Review: Kayaking and Paddleboarding Spalding Bay, Grand Teton National Park

Review: Kayaking and Paddleboarding Spalding Bay, Grand Teton National Park

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It was a pretty warm day for the beginning of June, so my girlfriend and I decided to take her kid out on the kayak and stand-up paddleboard. The Tetons have plenty of easy places to do both activities, but the ones that are easiest with the best views are: 

  • Jenny Lake off of the road to Lupine Trailhead,
  • String Lake;
  • Jackson Lake

I’d heard that Spulding Bay on Jackson Lake didn’t have any great scenery, but was protected from the wind, so I was considering it on the trip from town. We stopped at the aquatic inspection station right before the entrance to the park to get our inspections done. Becca, the ranger performing the inspections, was incredibly chill. 

Wyoming requires all vessels except floaties and SUPs to have an aquatic invasive species (AIS) inspection stamp. You can get your AIS online.    Additionally, Grand Teton National Park requires an activity permit per boat and SUP to use the waters. You can buy it in person or also just get it online here.  If you get it online, you can download the temp permit to put on your phone. 

We had all the temp permits, though Becca was not interested in seeing them. She remarked that people were starting to head back to town, so we might be able to get a parking spot at String Lake. After looking at our boat, she gave us a yellow paper which was proof of our inspection and was valid for the day. With that in hand, we went to the park entrance, showed our annual pass, ID, and inspection paper, and were off to the races.

We stopped by Jenny Lake off of the Lupine Trailhead road but it was a bit windy and appeared to have no facilities for the nina. We elected to continue up the road, and EMS ingressed as we were heading back out. We also saw helicopter 38HX, which I used to control back in the day, sitting in a nearby meadow. I wonder how much HeliExpress makes off the GTNP contract?

String Lake seemed busy, and we’d been on it plenty of times before, an example of which is in the video below. Given that there was a touch of wind, we drove a few miles down the road and took the dirt road out toward Spalding Bay.

The road is single-track in many places and decent enough that you could get a car to the end, though the large cobbles hanging out in the middle in places make high-clearance preferable, or perhaps just a hatred for oil pans.

At roughly mile two, the road descended a couple hundred feet to Spalding Bay, with the view of the Tetons completely blocked by the ridge behind. There were a few vehicles there, with one man taking a day camping space and making food, but otherwise we had the put-in area to ourselves. I availed myself of the restroom and then finished getting the boat and SUP arranged for the water.

The immediate area of Spalding Bay is not attractive, since it only has views of the mountains from the north through southeast. The water was glassy calm, though, and perfect for SUPing and yakking. We hopped in and boated out a few hundred feet, and then the views simply exploded behind us: Moran towered over the put-in, and the Cathedral Group loomed tall to the southwest. It was stunning and  yet utterly quiet: no hooting from crowds, no wind, no distant motors. Just us and nature. And very, very cold water!

Somewhat farther out we found the wind, which pushed us quickly east. It wasn’t too bad, but boy did it chill me after I jumped in the water a few times. Yue Little kept asking about sharks, but all we saw were a few trout hitting the surface. I guess the area receives much less fishing pressure than places like String Lake. 

We played around for a couple of hours and decided that this would be “our” spot. Like a few other places we’ve found, it was tranquil solitude in the midst of bustle. The drive back featured truly spectacular views of the Tetons, as well. What a blessing.  

Rating: 4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Beauty: gorgeous once you get out into the bay.
  • Ease of access: high clearance is best, but a car can reach it.
  • Crowding: moderately trafficked. Low for GTNP.
  • Water quality: not crystal clear, and with few features to be seen given the location, but protected from prevailing wind.
  • Bottom line: a great place to escape the crowds of GTNP.

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