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Camping in a National Park is a trip of a lifetime. However, camping for adventurous travelers with chronic illness can be tricky. The flights, transportation, and overall travel can be stressful. And stress is the number one trigger for autoimmune flares. If you can relate, you understand that’s why camping isn’t a viable option for some autoimmune warriors. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. In this guide I give you the best of both world.

The National Park System remains the top choice for booking lodging and maximizing time in the park and saving money. As a highly sought-after option, reservations open from 11 months to 2 weeks in advance. Some sites have electricity, many do not. Still interested after reading the stipulations? Good! Welcome to the best kept secret in the National Park experience! Read on to hone skills and strategies for campsite hacks, and then book early.


Grand Teton National Park has multiple campgrounds to choose from. However, this post will explore a combination of cabin and camping experience. Because I stayed in their rustic cabins at Colter Bay, I can attest to the comfort, hospitality, and benefit of this property.

Although not in a tent, the cabins at Colter Bay provide an outdoor atmosphere, especially if you try out some of these tricks and tips. Besides offering an authentic cabin homestead-like setting, there are other reasons I include this lodging in the camping section. Namely, with some effort and willingness, the accommodation can nearly match any camping experience. Think of it as hybrid-camping. Keep reading to find out how.

Colter Bay is less crowded than other areas of the park, which is an obvious bonus. In addition, a less than two minute drive will bring you to Swim Beach, the perfect setting for outdoor cooking and picnicking. The best part is it’s practically isolated morning, noon, and night. An amazingly well-kept secret, it will become your daily, pack-in, pack-out campsite.

As a camper, you are likely familiar with single-burner and probably know these can be packed in your carry-on luggage. Making a quick stop at the market for matches and propane, you can easily create your own makeshift campsite at the nearby Swim Beach. Pack your instant coffee (or grounds for French Press), your oatmeal, hotdogs, any simple meal you want to create, and prepare to be amazed at your front row view of the Teton Range. Don’t forget your travel journal!

As for lunch and dinner, takeaway is available in most parts of the park. I never ate a meal inside the entire trip, because I didn’t want to miss one minute of the sights.

best hybrid camping for adventurous travelers with chronic illness
Morning sunrise at Swim Beach

Of course there are pros and cons to any travel accommodation. Personally, I love to sleep in a tent, but there are times when my physical body can’t handle the many demands that traveling, then sleeping outdoors, can bring. I manage multiple autoimmune diseases, and after a 6+ hour flight and temperature fluctuations, my body can spiral into a flare.

That’s why I sometimes supplement my tent lodging with a climate-controlled bed, where I may need to sleep 12 or more hours to physically bounce back. But my camper side misses the glory and majesty that nature provides when staying in a campsite. To balance both wants and needs, I use creativity and flexibility to get there. Maybe you can relate?

In addition, Grand Teton NP is home to black and grizzly bears, moose, elk, and other large animals. Bears are often seen on trails and in the developed areas, and although campground visits are extremely rare, their presence may inhibit safety levels for some travelers.

When I researched the cabins, I wasn’t aware that there were many different configurations of units. The website information was general and not until I checked in did I realized the variety. Some buildings house only 2, where as others were 4 or more. In addition, some had porches and some did not. This was not a problematic situation, as one of the overlooked details in the description was that my unit (2 twin beds) actually did include a coffee maker. This was big!

Finally, since these cabins had many particulars, it made for more than average communication with the front desk. For the record, every staff member there was exceptional. Last but not least, reservations can be made online or by calling 307-543-3100.

Staying five nights in cabin number 462, I got a good read on the noise level and facilities. I would give it 4 outta 5 stars overall. The wifi is great and if you want to work on your mental health while traveling, you’ll get a strong signal. The bathrooms were spotless and although shared, I never crossed paths with another guest in the four-unit building. It loses one star for thin walls. Remember, they are marketed as ‘rustic’ for a reason, and this shouldn’t deter you if you you are a cabin / camper type of person. Just as in a tent, voices carry and doors closing will reverberate. However, most guests are out more than in, and traveling with ear plugs or sound apps removes the problem.

Tent camping in Wyoming is in my future, but enjoying the camping lifestyle of Grand Teton NP is my present. Solo travel is a delicate balance of pushing comfort zones without being so uncomfortable you lose your joy. Finding the right blend is the art of getting to know and reinvent yourself. Enjoy the process and when things don’t go as planned, remember there is a golden life lesson in that too.

FAQ’s

What types of campgrounds are available in Grand Teton National Park?

There are a variety of campgrounds, including frontcountry sites with amenities like potable water and flush toilets, as well as backcountry sites for those seeking a more rugged experience. There are also group campsites

Does Grand Teton have hook-ups?

Although some sites can accommodate RVs, hookups are generally not available.

What bear safety precautions should I take while camping?

Proper food storage is critical to ensure the safety of both bears and campers. Use bear-proof storage boxes, which are available at most campgrounds, and never store food or scented items in your tent.

Does Grand Teton campgrounds offer first-come-first-serve basis?

Yes: Lizard Creek Campground, Gros Ventre Campground, Signal Mountain Campground, Jenny Lake Campground, and Headwaters Campground at Flagg Ranch offer first-come-first-serve camping.

When should I arrive to get a first-come-first-serve site?

You should arrive very early in the day to secure a spot at these campgrounds, like 6 or 7 am, especially during peak tourist season from June to September. Conditions and policies can change, so it’s a good idea to check the latest park information or contact the park directly before your visit to confirm the availability and any new regulations.

How do I get to Grand Teton National Park?

Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) is the closest airport to the park, just about a 5-minute drive to the park entrance.
Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) is located about 90 miles west of the park.
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is in Utah is about 280 miles south of the park.

Final Thoughts On Camping For Adventurous Travelers With Chronic Illness

If you love the experience of fresh air in the great outdoors, but also love exceptional health when camping, then hybrid camping might just be for you.

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