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The Campsite That Changed My Life

Only those who have slept there truly understand.

By: Grant Whitty + Save to a List

After a long summer of working endless hours; I wanted to get out of Fort Collins for a while. My second year of college was starting soon. I planned a five day trip to the Tetons with some of my close friends.

As college students, swimming in a lake of debt, we wanted to make this trip as cheap as possible. That resulted in cramming five people into a Honda Odyssey (which has great gas milage), eating ramen noodles for about every meal, and camping for free. We only had to pay about $40.00 a person for the whole trip. 

Bessie the Van

The trip was filled with early morning summits, a twenty-mile day to an alpine lake, and jumping in every body of water we laid our eyes on. One of the most spectacular aspects of our trip was where we slept all of those nights. 

Home, for the next few days.

Ah yes, The Observatory, as some call it. Only the most incredible camp spots I have ever seen and stayed at in my entire life. I credit my knowledge of this to Christina Adele Warburg; a fellow contributor on this site who created this adventure, so folks like me can come and enjoy this gem. 

This site lies just outside the east boarder of Grand Teton National Park, inside of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. It is a free dispersed campsite, with a very, very rough road and million-dollar views. 

It took us some time to find the camp site. I scoped out the site prior to the trip and dropped a pin. I was riding shotgun, with my phone teetering between "No Service" and "1x". Luckily it was enough signal for my phone's GPS to take us there.

We soon came across an intersection and turned left, down a poorly made road. You know, the kind with two straight lines of dirt? (See photo above.) After bottoming the van out, the road got very steep and potholed. We parked the van, threw our packs on, and walked up the hill to the site. 

First light at camp, morning of August 16, 2016

There it was, uninhabited, and grand to say the least. 

We set up camp and soaked up the views. We all couldn't believe that we would be staying there the entire week. After camp was set up, we went down into the park to pick some of the ranger's brains about local hikes. 

We came back to camp late, only to hop in our bags and get some shut eye. 

The next morning, I woke up to this. 

Tent views...

This was the morning that changed my life. The air was crisp, and the dense forest around me was silent. The jagged peaks of the Tetons jetted up from the valley floor and scrapped the sky with their razor-like edges. The sun peaked over the horizon and illuminated the grand range like the that of a red-hot branding iron. I sat there in my tent and simply watched nature happen. It couldn't get any better than that. I almost forgot to capture it on my camera. 

After exploring the canyons and peaks of Grand Teton National Park, unfortunately our trip was coming to an end. School was a few days out from starting, and we were pretty beat. We began packing up the site. After we had all of our gear in our packs, we all turned around for one last farewell to the Grandest Campsite on Planet Earth. It was very difficult to leave such a beautiful place. This camp site was our home for a week. It got emotional for some of the others. After we said our goodbyes we loaded up the van and headed south towards Colorado. 

This changed my life because I don't know if I will ever camp at a site that will live up to this one. It is just too grand. 

Get Out There!


Check out our hike to Lake Solitude!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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