The Most Beautiful Trip I’ve Ever Taken
In October 2020 my friend and I booked a long weekend trip to the Grand Tetons. Neither of us had been to that part of the country before, and we were pleasantly surprised every step of the way by the sheer, heart-stopping beauty of the western American landscape. The only thing wrong with our trip was that it simply was not long enough; we could have stayed forever, but it still made a lovely Columbus Day Weekend trip! Laying out our entire itinerary here!
*Note: we are both pretty last minute/non type A people, so we each had a few things written down we wanted to do and played the entire trip by ear, planning day by day as we went. It was a wonderful, relaxing way to do it as so much depended on weather! I urge you to keep that in mind and not get too bent up on a precise schedule!
Where We Stayed
I’m an Airbnb girl through and through. It always feels so much more authentic than a hotel and I’ve truly never had a bad experience (read reviews!). We knew we wanted an outdoorsy trip, but being Manhattanites we didn’t want it to be too outdoorsy, so when we found this glamping situation called Moose Creek Ranch, we knew this was it! Nestled on a river in Victor, ID (35 min drive from Jackson) each tent is equipped with a queen sized bed, a wood burning stove and is a close walk to the (very clean) communal bathroom.
When we arrived we were greeted by our host who escorted us to our tent and started our fire for us. We were there for peak foliage in mid-October, so it was a bit chilly at night but totally do-able if you bring the right clothes (I brought jeans, leggings, sweaters, a sweatshirt, Uggs, a big coat, fuzzy socks, fleece pajamas and hiking clothes & shoes). Being city girls, we could not for the life of us keep our fire going for very long, but after a couple glasses of red wine and huddling under blankets we were quite cozy and we were lulled to sleep by the rushing of the river just down the path. Don’t get me started on the stars! I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many. There was a lodge just a few steps away complete with a kitchen for our use, a keurig for coffee/hot chocolate, a pool table and massive fireplace. If you’re not into glamping, they also have cabins, campgrounds for tents and an Airstream available for rent. I cannot recommend this place enough, my soul actually aches to return one day.
Although we spent the majority of our time smack on the border between Idaho and Wyoming, we flew into Bozeman, MT airport and rented a car. The price of the rental car for four days was less than it would be in NYC for a few hours so we were stoked! Although it logistically would have made more sense to fly into Jackson, we chose Bozeman because it was a.) cheaper and b.) allowed us to see more of Montana since our weekend trip didn’t grant us much time. The drive from Bozeman to Victor is about 3.5 hours, which admittedly was a little long BUT so beautiful, we didn’t mind one bit. If you’re not into driving that much, I definitely recommend flying into Jackson instead!
*Note: We stopped at a grocery store before heading to our campsite and loaded up on snack-ables: granola bars, apples, oatmeal packets, ahem…wine…etc things we could easily eat in our tent and take with us on day trips. Victor is a VERY small town so we wanted to be sure we wouldn’t starve. We did find a good restaurant but more on that later…
Bozeman Airport views Just a city gal on the loose!
Like I mentioned before, we played it by ear and planned according to the weather. Our first day had a perfect forecast, so we got up before the sun, dressed in layers in the morning, heated up some oatmeal in the lodge and headed to Grand Teton National Park. To get there, you drive just a few minutes off the campsite and you’ve crossed the border into Wyoming over breathtaking mountains, a bit further you come into Jackson and then you hit the Tetons.
My friend had heard of a hike to a lake with aquamarine waters on the website All Trails. Although not marked on the hiking trails in GT, all the reviews said the view at Delta Lake triumphed all the others, so we did it! Be forewarned: I’m not an avid hiker, but I’ve done my fair share and this was very challenging. All Trails rates it as “strenuous”. It took us 4 hours to reach the lake and another 1.5 to get down, and don’t forget an hour or more to enjoy the view! The beginning of the climb (~3 hours) is pretty standard, but the last hour or so you’re scrambling (literally crawling) up a decently steep boulder field (see picture below, we couldn’t stand up straight in fear of toppling over backwards) and I struggled to catch my breath. Never fear; the end is WORTH IT. The aquamarine waters are sublime, as is the expansive view beneath you. If you can swing a challenging hike, do it!!! If not, there are so many other options such as Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls and more (check the AllTrails website!)
Too steep to stand up straight! WORTH IT!
We were starving after the hike, so we stumbled upon this bar and restaurant (it reminded me of the Swiss Alps) right in Grand Teton and treated ourselves to some pizza. The food was fine, nothing to write home about, but the views were absolutely breathtaking so I fully recommend it! After that, we took a scenic drive back home to Moose Creek Ranch and enjoyed some wine by the creek and went early to bed.
Dornan’s Pizza & Pasta Company Wine at the campsite
The next morning was truly extraordinary. We had been in awe by the golden foliage we had seen on the previous two days, but during the night a snowstorm had fallen over Moose Creek Ranch and we awoke in Narnia and stepped out of our tent into a snow globe. It didn’t last long as the temperature rose, and by the afternoon you would have never known it had snowed, but I will be forever grateful we had the privilege of experiencing two magical seasons at once.
Our tent in the snow Pure glee
Anyway, we had really wanted to go horseback riding this day, but unfortunately everything was too wet because of the snow so we promised ourselves we’d come back in the summer. IF WEATHER PERMITS WHEN YOU GO, PLEASE GO HORSEBACK RIDING FOR ME!!! Our Airbnb host even recommended a local company that did horseback riding + dinner in the mountains, I’m sorry I don’t have the details, but worth looking into!
Instead of horses, we drove out to Yellowstone (1 hr, 45 min drive). If I’m being completely honest I could have done without it. It was extremely crowded and we enjoyed the scenery of the drive through the Tetons to Yellowstone much more than Yellowstone itself. Don’t get me wrong, YS was beautiful, but it was touristy and I don’t like going to touristy places. Now, are my 3-hour-long impressions of Yellowstone completely unfair? Absolutely. I just mean if you’re only there for a long weekend like we were, its too much to cram in. I wish we had spent the time exploring Jackson and the Tetons instead. If you’re there for longer than a few days and have ample time to explore, go for it!
Grand Tetons Yellowstone from the car
We then drove over to Jackson and had a beer at Snake River Brewing before heading back to Victor to grab a surprisingly delicious dinner at the Knotty Pine, and ended the day with a late night campfire + pumpkin carving session with some friends we made back at the ranch.
This was sadly the day we had to leave, and why flying in/out of Jackson may make more sense! Even though we had late afternoon flights out, we had to account for the long drive back to Bozeman. We made sure to take a different route than we had on the way down, and we stopped in Big Sky, MT along the way and did a very brief hike. It was a bit rushed but we really wanted to cross Montana off of our list. I’m glad we saw it but we totally could have just saved it for another trip (I think being from the Northeast we underestimated how huge the states are out West)! Anyway, retrospect aside, our entire trip was nothing short of perfection and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Somewhere in Montana
What I’d Do Differently
- go for week instead of a weekend
- fly into Jackson instead of Bozeman to spend less time driving
- save Montana for a separate trip
- if just for a weekend-ditch YS and stick to Jackson and GT
- go horseback riding (weather permitting)
What I Wouldn’t Change
- staying at Moose Creek Ranch, or at least not staying in Jackson/a touristy area
- the people we met at the ranch-the guests and staff- everyone was genuinely lovely.
- the hike to Delta lake. It was hard but a top experience of my life
- waking up in Narnia
- although I just said I wouldn’t want to drive as much, the driving was so scenic, I loved it!
This was one of my favorite trips I’ve ever. I can’t even tell you how many times we were nearly brought to tears just from the beauty of the landscape, or how many times I stopped the car so we could get out and take pictures, or how many times we said to each other “this can’t get any better!”…but then it just kept getting better! Also, did I mention there are friendly goats and their shepherd dog at the ranch?! If that didn’t sell you, I don’t know what can 😉 Please comment if you go/plan to and let me know your thoughts!
Makin’ friends wherever I go Very busy herding goats
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