Now is a great time to do a little travel planning — and dreaming — since we are all cooped up waiting for our nation to open again. And there’s no better way to enjoy a summer or fall vacation than on a good old fashioned road trip to Grand Teton National Park (nps.gov/grte/). Although the park is currently closed, there’s no reason you can’t make plans for when they open the gates. And even if you have to practice social distancing, it will be good for your soul to get out and enjoy Mother Nature.
Explore Jenny Lake
Grand Teton National Park is expected to reopen early this summer. And although the rugged Teton Range occupies a good slice of the 310,000-acre park, there’s also an ample selection of accessible trails, attractions and scenic drives for wheelchair-users and slow walkers to enjoy.
Jenny Lake tops the list of scenic spots to explore, and the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive offers visitors some excellent lake views. This one-way drive begins near Jenny Lake Lodge and follows the east shore of the lake. About halfway along the tree-lined road, you’ll spot Jenny Lake Overlook on the right — don’t pass it up, as the view is magnificent.
Near the end of the drive, there’s also a pullout on the right with an accessible parking space. If you’d fancy an accessible walk through the forest, then follow this half-mile paved service road to the campground, then make a right on the .16-mile dirt path to the ranger station. From there, you can connect to the accessible portion of the Jenny Lake Trail. This wide level paved path leads out to an overlook on Jenny Lake, with a short spur over to an additional accessible overlook. The half-mile trail then follows the lakeshore, and loops around past the visitor center and back to the ranger station.
Finally, for a different perspective of the lake, hop aboard a Jenny Lake Cruise. Jenny Lake Boating (jennylakeboating.com) offers one-hour scenic cruises, which depart from the recently renovated accessible dock. The boats feature ramp access, and they each have four sets of tie downs; although most folks opt not to use them as the lake is extremely calm. As an added bonus, the wheelchair seating is located in an elevated stern area, which offers an excellent view of the lake.
Spend the Night
Located 10 miles north of Jenny Lake, on the shore of Jackson Lake, Signal Mountain Lodge (signalmountainlodge.com) makes an excellent — and very accessible — Grand Teton National Park home base The property dates back to the 1920s, when it was a go-to choice for wealthy outdoorsmen. Historic log cabins still dot the parcel, and a nice variety of bungalows, cabins, and country rooms are scattered throughout this lakeside forest retreat.
The lodge plans to open for the season on June 5, 2020; and in keeping with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and state and local public health authorities, just 30 of their 79 units will be available to guests. Fortunately cabin 128 and cabin 130 — the accessible units — are both among the available offerings.
The accessible lakeside cabins are located next to one another, just a short drive from the main lodge, with accessible parking nearby. Each cabin features ramp access to the front porch, and plenty of room to maneuver a wheelchair inside. Cabin access features include wide doorways, a lowered peephole and excellent pathway access throughout the units.
Furnishings include two 26-inch high queen-sized beds with an access aisle between them, a bedside table, a chest of drawers, a microwave and a refrigerator. There’s also a small dining table with four chairs over by the window. Both accessible cabins include a bathroom with a roll-in shower, a hand held showerhead and a portable shower chair. The bathrooms also each have toilet grab bars and a roll-under sink.
Rest assured that the folks at Signal Mountain Lodge have gone the extra mile to make things safe for their guests. They have instituted enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures, and sanitizing stations will be located throughout the property. Although the restaurant won’t be open, to-go food can be picked up at the general store. And since the accessible cabins offer a nice lake view, that’s the perfect place to enjoy your meal. Signal Mountain Lodge is an excellent choice for any post-Covid-19 Grand Teton National Park getaway.