With Independence Day falling on a Saturday this year, what better way to celebrate your freedom than with a weekend in the great outdoors?
Grab your gear, a tent, your friends and family, and your sense of adventure, but leave the fireworks at home, though. It's illegal to use fireworks in Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and all of Teton County. In 2012, a fire started by a local resident burning trash swept up Horsethief Canyon south of town, spreading rapidly and threatening the town of Jackson. Indeed, the threat of wildfire is very real, and the risk jump when fireworks are involved.
When camping in bear country, be sure to store your food properly. Many front-country campsites include bear boxes where you can store food and other scented items. Generally, leaving items in your car's trunk will also keep the bears out. If you're out in the backcountry, use an approved bear canister for all food, trash, and scented items. Following proper food storage procedures keeps people and bears safe.
With those precautions in mind, the 4th of July is one of the most popular times of year to enjoy a back-to-nature experience. Here, some great places to pitch a tent, in the most patriotic fashion, of course, in honor of the 4th of July in Jackson Hole.
Backpacking in Grand Teton National Park
Spend the nation's birthday out in one of its finest national park's backcountry areas . Plan a trip into Grand Teton National Park's backcountry to commemorate this weekend.
The park's backcountry is divided into zones and one-third of each zone can be reserved online in advance, but that leaves two-thirds available for walk-up visitors. Summer online reservations were only available from early January to May 15. Now, you must try and obtain a walk-in permit if you'd like to spend some time out in the park's backcountry overnight. Day trips do not require a permit.
Walk-in permits costs $25, and during peak season (think: holiday weekends), demand is incredibly high, so be prepared with a backup plan. You can get a permit one day before you start your trip, but no earlier. Pick up a permit at the Colter Bay and Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Centers and Jenny Lake Ranger Station.
The park offers a [safety video](www.nps.gov/grte/photosmultimedia/parkvid.htm) for visitors to brush up on their bear safety, how to keep a clean camp, and how to be aware of summer weather. Bring your ice axe if you're headed up high. All divides and passes typically require ice axes for safe passage through the third week of July or so. Each year is different, so be sure to find out current conditions before your trip. You'll also need a park-approved bear canister in the backcountrty. You can pick one of these up for free when you pick up your backcountry permit.
Be sure to take a look at Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers Blog before heading out to see about current conditions. As of June 16, avalanche conditions are still present above 11,500 feet, so be cautious.
Frontcountry Camping in Grand Teton National Park
Snag yourself a spot at a frontcountry campground in Grand Teton National Park for just $22 per night (seniors and people with an Access pass pay half price). If you need electricity or other hookups, you may pay extra. Most of these campgrounds are first-come, first-served and you can't make reservations (though you can reserve certain group campsites and RV spots). Try these campgrounds for your weekend out in the park:
- Jenny Lake Campground has prime camping and is the most popular campground in the park. Sites typically fill by 10 am, so if you want a spot here, be up early and ready to snag one as people clear out. These sites are just a short distance from Jenny Lake, and you'll be surrounded by evergreens and glacial boulders. You'll also notice the absence of noisy RVs since these 49 sites are for tents only. You can't even bring a trailer or a pop-up to this special place.
- Gros Ventre Campground is located in the sagebrush 11.5 miles from Moose (south and east). This campground has more than 300 sites and usually doesn't fill up until later in the day. It's near the Gros Ventre River and is an ideal place to spot moose.
- Colter Bay Campground is located 25 miles north of Moose. This is one of your best bets if you're trying to snag a last-minute spot, since it has 335 sites and usually doesn't fill up until the afternoon (it may fill up earlier on a holiday weekend, though, so plan on arriving early).
Bridger-Teton National Forest
The Bridger-Teton National Forest's 3.4 million acres will leave you coming back for more. The forest offers plenty of developed campgrounds as well as options for dispersed camping in addition to plenty of backcountry options.
For frontcountry camping close to town, check out Curtis Canyon Campground, which is located near the National Elk Refuge. A site here will only cost you $12 per night, but it's first come, first-served, so arrive early. This is a local's favorite campsite since it's so close to town. Bring your tents or trailers here, and this campground features potable water and vault toilets.
Atherton Creek Campground is another popular option that's not too far from town. This first come, first-served campground is located near Lower Slide Lake and receives "medium" use according to the Forest Service. These spaces can accommodate tents or RVs off up to 15 x 40 feet. Lower Slide Lake is becoming a hotspot for stand-up-paddleboarding, so bring your board if you have one, or bring your other favorite water toy and plan to get out on the lake.
If rivers are your things, check out the Crystal Creek Campground, which is along the Gros Ventre River and Crystal Creek, which are both designated Wild and Scenic Rivers. This small campground only has six spots, so it's nice and quiet if you can snag one of the campsites (first come, first-served). Be sure to bring your fishing gear (and grab a license) so you can see what's biting when you're out here.