By Apres Noon | May 20th, 2021
You haven’t seen stars until you’ve seen them in a Wyoming sky. And Jackson Hole offers some unforgettable spots to pitch a tent or park a camper, unplug, and look up. But remember, the wild rules here. Sleeping among the elements comes with some inherent risk and requires a little extra responsibility. To make the most of your camping experience, you’re going to want to plan ahead. Here’s how to make sure your camping trip is sustainable and unforgettable.
All campsites in Grand Teton National Park are reservation-only. The park moved to an advanced online reservation system for sites that were previously first-come-first-serve this year. Reservations to Gros Ventre Campground, Colter Bay Campground, and Jenny Lake campground can be made at Recreation.gov. Reservations to Colter Bay RV Park, Colter Bay Tent Village, and Headwaters at Flagg Ranch Campground/RV Park can be made through Grand Teton Lodging Company for the next year, but will move to Recreation.gov in 2022.
Sites fill quickly, so campers are strongly encouraged to plan ahead.
You’ll need a reservation at established campsites and RV parks outside of Grand Teton National Park, too.
Careful where you park it
Dispersed camping — meaning, camping outside a designated campground — on National Forest land is less regulated, but that doesn’t mean there are no rules. On the contrary, dispersed camping requires extra preparation because there are no amenities.
Bridger-Teton National Forest has designated, numbered dispersed campsites at popular areas in and around Jackson like Curtis Canyon and Shadow Mountain. These sites are first-come-first-serve, but fill up quickly. The Forest Service maintains them in order to mitigate damage caused by cars, foot traffic, and fire pits. If you can’t find a numbered site on Forest Service land, don’t make your own. It takes decades for the ecosystem to recover from overuse. Choose durable surfaces like pine needles, sand, and rocks when pitching your tent.
Fire fully out
Sitting around a fire is a quintessential camping experience, but Jackson’s arid climate makes it extra susceptible to wildfires. Fire safety is essential. Stay current on any fire restrictions by checking local notices visitors centers and ranger stations or visiting TetonFires.com. Once you know the rules and regulations, abide by them.
Fires should be contained in firepits or grills provided by the park, Forest Service, or private campground. When it’s time to turn in for the night or leave your site behind, your fire should be “dead out” — or, cool enough to touch with your bare hands. To extinguish your fire, douse it in water to drown all the embers, then stir dirt and ash into a sort of campfire soup. Rinse and repeat until your firepit is cool to the touch.
Be Bear Aware
Jackson Hole is bear country. This is their home, and they make the rules. A bear’s sense of smell is seven times better than a bloodhound’s and 2,100 times better than a human’s. That means anything that smells even a little bit like food is an open invitation to your campsite for nearby bears. You don’t want to leave it out.
Campsites in Grand Teton National Park and at private facilities have bear-proof boxes and trash cans. Make sure to store food, toiletries, and anything else with an odor before going to bed or leaving your campsite. If a bear box isn’t available, food should be stored or hung from trees or bear hangs. If you hang your food items, make sure it’s at least 10 feet above ground and four feet away from a tree trunk.
Pack it in, pack it out
There’s no maid service in the wilderness. Campers are responsible for every piece of trash they produce. That doesn’t mean throwing it in your fire pit — glass and aluminum don’t burn, they just create litter. Litter doesn’t just ruin the experience for future campers; it also endangers local wildlife. Established campsites in Grand Teton National Park have bear-proof trash and recycling bins. Use them as you go, or collect your waste in a trash bag and throw it all away before you leave.
Speaking of waste: many campsites in the park have bathrooms, but backcountry sites and Forest Service sites do not. When nature calls, human waste should be buried in a cathole 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from water.
Be a good neighbor
Most campers are here to get away from it all. Still, campsites can get crowded during the peak summer season. Be considerate of other campers and remember that the wilderness offers unparalleled access to nature and tranquility. Sometimes the sounds of nature and a good campfire are the only entertainment you need.
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