Epic Road Trip 2017 (Day 4)

Published on August 11, 2017

Today, I made it to the first of two places that were a big reason behind this trip. I hadn't been to the Grand Teton National Park in years and I've been looking forward to spending a couple nights here so I could enjoy a full day of hiking. Who knew I'd actually need to have my bear spray in hand at one point.

I was up early to grab breakfast at the hotel and get going in order to beat the traffic out of Salt Lake City, but that wasn’t difficult. I was going the opposite direction as everyone else (which had been the plan), so I made quick work of Salt Lake City, but was held up in the city of Logan, which I hit about 8 AM and going right through downtown. Apparently, even Logan, Utah, has a rush hour on a Monday. Once I got past the relatively minor traffic snarl (especially compared to Phoenix rush hour), I ascended Logan Canyon. The winding canyon road parallels the Logan River and takes you into a mountain pass.

That same mountain pass was the subject of a bike race, which they didn’t happen to warn you about until you were halfway up the canyon with no chance to take a detour around. That caused the first delay of the day, as it took nearly an hour to navigate the final 10 miles of the pass before I would drop into Garden City.

I refueled in Garden City, then took off north on the 89, which winds along the shores of Bear Lake and offers some pretty good views (though none as good as that offered by the overlook just before Garden City). I hit the second delay (which was very minor) as I once again contended with bike race traffic all returning to their campsites or hotels north of town.

Crossing into Idaho, I found myself in the town of Montpelier. It’s a quaint, quiet town that was the gateway to what, up to this point, was my absolute favorite stretch of road. Highway 89 wound up the Salt River Pass (same name, different river than the Salt River in Arizona). Nothing about this road is technical, but you’re assailed with crisp mountain air and amazing views - especially when you arrive at the summit to look down on Star Valley.

From the Salt River Pass summit, I descended and crossed Star Valley and arrived in Alpine Junction, just in time for lunch. After gassing up, I backtracked about a half mile to Yankee Doodle Cafe to get some body fuel. The cheeseburger was delicious, but the service was “meh”. Still a good find and my belly was happy.

I completed the day by riding the 80 miles from Alpine to the Signal Mountain campground inside the Grand Teton National Park (and navigated the final delay of construction on the highway between Alpine and Jackson Hole). My luck with campsites still held up, however, and I was able to get one of the last two sites they had left. I was forced to get an electric site for two days (which is more than double what I was hoping to pay for my campsite, but I took advantage of the electric hookup to charge my battery pack). Once set up, I immediately set out on a hike and summited Signal Mountain. Once there, I just stood and looked out over the entire area. After a while a male sage grouse came out of the brush and joined me. I had originally hoped to stick it out until sunset, but with still an hour to go and being very tired (the ride which should have only been about 7 hours had been turned into nearly 10), I decided to head back, build a fire, have some dinner and get up early to catch the sunrise.

If you’re in the Tetons, I recommend the Signal Mountain campground only if you need to have access to some wifi. If not, Jenny Lake is a better, more secluded option. I needed the access, but it all worked out in the end.

Bear Lake Overlook
Salt River Pass
Salt River Pass summit
Top of Signal Mountain
Male sage grouse
Grand Teton at dusk