JENNY LAKE CAMPGROUND
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Jenny Lake Campground is the toughest campground to get into at Grand Teton National Park, and for good reason. It is tent-only – no large vehicles, RVs, or loud generators are allowed in the campground, which makes for an incredibly peaceful and serene camping experience. It just feels “old-school” and quaint; it’s not a sprawling campground with new, wide roads that accommodate large vehicles. Furthermore, its location next to Jenny Lake is perfect for getting to many great destinations in the park.
Jenny Lake Campground Info
How to get a Campsite at Jenny Lake
We typically don’t devote a lot of article space to this type of information but since Jenny Lake Campground is so tough to get into, we feel it is appropriate.
It’s Not Easy
All individual campsites in Grand Teton National Park are first-come, first-serve – there are no reservations. This can be stressful if you are traveling a long distance to visit GTNP. Nobody wants to drive 20 hours with their family and not have a place to stay. We were traveling with three kids from Wisconsin so we did our homework before coming all this way.
Our objective was to stay at Jenny Lake Campground and we understood that our best chance to get a site is to get in line early – really early. We had seen this play out on previous trips. We saw a line 25 cars deep for South Campground in Zion National Park every morning. When we stayed at Many Glacier Campground, it was the same – a line of 25+ cars every morning with only a handful getting a spot. Our plan was to be in line at Jenny Lake by 5:30 AM, but that is much easier said than done with a family of 5.
Use a Staging Location
Our trip to GTNP had been preceded by stops in Rocky Mountain National Park and Dinosaur National Monument, the latter from which we were coming from to Grand Teton. It’s about a 7-hour drive so unless we were going to literally drive through the night, we needed to find a place closer to Jenny Lake to spend the evening at. Our research had shown that Gros Ventre Campground usually doesn’t fill until later in the evening, if at all. With this in mind, Gros Ventre became the goal, which would only put us about 30 min from Jenny Lake. If Gros Ventre was full, our contingency would be finding a motel or even BLM land to camp on.
Gros Ventre Campground
We arrived at Gros Ventre Campground around 5:00 PM and found that there was still a good amount of campsites available. We reserved one that was close to the exit and set up camp.
Even after we had set up camp and settled in, we saw that people continued to arrive and secure sites until the campground office closed around 9:00 pm. We spent the evening relaxing after our long drive that day.
The plan was to have Rick and Malia get up at 4:30 and head to Jenny Lake campground to get in line and hope for the best. If we couldn’t get a spot that day, we would try again the next. 4:30 arrived quickly and the two of us jumped in the van and headed to Jenny Lake.
Get In Line Early
We don’t recall exactly what time we arrived at Jenny Lake but it was still dark and we were very happy to find that there was only one other car already there. That put us at number two in line and made us feel confident that we were going to get a spot. Within 5 minutes of us getting there, another vehicle pulled in behind us and soon after, another. By the time the sun began to peek over the horizon to the East, there was a line of at least 15 cars, maybe more (I didn’t count).
Around 7:30 AM, the camp Host came out and spoke with the people in the car in front of us and, after about 5 minutes, they drove into the campground. We pulled forward and he explained to us the rules of the campground and the process for securing a site. He then handed us an envelope and a card to put on an available campsite post to claim/reserve it.
- Drive into the campsite and find an available spot, it will have a card on the post showing that it will be available that day.
- Once you find a spot you like, you flip the card over so that it displays, “Occupied” and put your completed, “claim slip” (a part of the payment envelope that was provided to you) on the post.
- You go back to the entrance to the campground and put the envelope with your payment in the payment drop box. It is cash or checks only – no credit/debit cards.
- If the spot you chose has already been vacated, you can move in immediately. If it hasn’t, the people have until 11:00 AM to leave, at which time you can move into the campsite.
After reserving the campsite, we went back to Gros Ventre to pack up our gear and move to Jenny Lake Campground. Mission accomplished!
Our Jenny Lake Campground Experience
Frankly, our experience was outstanding. We’ve never stayed at such a popular campground in a National Park that is tent-only. We usually seek out tent-only loops or areas of campgrounds because they are quieter and more serene – no generators coming on early in the morning! It has an “old-school” and quaint feel to it that we haven’t felt at most other campsites. The road that winds through the campground is very narrow with many sharp turns that even larger vans would have difficulty navigating. Camping at Many Glacier Campground is probably the closest match we can think of that we have stayed at. It is also very popular and difficult to get into but they allow RV).
All of the campsites in Jenny Lake Campground have a fire ring, picnic table, bear box, and tent pad. Potable water is available in various locations throughout the campground and there is one building that houses flush toilets and sinks.
We found that there is an array of different campsite types and sizes; some are nestled tightly in trees and don’t have much room (especially sites to the north), while others, (like ours) were very open and have lots of space. Our tent would have fit in any of the sites on the pad provided but we would not have been able to use our Nemo Bugout shelter on some of the smaller sites.
Most of the campsites had trees to provide shade or hang a hammock in, which is nice but the trees may also obscure your view of the Teton Range (if that is important to you). Privacy is a mixed bag since some of the campsites are pretty close to one another but we didn’t have any major problems. We always assume that you will see neighbors when at a campground; we just hope that they are good neighbors.
We selected site #4 based on it’s proximity to Jenny Lake and the fact that it a good amount of open space, which provided a partial view of the Teton Range to the west. There is a wide range of campsite types in Jenny Lake; from small sites that are tucked into the trees to some that are a bit elevated and open, giving beautiful unobstructed views of the Teton Range.
All of the sites are but a short walk to Jenny Lake with ours being one of the closest. We even had a path that led from our campsite to the shores of the lake, about 50 yards from our site.
If water is accessible from a campsite, we always try to get a campsite that is close to it. The kids love swimming (even in water that us parents deem way too cold) and we love being able to simply sit on the shore and enjoy the view.
Jenny Lake Campground is located on the shores of Jenny Lake and is a short walk from the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, Ranger Station, General Store, and Boating Dock. Despite being so close to these facilities and buildings, the campground is tucked away to the north. The only thing that reminds you of the proximity is the occasional hiker on the Jenny Lake Loop Trail, which runs along the western edge of the campground, or the sound of one of the Jenny Lake Boating shuttles or a loud motorcycle as it drives by to the east.
We were able to easily walk to the Jenny Lake Trailhead and Jenny Lake Boating Dock on the morning of our hike to Lake Solitude. Other popular hikes near Jenny Lake Campground include:
- Moose Ponds
- Hidden Falls/Inspiration Point
- Jenny Lake Loop
- Cascade Canyon
- Hurricane Pass
- String Lake Loop
- Leigh Lake
- Holly Lake
- Paintbrush Canyon
We knew that bears were common in Grand Teton National Park but we were surprised how frequent their visits were – there were bears in and around the Jenny Lake Campground every day that we were there. The camp host had informed us at check-in that bears had been frequenting the area and to be “bear aware” (use the bear box, don’t leave any food out when not eating, etc.). The kids saw one on the shores of Jenny Lake and Nat and I saw a young male at the entrance to the campground.
We were impressed with the park Rangers’ response to their presence. It was always immediate and fast; the Rangers were typically in the campsite within minutes of a bear report. There were times when we had no idea that a bear was nearby until a Ranger came by to alert us.
We are no strangers to bear encounters. We had a female black bear and three cubs enter our campsite the previous year in Glacier National Park. That was quite the experience.
Things We Loved
- This is a beautiful campground. Small, tent-only, quiet, and quaint – it’s like a step back in time to days of canvas tents and wood-paneled station wagons.
- The location is awesome. Within walking distance of the start of a number of great hikes and destinations in Grand Teton National Park.
- The Camp Hosts were very helpful and accommodating. They were very hands-on and communicated rules and concerns if it was warranted.
- No reservations make getting into Jenny Lake Campground difficult and possibly stressful for people traveling long distances.
- No showers (for some this isn’t an issue – you do have a lake…). Closest showering facilities are in Signal Mountain to the north or in Jackson, to the south.