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National Park Road Trip 2011: The Lodges of Grand Teton National Park, Part I

The view of the Tetons from the Triangle X Ranch in Grand Teton National Park is spectacular. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

Editor's note: After a short stay in Yellowstone National Park, David and Kay Scott headed to Grand Teton National Park to check out some of the lodging options there as they continue to work on an update to their book The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges. They'll be returning to Yellowstone, though, and will file a second article on lodgings there.

Greetings from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  We are writing this in the guest lounge at Signal Mountain Lodge while enjoying a view of early morning sunshine on the magnificent snow-covered Teton Range. 

The absence of foothills makes this jagged mountain range one of the most picturesque and photographed in America. What a beautiful sight and great way to begin the day!  The excellent complimentary coffee from near the registration desk makes everything even better. We kid you not, this is some of the best coffee we have consumed during the entire trip.

Following our last report from Yellowstone’s Canyon area, we drove south through John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway to Grand Teton. 

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The cabins at Flagg Ranch are a good basecamp for visits to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. David and Kay Scott photo.

The parkway serves as a corridor that connects Yellowstone with its southern neighbor.  It is also home to a national park lodging facility discussed later in this article.  Purchase of a $25 entrance pass at either Yellowstone or Grand Teton is good for entrance to both parks for up to seven days.

During our second day in the park we visited several lodges and drove into the town of Jackson for groceries, gasoline, and shopping.  Two special memories of our visit; beer prices here are astronomical.  Even bad beer is expensive. 

After filling the RAV4 with gasoline at $3.49 a gallon, I walked over to a driver who was filling his Karst Stage Lines bus.  He said that when empty the bus would hold 237 gallons of fuel.  That amounts to about $1,000 of diesel fuel at a crack.  Pass the Maalox.

Including the parkway lodge, Grand Teton is home to six lodging facilities.  Another lodge sits on ten acres of private land surrounded by the park.  Three of the lodges are operated by concessionaire Grand Teton Lodge Company.  Most guest rooms in Grand Teton are in a wide variety of cabins and cottages although an upscale and well-known hotel is also in the park.

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Signal Mountain Lodge has some nice cabins for visiting Grand Teton. David and Kay Scott photo.

This report will discuss four of the seven lodging facilities in Grand Teton National Park and the adjoining parkway.  In several days we will address the three remaining lodges, all of which are managed by Grand Teton Lodge Company.

Flagg Ranch Resort is John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway’s only lodging facility.  The location between Yellowstone and Grand Teton serves as a handy stop for travelers moving between the two parks.  Lodging consists of 92 modern cabins constructed as either duplexes or quads.  The cabins have attractive log-style exteriors, private bathrooms, vaulted ceilings, and nicely furnished interiors.  They do not have kitchens, but the registration building has a small grocery and gift shop in addition to a restaurant and bar. 

Several cabins offer views of the scenic Snake River Valley.  Cabins have either two queens or a king and rent for about $180 per night.  We have stayed here several times during previous trips and found the cabins to be quite comfortable. 

Signal Mountain Lodge, where we spent the last two nights, is comprised of 79 cabins and cottages on the southeastern shore of Jackson Lake.  Many units offer excellent views of the lake and Teton Range.  Other cabins are surrounded by trees, but even these are within a few steps of great scenery.  The registration building includes a comfortable lounge where guests can read, play cards, or relax and enjoy mountain views. 

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The interior of the cabins at Signal Mountain are decidedly Western. David and Kay Scott photo.

An adjacent building houses a restaurant, grill, bar, and gift shop.  Room rates vary from $132 for a one-room rustic cabin to $274 for more modern two-room cottages directly on the lake.  The latter have a kitchenette and can sleep up to six. 

Signal Mountain Lodge is operated by Forever Resorts, a major player in the business of operating national park lodges.

Triangle X Ranch, just off U.S. Highway 89 on the eastern edge of the park, is one of America’s most unusual national park lodging facilities.  An operating dude ranch, Triangle X requires a full-week stay during the busy summer season.  Each week begins on Sunday when each guest is assigned a horse for the duration of the stay.  The price of $1,880 per person, per week (double occupancy) includes all meals and a variety of activities. 

As you can imagine, nearly all guests are here for a Western experience that includes daily horseback riding.  Twenty free-standing cabins are rustic, but nicely furnished, and a perfect fit for accommodations expected on a western ranch. 

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Dornan's, a private inholding at Grand Teton, offers cabins. David and Kay Scott.

Triangle X is open during the winter from December 26 to mid-March when the minimum stay requirement is reduced to two nights.  The price is also reduced to $125 per person, per night which also includes 3 meals a day.  The ranch has been operated by four generations of the same family. 

Dornan’s Spur Ranch Log Cabins near Moose Junction offers 12 modern and roomy cabins constructed as duplex units.  The privately-owned cabins are on ten acres of private property surrounded by Grand Teton National Park.  They sit down a hillside from a small commercial area that includes a grocery, saloon, gift shop, gas station, wine store, outdoor stores, and an outdoor dining facility.  These cabins each include a full kitchen and are some of the nicest lodging in the park.  One-bedroom cabins rent for $175 while two-bedroom units are $250. 

We are nearly ready to leave Signal Mountain Lodge and drive a short distance north for two nights at Jackson Lake Lodge.  This lodge, along with Jenny Lake Lodge and Colter Bay Village will be the subject of our next report.  Following the two additional nights in Grand Teton, we will return to Yellowstone.

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I think Flagg Ranch is a poor choice for those who want to explore Yellowstone unless they drive a Prius and have many spare hours each day to get to, say, Lamar Valley or Mammoth Hot Springs and back. It's also not great for the Tetons, it doesn't even have any mountain views.

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