Take a Road Trip North to Jackson Hole on Route 89

Route Details Length: About 240 miles. When to go: May to October. Nearby attractions: Fossil Butte National Monument (fossil displays),

The Tetons
At 10 million years old, the Tetons are relatively young, but they contain rocks that are nearly 3 billion years old.

Route Details

Length:

About 240 miles.

When to go:

May to October.

Nearby attractions:

Fossil Butte
National Monument (fossil displays), west
of Kemmerer, Wyoming. Lava Hot Springs,
Idaho (known for its hot mineral pools).
Periodic Spring (the spring gushes every
18 minutes from an opening in a canyon
wall), in Bridger-Teton National Forest, near
Afton, Wyoming.

Visitor centers:

At Colter Bay, Jenny
Lake, and Moose in Grand Teton National
Park.

Further information:

Grand Teton
National Park, P.O. Drawer 170, Moose, WY
83 012; tel. 307-739-3300, www.nps.gov/grte/.

Bold and larger than life were the
trappers, hunters, homesteaders,
and prospectors who trod the ranges
and ridges of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming
a century and more ago. On this drive you’ll travel in their footsteps,
following them through still-untamed country that seems both
remote and accessible, forbidding
and beautiful. The reward at the end
of the road is a relatively small but
priceless jewel — glorious Grand
Teton National Park.

1. Logan Canyon Scenic Drive

From Logan, Utah, Rte. 89 follows
the Logan River northeast toward
Bear Lake. On either side of the
river rise the steep
slopes and dramatic limestone
cliffs of Logan Canyon. Among
the intriguing stops along the
route is the Preston Valley Campground,
where a sign calls attention
to a slab of quartz tunneled by
tiny seaworms some 400 million
years ago. Another is the Wood
Camp Campground, from which
a trail leads to the Jardine Juniper,
an evergreen believed to be more
than 1,500 years old.

2. Bear Lake Summit

After a climb of some 3,000 feet
between Logan and Bear Lake
Summit, the drive rewards travelers
with a breathtaking view of Bear
Lake, which shimmers with a
shade of blue-green so vivid it
looks like a tropical lagoon — or a
suburban swimming pool. A mile
farther on, another commanding
view overlooks not only Bear Lake,
but a horizon rimmed by the Sawtooth
Mountains to the northeast,
the Trump Range to the east, and
the Uintas to the southeast.

3. Bear Lake

Turning north at Garden City,
Rte.89 parallels the western shore
of Bear Lake, whose aquamarine
waters — colored by tiny suspended
particles — straddle the border
between Utah and Idaho. Because
geologic upheaval long ago isolated
it from surrounding bodies
of water, Bear Lake has managed
to nurture four species of fish
found nowhere else in the world.
The wide sandy beach at the lake’s
northern shore, part of Bear Lake
State Park, is a local mecca for
swimmers and picnickers. Just
north of the beach is Bear Lake
National Wildlife Refuge, 18,060
acres consisting mostly of wetlands
that provide nesting places for
snowy egrets, white-faced ibises,
and Franklin’s gulls.

4. Greys River Road

The fast way north to Jackson is
via well-traveled Rte. 89 through
the Star Valley, where the rugged
mountains of Wyoming flatten
and slide toward blandly bucolic
Idaho farmland. A more adventurous
route is the 80-mile, two-lane
gravel detour by way of the Smith
Fork and Greys River roads, beginning
at a turnoff about six miles
south of Smoot. Following a verdant
valley tucked between the
Wyoming and Salt River Mountains
and cloaked with lodgepole
pines (part of the Bridger-Teton
National Forest), the road runs
along the trout-rich Greys River.
Frequent turnouts invite hungry
travelers to pause for a picnic and
tempt eager anglers to wet a line
in the flowing waters.

5. Jackson

As the road approaches Jackson,
look down the highway and you’ll
see a strip of retail stores. Beyond
Jackson, look toward the Tetons
and you’ll see a classic Ansel Adams
image of natural grandeur.

These are the two faces of Jackson
Hole, a broad valley surrounded
by mountains (what 19th-century
trappers called a hole) that serves
as the opening corridor to Grand
Teton National Park. Though
Jackson is a welter of boutiques,
galleries, and restaurants, it is a
great base camp for the loop drive
through Grand Teton National
Park. Be sure to make reservations
for the busy summer season.

6. Jackson Hole Aerial Tram

An effortless alpine experience is
provided by the aerial tram that
in 10 minutes glides to the summit
of 10,450-foot Rendezvous
Peak, offering a view north into
the sharp-edged tableau of the
Tetons. The tram operates daily,
late May through September,
from the Jackson Hole Ski Resort
off Rte. 22, west of Jackson.

7. National Elk Refuge

Early in this century, Jackson
Hole’s majestic elk were dying by
the thousands in bitter-cold winters.
Consequently, in 1912 the
federal government established a
winter range for thousands of elk,
which evolved into this 25,000-
acre refuge. Elk dot the snowy
meadows from October to April
or May but head for the higher
elevations in summer. Rte. 89 skirts
the refuge’s western boundary,
often affording somewhat distant
views of the antlered beasts. For a
closer look, follow the signs from
Jackson to the National Wildlife
Art Museum and ride through
the herd in a horse-drawn sleigh.

8. Gros Ventre Loop

For a lesson in the geologic history
of Jackson Hole, take this 25-mile
loop through a part of Grand
Teton National Park overlooked
by most visitors. Turn east at Gros
Ventre Junction, paralleling the
Gros Ventre River to Kelly. One
mile north of Kelly, turn east on
the narrow, winding road that
leads to the site of a relatively
recent geologic cataclysm:
the Gros Ventre Slide. In June
1925 a mile-long layer of sandstone
suddenly tore loose from
Sheep Mountain and slid downhill,
damming the Gros Ventre River
and forming Lower Slide Lake.
Two years later a part of the lake
burst through its natural dam and
sent a wall of water rushing downstream
toward the town of Kelly,
which was virtually destroyed.

9. Teton Point Turnout

The route follows Antelope Flats
Road west to rejoin Rte. 89 (now
called the Jackson Hole Highway)
and then heads three miles
north to Teton Point Turnout.
While you are here, look up to an
imaginary point three-quarters of
a mile directly above you: that is
where the surface of the ice lay
when glaciers filled Jackson Hole.
To the west is a superb view of
the towering Tetons. Though the
mountains are relatively young
(less than 10 million years), some
of them contain the gneiss and
schist of far older rocks, nearly 3 billion years old.

10. Snake River Overlook

This turnout, atop a giant glacial
moraine deposited thousands of
years ago, affords a panoramic
view across Jackson Hole to the
Teton Range. The Snake River,
as serpentine as its name suggests,
is lined with willows, cottonwoods,
and aspens — an ideal habitat for
beavers, whose dams dot the
myriad streams that feed into the
great winding river.

11. Cunningham Cabin Historic Site

About a mile beyond the Snake
River Overlook lies Hedricks
Pond, a nesting site for rare trumpeter
swans and other waterfowl.
A bit farther along, an unpaved
road turns west off Rte. 89, leading
to the remains of a two-room,
sod-roofed cabin that was once
the home of Pierce and Margaret
Cunningham. Exemplars of the
pioneering spirit, the couple
worked this harsh land tenaciously
from 1890 until 1928, surviving in
spite of the region’s harsh winters,
short summers, and extreme isolation.

12. Oxbow Bend Turnout

Just south of Moran the drive
crosses the tiny Buffalo Fork River,
where Walter Delacy prospected
for gold in the 1860s. He found
no gold, so he journeyed north
and discovered an even greater
treasure, whose name at least
sounds golden: Yellowstone. The
map he made of the area
inspired
expeditions, which
led in 1872 to the establishment
of our first national park.

Far off to the west is 12,605-foot Mt. Moran, named for artist
Thomas Moran, whose paintings
of the West wowed the folks back
east. Farther down the road, at the
Oxbow Bend Turnout, moose and
mule deer roam the thickets
along the Snake River, and its
whispering waters are home to
beavers, otters, and muskrats. For
a closer look at the meander itself,
take the short unpaved road south
to Cattlemans Bridge. Because the
water is slow-moving here, plants
are anchored to the fertile riverbed
and fish gather in schools, attracting
pelicans, great blue herons,
cormorants, and bald eagles.

13. Signal Mountain

At Jackson Lake Junction turn
south on Teton Park Road (closed in winter). A few miles
farther along, turn east onto
Signal Mountain Road, a
paved spur leading to the top
of SignalMountain, about 1,000
feet above the valley floor. The
views from this road are perhaps
the grandest in the Jackson Hole
area. At the Jackson Point Overlook,
half a mile short of the summit,
a sweeping panorama faces
west, toward the Tetons. The view
was etched into the national consciousness
when, from this exact
spot in 1878, William Henry
Jackson photographed Mt. Moran
reflected in the surface of Jackson
Lake. From Signal Mountain’s
summit you can see all the way
north to Yellowstone. Two gleaming
lakes — Emma Matilda and
Two Ocean — lie to the northeast ,
the Snake River loops to the east
and south, and the Gros Ventre
Mountains rise beyond a flat expanse
of sagebrush.

14. Cathedral Group Turnout

At North Jenny Lake Junction,
bear right onto the one-way road
leading to one of the park’s most
spectacular viewpoints. As though
they had risen abruptly from the
valley floor, the majestic trio of
peaks known as Teewinot, Grand
Teton, and Owen do indeed echo
in granite the spires and symmetry
of a great Gothic cathedral.

15. String and Jenny Lakes

An easy 3 1/2-mile hiking trail encircles String Lake, the narrow connector
between Leigh Lake to the
north and Jenny Lake to the south.
In early summer the path winds
past clumps of calypso orchids,
which look like pink, spoon-tailed
birds in flight. They are one of the
loveliest of the
park’s 15 orchid species.

Farther south, a turnout looks
across cerulean Jenny Lake
into Cascade Canyon. Down the
road near the ranger station, you
can take a summer shuttle boat
across the lake to the Cascade Canyon
Trail. Its lower section wanders
through a wonderland of evergreens and wildflowers to such
inviting locations as Hidden Falls
and Inspiration Point, overlooking
Jackson Hole.

16. Teton Glacier Turnout

At the south end of Jenny Lake
the drive rejoins Teton Park Road
southbound. From the turnout
up ahead, you can view Teton
Glacier, one of 12 still active rivers
of slowly flowing ice in the range —
a reminder that the natural forces
that formed these mountains continue
imperceptibly but steadily.

17. Taggart Lake Trailhead

Another of those natural forces is
fire, and to the west at Taggart
Lake Trailhead, you can see the
scar of a 1985 blaze that burned
out of control with such intensity
that pines
literally exploded and boulders cracked
from the heat. Despite their seeming
destructiveness, however, forest
fires ignited by lightning cleansed
and regenerated forests for eons
and ecologists now question whether such blazes
should automatically be quenched.
An incidental legacy of the fire
is unblocked mountain
views and, in the summers, a riot of wildflowers.

18. Menor’s Ferry Historic Site

Exhibits at this site include an
old homestead dating from 1894,
a smokehouse, a well, Teton
memorabilia, and a replica of the
old cable ferry that operated here
until 1927. Most important, at this
site in 1923 a meeting was held
among farsighted conservationists
that led eventually to the creation of Grand Teton National Park.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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