Though we didn’t see much in the way of large mammals (one fleeting deer), we really enjoyed this easy, level, shaded walk along the lakes. We again had great bird and bug sightings, and the mountains would occasionally make themselves visible from behind the smoke and haze.
In the evening, we relaxed at the campsite, in search of moose making their way to the Gros Ventre River. Our cats rated this campground as their second favorite (my brother’s cabin in Puget Sound, Washington, was number 1) because they had lots of room to roam with no other campers close by. The only thing missing from this visit was a moose sighting—I prayed to see just one.
On our last morning in Gros Ventre, I looked out the RV window at 6:30 a.m., and saw a mother moose and her calf munching on leaves behind the campsite next to us. We were able to go outside and watch the pair for about 20 minutes as they stripped leaves off their favorite plants and wandered toward the river. Check out this 1-minute video clip of Mom and Baby Moose.
These two moose made our trip perfect in terms of wildlife sightings (what a great answer to prayer). In Glacier, we saw mountain goats, grizzly bears, and bighorn sheep. In Yellowstone, we saw wolves, black bears, bison, elk, and pronghorn. In Grand Teton, we saw moose and deer, completing our 10 big animal sightings that epitomize the Rocky Mountains for us.
We headed southeast, traveling to the Boulder, Colorado, area in two days. We had to make an unexpected pitstop in Dubois, WY, because of engine trouble on the motorhome. Fortunately, we were only slightly delayed, and made it to St. Vrain State Park in time for dinner at a local brewery with our cousin-in-law Tom.
St. Vrain State Park is right off Interstate-25, and was such a joy to find in the midst of a metropolitan area. We camped right on Bald Eagle Pond and enjoyed sightings of deer, white pelicans, osprey, and prairie dogs as we drove, rode, and walked around. It’s got a wonderful series of fishing ponds and bike/walking trails, and our cats rated the campsite with two paws up.
While at St. Vrain, we were able to have multiple visits with my stepmother Joan and her nephew Tom, plus Tom’s five dogs. Tom is a terrific cook, and he treated us to delicious dinners for three nights in a row! He also let me use his home and wifi to do a Zoom Professional Development session for 20 teachers, while he and Hank took the five dogs on a national forest hike.
Heading west, we spent two nights at the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park near Grand Junction (Western Colorado). This park is a great stopping place along I-70, and we enjoyed walking on the bike path along the Colorado River, where we saw deer, lizards, and all kinds of birds. (We couldn’t ride our bikes because of two flat tires and only one spare inner tube ☹.)
Another reason we like this state park is its proximity to Colorado National Monument. This part of the national park system is located on the Colorado Plateau and therefore has similarities to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It has beautiful scenes around every corner and curve, which are definitely hard to capture with our amateur photography skills. This was also one of the clearest parks on this trip–so many others were hazy with wildfire smoke, but we had some rain that left beautiful blue skies behind.
Colorado National Monument also is a terrific place to spot desert bighorn sheep. We encountered a ram with his harem, and a couple of rival males that he had to chase away.
I know we try to keep politics out of our posts, but I really believe that Colorado National Monument should be upgraded to a national park! I mean, if Hot Springs and Gateway Arch qualify as national parks, why not this location that is every bit as scenic as many national parks in the Southwest? Okay, rant over. But seriously, if you have never visited Colorado National Monument, take two hours next time you’re driving along I-70 near Grand Junction. You will not be disappointed.
We’re heading home from here via I-70, I-15, I-210, etc. It’s been a wonderful seven weeks of seeing family and friends, and visiting some of the most iconic national parks in the country. Thanks for enjoying the sights with us! Here’s a final critter video from these parks (1:30), including the desert bighorn sheep in action.
And here are more macro photos from Hank’s amazing bug collection: