When Shawn and I decided to head to the Grand Tetons Van Life Gathering we were stoked to finally see the Teton Mountain range in person. They are just as majestic as described and more breathtaking than I could have ever imagined. They sit towering over you with snow-capped peaks so tall you’re not sure if it’s truly the peak or if the clouds are covering up just how high they really are. Add in the crisp fresh air and miles of room to roam free uninhibited for a wondrous vanlife in Jackson experience.
Sitting right next to the Grand Tetons is the town of Jackson Hole Wyoming. It is an adorable mountain town with plenty of huge grocery stores, and accommodating coffee shops. The town of Jackson Hole only adds to the beauty and charm of being near the Grand Tetons. Vanlife in Jackson Hole Wyoming was a magical time for Shawn and I and we highly recommend going to the area to experience it for yourself. We hope you find these recommendations helpful when you do decide to visit.
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The Top 4 Free Camping Spots in the Grand Tetons
Finding free camping in the Grand Teton National Forest is simply not a problem. There are free campsites all around the Grand Tetons that are dog-friendly and great for campervans, RV’s and tents. I will warn you, the dirt roads are a little rough. There were several dirt roads that took our campervan at least 45 minutes to drive a mile or two. Google Maps will often take you the “shortest” direction which may be a long dirt road instead of a very accessible highway. It does happen and remember I did warn you. Despite their rough dirt roads, the free camping spot is always worth the drive.
If you need a place to start then focus on Shadow Mountain which is plentiful in free camping right outside of Jackson, Wyoming. I recommend checking out Campendium and IOverlander to see all the incredible free campsites in the Jackson Hole area. These are a few that we personally checked out. Most of the coordinates will get you in the general area and you can find so many amazing campsites down each road.
Spot 1: Free Camping Spot in Shadow Mountain
About 30 minutes from Jackson are free campsites down a quick dirt road. There are about 20 spots that are designated camping sites with a beautiful view of the Grand Teton Mountain Range. They tend to fill up quickly so get there early especially on weekends.
Cell Service: The cell service is pretty non-existent (AT&T and Verizon). You could make phone calls and text but Instagram doesn’t really work and getting actually computer work done was super slow and painful. My advice is to head into town, get some work done and then enjoy the scenery when you are at your campsite.
GPS Coordinates: 43.7044119, -110.6219367
Spot 2: Easy Camping spot near Shadow Mountain
Finding overnight parking near the Grand Tetons doesn’t have to be difficult. At the bottom of Shadow mountain are several free campsites that are great for RVs, bigger vans, or anyone who doesn’t feel like driving up a bumpy dirt road. They are right beside the road so it isn’t ideal when you want a little privacy but it’s great for a night or two.
GPS Coordinates: N 43.76619, W 110.55703
Spot 3: Free Camping in Shadow Mountains with Grand Teton Views
The sunset picture was brought to you by a free campsite up Shadow Mountain which faces the Grand Tetons. The road is a little difficult to get up in a sprinter but really it just took some time and a little care. There are several free camping spots up this road and we even saw some RVs in the lower camping spots. The spot was able to fit three Sprinter Vans and had a fire ring. The view was absolutely spectacular as you were able to gaze upon the Grand Tetons which is always a treat. The Coordinates listed will get you in the general area. There are several spots available. The one we stayed at was further up from the coordinates and was spot #19.
Cell Service: Cell phone service on Shadow Mountain existed but just barely. With Verizon or ATT, we weren’t able to do much but make phone calls. A bummer too as working from that location would have made for real creative energy.
GPS Coordinates: 43.762492, -110.553995
Spot 4: Free Camping Near the Grand Teton National Park
We found this campsite on IOverlander after the above location was completely full. Only about 20 minutes up the road and this area is a popular spot for kayakers. Once you get to the area you will quickly see why as the river is right next to the road. There are free dispersed camping spots all along Taylor road. It is a little bumpy but most vans can get down it to the beginning parking lot where people stay for a quick night. The spots further down the road are a little more remote and even on a busy evening were not completely full. I loved sleeping to the sound of the rushing river underneath the cover of the forest trees.
Cell Service: There is literally no cell service from ATT or Verizon. Don’t come out here if you have work to be done or want to be on your phone. There is a tiny bit of phone service at the first camping spot you come upon but not enough to do anything but make phone calls.
GPS Coordinates: N 43.62984, W 110.5462
Overnight Parking in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Overnight parking when you are car camping in Jackson Hole is not allowed and therefore we do not recommend parking in the city limits overnight. There are so many places in the National Forest that you should be able to hang out in town then head back out to the forest for a beautiful sunset! This is probably the biggest downside to vanlife in Jackson Hole, other than the cold nights!
Top Places to Shower in Jackson, Wyoming
There is not a Planet Fitness in Jackson, Wyoming. I repeat for most van-lifers it is difficult to shower for free in the Grand Tetons. If you have been a van-lifer, car-dweller, RVer, or whatever nomad name you like to go by then you know you don’t always get to shower. Sometimes this can last a week or two. Jackson was no exception. We did manage to find one place we would recommend for a nice hot shower and a quick dip in the pool.
Grand Teton Recreational Center
Shawn and I almost never pay for showers, this is why we have a Planet Fitness membership (plus a lifetime supply of baby wipes 😂). However, there comes a time when you just really stink and want to wash the campfire smell out of your hair. So due to our friends Vanessa and Adam’s recommendation we decided to check out the rec center.
Priced at $7 for a shower and access to the pool Shawn and I cashed in our pennies. Let me tell you it was soo worth the money. They have a huge slide, hot tub, and a lap swim area. The slide alone was worth the 7 bucks. We each went down the slide 3 or 4 times until we got so dizzy we had to take a break. The lifeguards were so funny and accommodating helping us find ways to go down the slide even smoother and faster.
I highly recommend the rec center to anyone needing something to do indoors or simply just needing a shower.
Our Favorite Sights in the Grand Tetons
This section will probably be much smaller or have some repeats that are already in this post. Being in the Grand Teton National Forest and in the serene town of Jackson Hole of Wyoming was more about “being” than anything else. We spent time relaxing with friends, laughs by the campfire, learning how to play monopoly deal inside the van, and just enjoying the beauty of Grand Teton Mountains. My advice to you is to give yourself time to be in the area of Jackson Hole. Don’t rush, don’t over plan and get ready to be in awe.
Our Favorite Sights for vanlife in Jackson Hole:
- The Grand Teton Mountains– There are several spots outside of Jackson that you will find full breathtaking views of the Grand Teton Mountains. Go, pull over, open the doors and take it all in.
- The Grand Teton National Park –Truthfully we didn’t spend a ton of time in the Grand Teton National Park, as they don’t allow dogs on their trails (There is a small paved section they are allowed on), but we did drive through a bit of it and it was worth the time.
- Explore the Grand Teton National Forest- There are so many backroads and trails to explore in the Grand Teton National Forest. Pick an area, know the rules, and go explore! There are so many roads and small trails to explore and we enjoyed just experiencing the area!
The Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
If you have never been to Jackson then something that may or may not surprise you is the cost of everything. Although the groceries are not overly priced you will notice the price increase in some of the restaurants. A joke I was once told is the Billionaires are gentrifying the millionaires. Even if that is true the prices reflect a larger city and are not astronomical. What was also surprising for a small town was the availability of vegan options. There were a few restaurants that offered quite a few vegan options that don’t completely break the bank.
The Figs Restaurant
Since Shawn and I are on the super tight Van-lifers deluxe budget, eating out a vegan restaurant was not on the docket for us. Lucky for this blog our friend Vanessa and Adam happened to visit an incredible vegan restaurant they highly recommend called The Figs.
The Figs is a Lebanese restaurant inside the Hotel Jackson and our friends could not stop raving about the experience they had. From the environment, food, to the super friendly staff they said they had a great dinner. They recommended the Five Meza, a sampler including falafel, za’atar potatoes, hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, and pitas. The sampler is priced at $29 but they both were able to share it and feel satisfied.
There are plenty of vegan options and are all listed on the menu. The environment is a bit fancy but you are able to come as you are.
Hand Fire Pizza
Hand Fire Pizza was one of the first places I looked to when searching for vegan options in Jackson, Wyoming. You can’t get any better than hand made fire-roasted pizza. Known for sourcing most of their products locally it’s an added bonus that they have a vegan and gluten-free crust. They have a vegan crust that Yelp reviewers rave about and dairy-free cheese options as well as a make your own pizza option. Priced at around $22 for a 16-inch pizza and $10 to start building your own, you won’t break the bank and will get the local experience you crave from Jackson, Wyoming.
Other Restaurants with Vegan Options in Jackson, Wyoming
Although I didn’t see any other restaurants that had NOTABLE vegan options, they all pulled up on Yelp and Trip Advisor as vegan-friendly. Here are a few that I personally would call ahead and ask what vegan options they had:
- Teton Thai– an upper scale Thai restaurant that has vegan sushi and a taproom separate from the larger hotel.
- Spur Restaurant– Although this restaurant focuses heavily on meat and cheese there were a few options that intrigued me, such as the Roasted Cauliflower Wedge. However, priced at $25 you might have to decide if the curiosity is worth the hefty fee.
- Glorietta Trattoria – A higher-end restaurant with a focus on your culinary experience. I didn’t see any specific vegan plates but a place like that is always willing to make you something special off the menu.
The Best Coffee Shops for Working in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Checking out the local coffee shops is one of my favorite things to do when visiting a new town. We get to work for a few hours with free wifi and if we are lucky the dogs can come inside with us.
The places I found in Jackson didn’t let dogs inside but they had dog-friendly patios that were great when the weather was nice.
A beautiful bakery with freshly made muffins, pastries, and bread I highly recommend giving The Persephone Bakery a try. We got a simple oat milk latte and Sour Dough Bread while soaking up the sun on their large outdoor deck.
They have heaters outside in case it is a little chilly and dogs were allowed on the patio. The staff wasn’t exactly friendly but it didn’t take away from our fantastic experience.
Although we didn’t get to visit Cowboy Coffee ourselves, the Jackson Hole Traveler recommend the Cowboy coffee as a dog-friendly establishment. Every time we walked by the coffee shop had a local town vibe with old wood ceiling and chalkboard menus. We would definitely check it out the next time!
The Best Dog-Friendly Hikes Outside the Grand Tetons
Vanlife in Jackson Hole Guide would not be complete without including our van dogs.
I’m not going to lie to you, finding areas, where dogs could run off-leash outside the Grand Teton National Park, was not easy. Most of the time we had to find dirt roads or remote areas where we knew there were not any bears or cars around. Although they got plenty of exercises we did not take the pups on any sanctioned hikes. However, after doing some research here are a few recommendations from All Trails.
Josie’s Ridge Trail
A 3.4-mile trail about 10 minutes outside of Jackson is a nice choice for you and your pup. Josie’s Ridge Trail has a 1223 foot elevation gain which means it is a bit difficult and not great for beginner hikers. The pictures look incredible though and the hike would be worth the view for us.
Jade Lakes Trail
I’m not a fan of hikes that take you nowhere. I am what I have coined “A destination hiker” if there is not a gorgeous view at the end of this road, then you can count me out. This is why Jade Lakes Trail is definitely on our list. The hike only being 5 miles long and 748 feet of elevation gain makes it that much sweeter when you look at the incredible view of the Lake and mountains. It seems fairly flat and a nice scenic walk for most levels although coined a “moderate” hike by All Trails. Dogs are allowed on a leash but it is a bit far from Jackson and around an hour and a half from Shadow Mountain.
Vanlife in Jackson Hole was one of my top experiences of 2019. I highly recommend putting it on your road trip itinerary and leaving plenty of time to explore the area. Besides it being a wonderful place you are also positioned hours away from so many other parks such as Yellowstone and Glacier!
Did I miss any must-see spots for a full vanlife in Jackson Hole experience? Let me know in the comments!