Grand Teton & Yellowstone Nat'l Parks
Settling back into Austin's 100 degree heat after spending a week in the snow in Wyoming isn't easy. Our vacation was great and we managed not to go over our food budget. When you are traveling and camping in these national parks there isn't much opportunity for inexpensive food. Here's what we did. After landing at Jackson Hole Airport (love walking off the plane onto the tarmac) we went into Jackson to pick up our rental car. Then to Albertson's to grocery shop. We bought a cheapie ice chest and sandwich fixings along with breakfast cereal, milk and some munchies. At the liquor store next door we picked up a 12 pack of Grand Teton Brewing Company beer (more on that at the end of this post) and ice.
Yes, we made our own lunches and ate cereal for breakfast for most of the week we were there. Since lunch alone in a Xanterra restaurant (the company who runs all the restaurants, cafes, general stores etc in the parks) can easily cost $8-10 per person our savings were phenomenal.
We stayed at Colter Bay Village in GTNP. Our cabin was super rtiny but clean, cozy and comfortable. Most of the cabin rentals here were built in the 30's so they are basic, basic. But charming. The building we were in was split into 5 cabins and a men's and ladies' restroom/shower. It's kind of like a duplex, only with 5 separate "plexes"...okay, it's a pentalex. Pentlex? Anyway, for less than $50/night it is the most economical cabins in the area, outside of tent cabins or tent camping. I like electricity, heaters and a real bed. The only downfall is that you can hear your neighbors that share a wall. Like really hear them. Join in their conversation hear them. Well, that is if they aren't trying to be quiet. The campgrounds does have a 10p-8a "quiet hours" rule but a deep voiced man in one room and a lady with a small son in the other didn't understand that just because you can't see your neighbors doesn't mean we can't hear you. It was a small price to pay for comfort & an inexpensive cabin.
Colter Bay Village is BEAUTIFUL. With the Tetons towering over the lakes and the abundance of wildlife (we saw elk, a fox, and a grizzly among other animals) it is a wonderful spot to camp. Lots of activities if you like fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, ranger led hikes, etc. The general store is surprisingly well stocked and not too pricey. Their coffee is good. The employees at the campgrounds were all very friendly and welcoming. There is a laundromat, visitor's center and small museum onsite.
The two restaurants were decent but lacked a bit in variety if you were staying for a week. The "casual" restaurant John Colter Cafe had tacos, quesadillas, burgers and such. Most nights our meals for two were between $20-30 depending on whether or not we drank a beer. Dinner at the Chuckwagon Restaurant is around $30 per person, with one round of drinks. The Chuckwagon did have a side dish I loved. I hadn't thought of pairing poblano pepper, cheese and polenta and making griddled cakes with them before but I'm sure trying that one at home.
Just a mile or two up the road from Colter Bay, on the way to Yellowstone, is Leek's Marina. Please stop there and have some flat out good pizza. They also have salads and pasta but the pizza was a winner with it's thin crust and a great variety of toppings. The Grand Teton Garlic Bread is also yummy. Pics attached!
We didn't eat at any of the restaurants in Yellowstone, simply because we packed our lunches with us in the ice chest. There is some outstanding ice cream at the general stores in Yellowstone, though. We did pick up some snacks, coffee and beer at the convenience store in West Thumb. The folks working there were really nice.
I'd love to hear a review of the restaurants at the Snow Lodge & Old Faithful Inn. We're planning to stay at OFI on our next trip. I'd eaten at the Snow Lodge in 2001 and it was okay, not great and especially not great for the price. I hope it's improved.
And even though all the literature says it and there are warning signs everywhere people were still getting way too close to wild animals, taking pictures. The park regulations state you must stay 25 yards away from bison and 100 yards from wolves and bear. That's yards, folks, not feet.
Food at the Old Faithful Inn, 2007, was expensive and just so-so. Breakfast buffet, which I avoided, was $9 and full of gummy-looking French (?) toast, over-scrambled eggs and a lot of pre-made pastries. I ate a simple poached egg with English muffin and coffee - somewhere in the six dollar range. Egg was overcooked but the poor waiter had run his legs off so I just passed.
We met some family members there and ate one dinner at OFI, their choice It was absolutely ordinary and I cannot remember what I ate. Drinks on the porch overlooking the OF geyser stand out because there's not much to go wrong with "Tanquerey on the rocks" but it was at least $10. Shoot for sunset seats, facing the geyser, to get the most "oomph" for your bucks.
The Inn itself is spectacular, as long as you stay in the lobby. Rooms are small, ours was at least $150, shower no bath.
I want to second Leek's marina as a place to get excellent whole wheat dough flat crust pizza. This was a real God-send as it is open until ten pm. After spending all day in Yellowstone, then getting in the car for the long drive back to Jackson Hole (locals just call it Jackson) we were hungry. Colter Bay's restaurants close at nine, but Leek's stays open until ten. Great local craft beer on tap also. It is located in Grand Teton National Park, towards the north end of Grand Teton, and about an hour south of Old Faithful. The help was extremely friendly. There isn't much of a sign up, so you have to look closely or you will miss it.