How to Backpack The Grand Tetons in 5 easy steps
The Grand Tetons are probably our favorite mountains to explore, camp, and backpack in. Since Grand Tetons are a National Park, there are some things to know to be able to successfully plan and enjoy a backpacking trip.
To make this easier for you to achieve, we’re going to break it down into 5 easy steps!
But before we get into it here’s a quick little “blurb” about us! We’re the Jurgys! We own The Park at Swan Valley in Swan Valley, Idaho! We’ve got full RV hookups and dry camping making it a perfect place to stay while you’re exploring the area! We love adventuring and hope to be able to use our own personal experiences to help you create your own!
Okay! So backpacking the Tetons! Let’s go!
1. Get permits.
We decided that this will be step #1 because without a permit you are toast.
“Requests for advance backcountry reservations for the summer season are accepted January through May. Reservations open for 2022 season on January 5 at 8:00 a.m. Mountain Time. All requests must be submitted on recreation.gov. Customers will be able to view backcountry campsite availability in real-time and apply for reservations accordingly. A $45 non-refundable processing fee is charged for each trip upon completion of your reservation. To facilitate the permit reservation process, establish a recreation.gov account prior to the reservation system open season.” -NPS Website
So you’ve gotta plan almost a year in advance when you want to go! This year we planned an all women’s backpacking trip for 12 people. We applied for permits in January 2022 and went on our trip in July 2022. Because we had such a large group we needed a group site to camp at. Securing the permit 6 months in advance gave us the security needed to plan such a huge backpacking trip.
BUT. they do offer “first-come first serve” permits everyday. Here’s how it works.
“The park will reserve up to one-third of each camping zone in advance, and save two-thirds of each zone for first-come, first-served permits. Permits can be picked up in-person one day before the start of a backcountry trip. Those who do not secure an advanced reservation may still apply for a walk-in permit. During peak season (July and August), competition for walk-in permits is high. There is a $35 fee for each walk-in backcountry permit. Permits are available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, Colter Bay Visitor Center, and the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.”
Essentially, you can pack your bags, head to The Tetons and hope to secure a permit day of. Because it is a day of permit, you can not pick the exact campsite you wish to camp at. Just make sure you're ready to change some routes or plans due to the permit you are able to secure.
2. Plan your route!
This is one of the funnest parts about choosing to backpack in the Tetons - there is so much to explore. All Trails has an amazing list of trails put together for you to explore here. For our women's backpacking trip we wanted to plan a route where we could backpack in, set up camp, hike to the summit of Hurricane Pass, and then backpack out.
The permit that we secured for this trip was a group camp site at the Cascade Canyon, South Fork Group Site. We started our backpacking trip at the Jenny Lake Visitors center. For most of us, we had little children at home so being able
to say goodbye to them one last time via FaceTime was a must for us at the Visitors Center.
Our route went like this: Started our hike at Jenny Lake, hiked to hidden falls and had lunch, went past Inspiration point, up Cascade Canyon, took a left at a fork in the trail to head up the South Fork of the Canyon to our group camp site. The next day we left our camp and continued up the trail to Summit Hurricane Pass. In total our backpacking trip was around 38-40 miles depending on the tracking device used. How did you pack for such an epic trip???? Well, let us tell you!
3. Packing your pack
This is such a crustal part of a good backpacking trip. If you don't have a good pack, good equipment and good food, you might be miserable.
We sent out a document with a packing list to make sure everyone was well packed. We have a whole blog post that goes really into detail about what you should pack! Check that out here!
4. Bear Safety!
Grand Teton National Park is home to some incredible wildlife! While backpacking in the Tetons is safe - 12 women did it - you should be aware of the wildlife around you.
Grand Teton National Park is home to Black Bears, Brown Bears, Wolves, Porcupines, Moose, Coyotes, Skunks, Elk, Bison and more! The wildlife here is truly incredible but you need to be aware that they are indeed...wild! Make sure you cary Bear Spray with you at all times. Make lots of noise so that you don't spook the animals around you. Most bears in the area are pretty accustomed to people and won't attack you as long as you don't
spook them. The most important thing is to know that food=bears. All group sites in the National Park have group bear boxes but smaller ones will require you to bring a bear canister. Make sure to cook all your food at least 100 yards away from your tent and put anything that has smell into your bear canister or box. You don't want to wake up to bear outside your tent because you forgot a granola bar in your backpack. :)
We also highly recommend bringing walkie talkies for your group. Leave one at the front and one at the back to ensure the safety of everyone in your group and report wildlife sightings. Walkie talkies let your group separate into a faster/slower group while ensuring the safety of everyone.
5. Have fun!
Being able to enjoy your backpacking trip is a must! While you want to keep your packs light, pack a couple of card games to play while at your campsite. For us, we played many rounds of a game called Mafia. IYKYK. :) Because Mafia is one our favorite games to play with our friends, we'll share how to play!There are a couple ways to play but this way is our favorite.
The point of the game?
Either kill the Mafia or as the Mafia, kill everyone else.
First, you have The Narrator. The Narrator gets to "know all" and help tell the stories of the Mafias killings. You also get to choose the roles of the players for the game.
Next is the Mafia. Depending on the number of players you have, the Narrator picks 1-3 Mafia members. The goal of the Mafia is to convince everyone playing that you are not the Mafia. Using tactical moves, you choose who you want to kill everyone round. The Mafia only know who the other Mafia members are.
The Detectives get to guess who they think the Mafia is. Using just their hands, they will point to a person in the game and ask the narrator if they are Mafia. The Narrator will either shake their head "yes" or "no." Once again, depending on the amount of players you have, you can have 1-3 detectives in your game.
The Angel. Everyone round after someone has been killed, the Angel gets to choose someone to save. Using the same method as the detectives, they will point to someone to save. The Narrator will take note of who the Angel choose to save. The Angel may also choose to save themselves if they feel like they are in danger of dying.
Cupid. This is a fun twist on the game. Depending on the amount of players you can choose to not have a cupid. At the beginning of the game, Cupid gets to latch their "soul" to another person in the game. If that person ever dies, cupid dies with them. If an Angel ever saves them, both people are saved. This can add some fun twists to the game.
Villagers! These are so important. Villagers are not assigned any role in the game other than to try to figure out who the Mafia is. They have the power to influence the game heavily as they are simply people in the game.
How the game works:
Every game starts the same. Picking roles. There are two ways for this to happen. If you have paper, write all the roles down matching the amount of people playing. To explain how to play best we will have 12 people playing in our game.
You would write:
All papers are placed in a bowl and passed around for every player to draw from. Roles have now been assigned.
Everyone closes their eyes. The Narrator has everyone put their thumb up. They then say, "I am picking the 2 Mafia". They would then walk around while everyone makes noise and tap on two thumbs to select the Mafia. This process repeats with the reset of everyones thumbs until the roles have been assigned. YOU DO NOT NEED TO SELECT VILLAGERS. If you didn't get your thumb tapped, you are a villager.
You need to double check the roles by having everyone close their eyes and by saying, "Mafia, open your eyes. Look around. Now close your eyes." You repeat this with all the roles. The role of Cupid is slightly different. When you have Cupid open their eyes ask, "Who do you want to attach too?" The Cupid points to a player to select someone to attach too. Cupid is never called out again during the game.
Are you still with us?!?!? Okay, good. 😅😂🙌🏼
Now the game commences!
Each round starts with everyone closing their eyes. The Narrator starts by saying, "Mafia open your eyes. Choose who you want to kill." They then point to a person playing the game. The Narrator then says, "Mafia, close your eyes." The Narrator then says, "Detectives open your eyes. Who do you think is the Mafia?" The detectives point to someone. The Narrator either shakes their head "yes" or "no". The Narrator then says, "Detectives close your eyes." The round continues. The Narrator says, "Angel open your eyes. Who do you want to save?" The Angel opens their eyes and points to a player to save. The Narrator takes note and says, "Angel close your eyes." The round ends with the Narrator saying, "Everyone open their eyes."
At this point the game really begins. 🤩🤩🤩
The Narrator gets to make up a story about how the Mafia killed someone. Using suspense, you try to prolong saying who died until the very end of your story. Once someone has died, they are "out of the game". They don't get to participate at all. Remember the point of the game? To find out who the Mafia is? Here is where you get to learn. The remaining people now get to point fingers at each other trying to sway others to vote for "Mafia". This can be really fun and exciting. The Mafia try to point fingers at others point fingers at each other. There is many different ways to play the game here. It's what makes Mafia fun. After a couple minutes of "convincing" and "swaying" others the Narrator calls a vote. All alive players participate in the vote. Once a person has been voted for, the Narrator then announces that they have been killed. The person "voted" or "killed" reveals who they were in the game. Sometimes you vote off the wrong people and it can change the feel of the game.
You repeat this process until either all the Mafia have been killed or the Mafia kills all the players.
The game ends and you can start the game over by picking new roles! It is such a fun game that requires people and nothing else. It's one of our favorite ways to connect with new people.
We played this for hours at our group campsite.
We hope you plan the ultimate backpacking trip in the beautiful Tetons! They are truly magical and we hope to share the magic of them with you!
Need a place to camp? Make sure to check out our RV park and come hang out with us at The Park at Swan Valley. 💖
Leave us a comment of what step was your favorite or ask us specific questions below!