After reading the post at Small Steps for Big Change on her pending summer road trip, it got me thinking about other awesome summer vacations people on a tight budget can take. It immediately led me back to many of my favorite vacations – almost all of them to different national parks in the country. Now, I know that these may not be cheap due to the rising price of gas, but for some of us, these unique areas are literally in our backyard. I am very aware of the fact that they are far more prevalent in the western united states where I live than they are on the east coast (just another reason why the mountain west is best), but the parks are still very, very cheap. Most are free to enter, but you need to pay to stay or camp, and some you need to pay to get in wether you camp or not (though this is usually only for the very popular parks). I’ve been to quite a few (in fact, I think next time I go to one, I’m going to totally nerd out and buy a national park passport book) and have enjoyed them immensely.
There is incredible diversity in the park: the tetons are full of climbers, cowbirds, fish and great hiking trails. The camping was also great
My first visit to Grand Teton National Park was in 2008 (over the 4th of july weekend), and it was amazing. The weather was great the whole time, and I saw some amazing things. The nice part about this park is that its about 20 miles away from another great wyoming park, Yellowstone National Park. The cost to enter both parks for 7 days (!!!) is a whopping $25 per carload. It’s only 12 if you enter by bike or on foot (though I wouldn’t suggest trying any of that, the parks are huge and are in a rather remote area of Wyoming. Unfortunately, because of their remote location, you’ll be paying quite a bit in travel costs to get there – it’s even quite a few hours (more than 5) away from where I live in Wyoming.
To get to the park, most people drive, but if you live rather far away, there is an airport in Jackson, WY that you can fly into, though I imagine that it’s rather expensive. The closest large city airport is probably Salt Lake City Utah, which would be a solid drive from as well.
As always with any vacation, it’s important to do your own research. As of recently, you can carry firearms into national parks, for information on that and other things you should know check out this link Grand Teton.
With the ever changing nature of gas prices, you’ll never know what you’ll find. As a matter of fact, last time I was up there I was paying around $4 per gallon for gas, and I believe it got above $4.50 in the small mining town of Cooke City, MT on the way back down. All in all though, I was able to pay about $250 for a week of vacation to some amazing places. Of course, I traveled relatively cheaply by brining my own supplies, such as food and camping gear, but I had to eat no matter where I was and already had the camping gear. Do remember to bring bug spray – when I was up there, the misquitos were HUGE! Below are a few pictures from the park and a little bit about them (as an aside, I dont frequently take pictures, but I have over 800 pictures from this trip!):
The photo above is of the grand tetons right at about sunrise. I was traveling through the park to get to a whitewater rafting trip I had set up on the snake river (not counted in my $250 as it was not necessary). I took the route through the park on the way into Jackson, WY. Even though I was absolutely dead from driving through the night, the park was still breathtaking.
This is a picture of the gun fight in Jackson, WY every night at 4pm just off the town square. Jackson is a very nice town, but it’s very expensive to eat/drink/stay there. The gunfight is free, and worth checking out.
This is a picture of a waterfall that feeds into jenny lake. It was a rather simple hike with little elevation gain. It was mainly a walk around the lake – another great free activity that will keep you healthy 🙂
This is a picture of the lake that the above waterfall feeds into, Jenny lake. I saw a few high school kids jumping off of that rock, so I figured that I should give it a whirl as well. Even though I’m well versed in mountain geography, that part of my brain wasn’t really turned on at that point. So I jumped in and it felt like I got kicked in the chest by jackie chan. Jenny lake is a glacial lake, and the water was very, very cold. It was warm enough out that it didnt matter, though, and I dried off rather quickly after I was out of the water.
The nicest part about vacations like this is their simplicity. No one is bugging you to spend time in museums (though that’s fun too) and you can simply head out on a hike with your friends/family and enjoy the bounty that nature has to offer. There’s fresh air to breathe, fun to have, and it’s all rather cheap. Much more so than going to a place, getting a hotel, taking in some local culture an entertainment and paying quite a bit for it. If that’s what you want to do, then go for it, but you don’t have to. Save some money and still have amazing trips, courtesy of the national park service (and your tax dollars).
Have you been to Grand Teton National Park? If so, what do you think of it, and if not, are you interested in going?