I think I’ve found my heaven on earth.
Last summer, after spending the school year learning about westward expansion in our American History studies, we had a strong desire to “go west” for our family vacation. We considered our options within reasonable driving distances, watched a few YouTube videos about those destinations, and quite easily decided on Wyoming.
It was the perfect family vacation. But when we returned home to Iowa, a piece of my heart stayed in Jackson Hole; and the mountains have been calling me back ever since.
Last month, my husband and I answered that call, returning to Jackson Hole for an idyllic couple’s getaway. It was everything I’d dreamed of and more.
Whether you’re looking for an awe-inspiring family vacation destination or a romantic escape for two, if you enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, consider taking a trip to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) and its famous neighbor, Yellowstone National Park (YNP).
From Iowa to Wyoming: Our Summer Family Vacation
Airfare adds up quickly for our family of six, so we chose to drive the 17 hours from Ankeny to the Greater Yellowstone area. To make the most of our trip, we routed through South Dakota for some sightseeing along the way; and once to our final desination, we split our six-night stay between two different locations, allowing us to see more of the parks by cutting down day-trip travel time.
Our 10-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Travel from Ankeny to Keystone, South Dakota, via the Badlands
Day 3: Drive to Togwotee Mountain Lodge and settle in for a three-night stay
Day 5: Go horseback riding in GTNP; shop and explore in Jackson
Day 6: Re-pack suitcases; explore YNP on our way from South Entrance to West Entrance, including the Old Faithful area; settle in to cabin in Island Park, Idaho, for another three-night stay
Day 7: Explore more of YNP; watch for wildlife along the drive; hike to top of Mt. Washburn
Day 8: Explore YNP from West Entrance to North Entrance, including the Mammoth Hot Springs area; watch for wildlife along the drive
Day 9: Pack and begin trip homeward via Cheyenne, Wyoming
Day 10: Drive from Cheyenne to Ankeny
Back to Wyoming: Our Wintery Couple’s Escape
This winter my husband and I started itching to get away. In our almost 11 years of marriage, we had never taken a trip for just the two of us—partly because it’s hard for me to leave the kids, and partly because it’s just that easy to let a decade pass you by.
So it was time to make time. And without a doubt, we knew where we wanted to go. Having fallen in love with the Teton mountains during our summer vacation there, my husband and I both had started following some Instagrammers (check out @grandtetonnps and @nationalparkgeek) whose amazing photos only fueled our wanderlust and our longing to see another “side” of the range.
Oddly, I hate being cold and have never found winter to be all that much fun, but romantic visions of snow-covered mountains, cozy cabins, and crackling fireplaces crowded out my fear of the elements, and we booked our winter escape to Jackson Hole.
Our 5-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Deliver the kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and fly to Jackson Hole, Wyoming; settle in to our mountain-view hotel cabin at Spring Creek Ranch; shuttle into Jackson to walk the town square, eat Moo’s ice cream, and collect info at the Visitor’s Center; dinner at The Granary
Day 2: Watch the sun rise on the Teton range; enjoy a leisurely breakfast at The Granary; shuttle to Teton Village for a ride on the tram to enjoy the mountaintop view and eat waffles at the top; shuttle back to the Visitor’s Center for an informative sleigh ride into the National Elk Refuge; dinner at El Abuelito; watch the sun set behind the mountains
Day 3: Watch the sun rise on the Teton range; eat a hearty breakfast at The Granary; embark on a full-day snowmobile ride to Granite Hot Springs and soak in the Granite Hot Springs Pool before bundling back up for a picnic lunch and riding back; clean up for some shopping in Jackson and a nice dinner at Local
Day 4: Wake up with the sun to find fresh snow on the mountains; eat breakfast at The Granary; rent a car and some snow shoes and go snowshoeing from GTNP’s Taggart Lake Trailhead; return to Spring Creek Ranch for a 90-minute couple’s massage and a soak in the hot tub; drive into Jackson for souvenir shopping, one more scoop of Moo’s ice cream, and dinner at the historic Wort Hotel; re-pack suitcases for morning flight home
Day 5: One last breakfast at The Granary with coffee to go; shuttle to Jackson Hole airport for the flight home
Of course I love Iowa, and there’s no place like home, but I think my piece of heaven might look something like Wyoming. 🙂 And if we get the chance to vacation there again, I know we’ll do it in a heartbeat—whatever the season.