Camping with Kids in Grand Teton National Park

HOT OFF THE PRESS – NEWS ABOUT HOW TO RESERVE CAMPING IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK

Today, January 26th 2021, is the first day that camping in Grand Teton National Park campgrounds can be reserved through recreation.gov. When I say first day, I mean first day EVER! So, this is big news! I wanted to get in front of you as soon as possible with my experience on attempting to reserve sites. The National Park Service announced this news earlier this month. All campsites in Grand Teton National Park will now be reservable through recreation.gov and there will be NO first come first served campgrounds available in Grand Teton National Park. Just let that sink in.

View of Grand Teton National Park

Historically, most campsites within Grand Teton National Park were first come first served. The operator, Grand Teton Lodge Company, was receiving feedback from campers that they preferred the predictability of reservations. Further, with the number of park visitors increasing each year, the lines were starting earlier each day and backing up to the main roads. In an article from the summer, the National Park Service shared that “in general, hiking use in the park has increased approximately 26% and camping concession-operated campgrounds increased 13%.” Given this increase, it makes sense that the parks need to start a reservation system. My planning self LOVES this news, however, my previous experiences trying to book popular National Park campgrounds has me feeling pessimistic about my chances of camping within the park. 

Let’s take Great Sand Dunes National Park as an example. Being new to Colorado, we figured this would be a fantastic place to visit in May! We invited a family friend, planned the dates, picked out some campsite options where our campers could be near each other, and set our alarms for 8:00 a.m. MST exactly 6 months in advance. We were on top of it! When 8:00 a.m. came around, I fired up my computer with a rush of adrenaline, clicked the dates and sites—only to find that they were all reserved by 8:01 a.m. So, I set my alarm for the next available day when more sites would be open and tried again—FAIL. The next day I tried again—FAIL. The good news in this story is that our family friend did get a site. We will be crashing with them by tent camping in their site.  This will be our first time as a family occupying the same tent since we got Rusty the Boler, our vintage camper, in 2017. You can follow @rustythebloer on Instagram if you are intrigued. Needless to say, I am jaded and was a little worried headed into this morning’s reservations.

In addition to experience (attempting) to book National Park campsites in the past, we also have experience of waiting in line for first come first served camping in Grand Teton National Park. Last summer we drove out from Colorado to Grand Teton National Park to meet some friends who reserved a cabin at Colter Bay Campground through Grand Teton Lodge Company. We left on a Thursday and could have arrived Thursday night, but knowing with confidence that all first come first served sites would be taken by the evening, we had to sleep on the side of the road in order to be in line bright and early the next morning. I will say that side of the road “campsite” was pretty cool (expect for the bugs) and I would do that all over again if needed. However, that option is no longer necessary given this recent reservation news.

Camper in Grand Tetons
Camper at Tetons

Yes, I know what you are thinking: we are the type of people driving the decision for the park to make reservations. But we are not alone, because by the time we arrived (around 6 a.m.) we were at the end of a veerrrrry long line. That line grew longer and longer as the day went on and while it seemed that everyone got a campsite (luckily we did!), it was a full day job for the concessionaires to turn over these sites. Plus, it was a stressful 2+ hours wondering if we would in fact get in after driving for nearly 10 hours. 

Sunrise over Tetons
Kids in front of Tetons at sunrise
Campmor

CAMPING with kids IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK – CAMPGROUND OPTIONS

Collage of Teton pictures Text reads Camping in Grand Teton National Park

Now that we’ve got our heads wrapped around this change, let’s talk about Grand Teton National Park campgrounds. There are 6 campgrounds within the park boundaries: Colter Bay, Gros Ventre, Headwaters Campground, Jenny Lake, Lizard Creek, and Signal Mountain. We have personally camped at both Colter Bay and Gros Ventre. Colter Bay is our favorite due to the central location relative to amazing hikes and the amenities at the campground. However, this year we are giving Signal Mountain a stay to be closer to the Jenny Lake hikes and are super excited to try something new! There are 2 other types of campgrounds in the park—Colter Bay RV Park and Colter Bay Tent Village. Until 2022, the last two mentioned will still be accepting reservations via the Grant Teton Lodge Company and will move to recreation.gov in 2022. In addition, Headwaters Campground will continue operating through Flagg Ranch via gtlc.com until 2022 season but has moved from 50% reservable to 100% reservable for the 2021 season.

Roasting marshmallows camping in Grand Teton National Park
Kids riding bikes Camping in Grand Teton National Park

As you are deciding which campground you want to book, here is a brief overview on each campground to help you decide which is the best campground for you:

 

Gros Ventre Campground

  • GROS VENTRE CAMPGROUND is the largest campground with 322 campsites tent and dry camping RV sites, including 39 electric-only RV sites. If you are looking for a non-RV park campground while having the electric luxuries, this is a great option! Gros Ventre is located south of the park just after the Jackson Park Entrance, along the Gros Ventre River. While it will be a farther drive to the hikes I have mentioned in this post, it does have beautiful views of the Tetons and is known for having the best wildlife sightings.
    • Cell service – most likely
    • No Wi-Fi – you’ll have to disconnect!
    • Toilets – yes
    • Showers – no, you’ll have to jump in Gros Ventre River!
    • Laundry—no
    • Dogs – yes
    • RVs—yes, up to 45 ft and electric hookups available

Colter Bay Campground

  • COLTER BAY CAMPGROUND has 324 campsites (the most number of sites in the park!) and is centrally located on the swimmable Jackson Lake with views across to Mount Moran. See below for the best dinner spot around! All sites are either tent only or standard non-electric. If you need RV hookups, check out Colter Bay RV Park, which still operated under gtlc.com and can be booked 1 year in advance. They also manage the tent village and camper cabins available at Colter Bay. This campground does have Wi-Fi available at the camp store if that is a necessity for your travel plans. While Colter has the most sites, it is one of the more popular locations due to the amenities so plan accordingly.
    • Cell service – most likely, although I have AT&T and did NOT have service!
    • Wi-Fi – yes, at the restaurants, marina, laundry, and General Store
    • Toilets – yes
    • Showers – yes
    • Laundry – no
    • Dogs – yes
    • RVs—yes, up to 45 ft but no hookups

Signal Mountain Campground

  • SIGNAL MOUNTAIN CAMPGROUND has 50 tent and non-electric RV sites and 30 electric RV sites. It is right in the heart of the “good stuff,” situated on Jackson Lake with direct views for the Teton Range across the lake. It is likely the most popular and hardest to book—especially since it’s on the smaller side and has electric hook up options.
    • Cell service – most likely
    • Wi-Fi – yes, at the general store
    • Toilets – yes
    • Showers – yes
    • Laundry—yes
    • Dogs – yes
    • RVs—yes, up to 30 ft and electric hookups available

Jenny Lake Campground

  • JENNY LAKE CAMPGROUND is the smallest campground with 51 tent-only campsites and 10 walk or bike up sites. This campground is conveniently located right on Jenny Lake, which is the access to many great trailheads (including Inspiration Point and Hidden falls above!). No trailers, campers, pop-ups or RVs are allowed at this campground. Due to the location and the size, this will be a difficult one to book so plan ahead!
    • Cell service – most likely
    • Wi-Fi – no, you’ll have to disconnect!
    • Toilets – yes
    • Showers – yes
    • Laundry—no
    • Dogs – yes
    • RVs—no, tents only!

Headwaters Campground

  • HEADWATERS CAMPGROUND has 34 tent sites and 97 full hookup RV sites. They also have camper cabins. This campground will remain reservable through gtlc.com for this season. This campground is at the north end of Grand Teton National Park and just outside of the Yellowstone National Park south entrance, so would be a good choice if you were planning on visiting both parks from one campground.
    • Cell service – no
    • Wi-Fi – no, you’ll have to disconnect!
    • Toilets – yes
    • Showers – yes
    • Laundry—yes
    • Dogs – yes
    • RVs—yes, up to 45 feet and with full hookups!

Lizard Creek Campground

  • LIZARD CREEK CAMPGROUND has 60 tent and non-electric RV sites on the north shore of Jackson Lake and has beautiful views of the Teton Range from the north. This campground does not have as many amenities as the others, so is usually best for those looking to avoid the crowds—especially since half of the sites are walk in so they feel more like backpacking with your car nearby.
    • Cell service – not likely
    • Wi-Fi – no, you’ll have to disconnect!
    • Toilets – yes
    • Showers – no
    • Laundry—no
    • Dogs – yes
    • RVs—yes, up to 30 feet but no hookups!
Shop our camping Amazon list
KUHL
View of Tetons Camping in Grand Teton National Park

HOW TO RESERVE A CAMPSITE THROUGH RECREATION.GOV

Colter Bay, Gros Ventre, Jenny Lake, and Signal Mountain will have the biggest change this year as they all used to be first come first served and as such will all move to recreation.gov. As previously mentioned, this is brand new information and a new process starting this year. This means that you must plan in advance as sites will fill up very quickly. If you haven’t reserved via recreation.gov in the past, here are the steps:

 

  • Create an account at recreation.gov in advance for speedier checkout.
  • Sites are reservable on a 6-month rolling window. So today, January 26th, sites are reservable through July 26th.
  • Log into recreation.gov a few minutes BEFORE 8:00 a.m. MST to get prepared and view real time availability.
  • Select the campground you wish to book.
  • You can select your date at the top left corner or select “View by Availability Grid” on the right.
  • Select the site for the dates you would like to book. You can select dates beyond 6 months as long as your first night’s stay is within the 6 month window.
  • Say a prayer and click submit RIGHT at 8:00 a.m. MST! I use a world clock app so I click it right on the dot.

BACKCOUNTRY CAMPING IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK – BACKPACKING

Another option for camping in Grand Teton National Park is to get out in the backcountry. If you are interested in backpacking in the park, there are a lot of advanced planning and regulations that must be followed. You can get all of the details you need to start planning on National Park Service Backcountry Camping site.  If you are interested in my recommendation, I think the Teton Crest Trail looks eipc and is the classic choice for backpacking in Grand Teton National Park. You can read all about Bryce’s experience, logistical planning, and recommendations on his post Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail.

Wildflowers at Sunset in Grand Teton National Park

TIPS FOR CAMPING WITH KIDS IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK

Grand Teton National Park is considered “bear country,” as it is home to a thriving grizzly and black bear population. Here are some tips for camping at the campgrounds in bear country. Backpacking has further considerations not listed.

 

  • Keep all food (and anything with an odor—toiletries, soap, toothpaste, lotion, etc.) in the bear lockers that are available at every campground.
  • Only have food out when you are actively eating, otherwise keep a clean camp
  • Throw all trash away in bear safe dumpsters at the campground.
  • Keep your pets close by and in sight at all time (and always on a leash)
  • Never store food, trash, or toiletries in your tent.
  • More in depth information can be found here.
Campmor

BEST DINNER SPOT WITH KIDS IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK – AT COLTER BAY CAMPGROUND!

I know this post is about camping in Grand Teton National Park, but since you are here, I must tell you about our favorite experience in the park! As you are building your itinerary, I recommend planning an afternoon swim followed by an al fresco dinner beside Jackson Lake at the Colter Bay swim beach. Once you enter Colter Bay Village, follow signs towards the marina and take a right on Colter Bay Marina Road, continuing onto Bathing Beach Road and park at any of the spots in that far north lot. If you are fortunate to camp at Colter Bay Campground this could be a walk away, or a short drive or bike ride.

View of Tetons from Colter Bay  Camping in Grand Teton National Park
Kids throwing rocks into Jackson Lake

We did this both nights that we camped at Colter Bay Campground, as opposed to eating at our campsite. We brought our propane + camp grill and ice chest out to the picnic tables that are situated along the lake. It was absolutely worth hauling our camp stuff out there to have a relaxing dinner (as relaxing as you can have with kids) while the kids played at the rocky shore. This was also an opportunity to take a swim in Jackson Lake, which is the closest thing any of us got to a shower on our trip. You can also drop your stand-up paddle boards in here as well! If you are not camping nearby, you can grab a pizza from the Café Court Pizzeria in the Village (walking distance from the beach) and bring it down to the waterfront. I give this experience a 10/10! Follow it up with ice cream from the General Store and you have yourself a perfect summer day.

Swimming in Jackson Lake Camping in Grand Teton National Park
Kids swimming at Jackson Lake
Family swimming in Jackson Lake

Happy camping in Grand Teton National Park! Most of all I wish you the best of luck in reserving a site! I hope you found this information helpful as you plan your trip camping in Grand Teton National Park. If you have any questions or feedback (or you get a reservation at any of these campgrounds!), please drop a note below!

Shop our camping Amazon list

One of my favorite recommendations in Grand Teton National Park is hiking! Check out these Best Kid Hikes in Grand Teton National Park. They have all of the kids essentials — waterfalls, lakes, rocks to throw, rocks to climb, and plenty to explore.

If you are looking for a less kid friendly (but still kid-possible) hike, check out Bryce’s experience on a Delta Lake Sunrise Hike.

<h4>raisinghikers_Kristin</h4>

raisinghikers_Kristin

2 Comments
  1. Denise

    I love this post! Your information is so thorough. This park is on my list and now knowing the whole reservation system along with a couple campsites that you can still book through the lodge is really helpful. We have the same situation in Canada with booking… It is quite a challenge depending on which parks you want to visit. Can’t wait to eventually get down to the US to visit this beautiful park and hopefully the stars will align and I will get a site through the reservation system.

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      So glad you found it helpful! Big changes this year and I think it will be for the better. Makes it easier to plan. Check back for hiking suggestions in Grand Tetons before you come down.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This post may contain affiliate links. We make a small commission if you shop using these links, but you aren’t charged any extra! Thanks for your support in keeping this blog up and running! You can read more in my disclosures.

Shop our favorites

Shop for Hiking Gear for Kids & Parents

Winter gear, amazon store front

Our Amazon Hiking List

Dad carrying child in lightweight carrier for hiking

Trail Magik Carrier – 10% off with RAISINGHIKERS10

Preschool Kinderpack Carrier

Preschool Kinderpack CarrierOsprey Poco Carrier

Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier

Stay

Shop Our Trusted Partners

KUHL
Black Diamond Equipment
Tweet
Share
Share
Pin