With visitation records being smashed already this year for both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, it is only natural to expect visitors who want a more secluded outdoor experience.
Expect them to trickle towards the quieter side of the Tetons and the plentiful land of Caribou-Targhee National Forest, according to Teton Basin District Ranger Jay Pence.
“It’s going to be pretty comparable to mid-summer last year,” said Pence. “Potentially even busier.”
Recreation specialist Jeremy Kunzman elaborated on what to expect if you’re heading out to the forest.
“Parking lots are going to be full, your favorite camp spot is gonna be taken, same story as the Jackson Hole side of things,” said Kunzman.
“Our dispersed sites, which are not developed, are extremely full and extremely busy,” added Pence.
With increased visitation, an uptick in virtually all forms of suggestive camping behavior is anticipated as well. Pence warned of increased opportunity for animal conflicts due to an increasing trend of improper food storage.
“I anticipate there being a few more bear conflicts this summer, as well as moose too,” said Pence. “There was definitely an increase in improper food storage last summer due to more people recreating unprepared.”
In addition to more people recreating in CTNF, Pence also stated that this summer’s expected drier weather could play a role in animal-human interactions.
“It looks like it’s going to be a dryer summer and usually in dryer summers bears get a bit hungrier,” said Pence.
The best ways to help combat the adverse effects of more recreationists and campers in the backcountry revolve around making your plans flexible, and being able to adapt to situations as they arise.
“If you’re planning to go on a trip, whether you’re in Teton Valley or anywhere else, it would be a good idea to plan ahead. Some of the flexibility you had in the past may not be available due to the amount of people out there,” said Pence.
“I’ve already been telling people to have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C when they go out there,” Kunzman added.
With plenty of people experiencing the area for the first time, Teton Valley regulars will inevitably be asked by tourists where to go and what to do. Pence sees this as an opportunity for locals to be de facto stewards of the CTNF.
“As locals, it would be good for us to remember to keep people concentrated into areas that are developed for that recreation use and try not to disperse our use throughout the forest,” said Pence. “That’s important to do so we don’t impact wildlife unnecessarily.”
Kunzman expanded on this strategy, mentioning the importance of recreation centers such as Grand Targhee and the South Valley trail system.
“If somebody’s coming into the local restaurant and wanting to get a ‘where do all the locals go?’ it might be good to point them to these more popular venues like South Valley or Grand Targhee,” said Pence.
Kunzman shared what messages they will be trying to impress on visitors.
“If I was a betting man I’d bet most of our message this summer when we’re talking to visitors is gonna be about food storage, fires, and how to dispose of waste properly. Those are gonna be the big ones,” said Kunzman.
Whether you are a Teton Valley resident wanting to get out for a day hike or a visitor planning to spend a week, please do remember to be a good caretaker of the land you are using.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call the Teton Basin Ranger District’s office. Front desk representatives will be more than happy to provide you with up-to-date information in an efficient manner.
“Sometimes just talking to a person at our front desk provides the best up-to-date information,” said Kunzman. “A five-minute conversation can go a long way.”