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One of the most beautiful places in the country full of amazing hiking, wildlife, and views? You guessed it- Grand Teton. Keep reading for the complete Grand Teton National Park guide.
The National Park series continues and just in time to celebrate National Park week! I hope you all enjoyed the very first installment of my national parks guide and are ready for more. This week, I am providing an in depth guide to Grand Teton National Park. Grand Teton is often overlooked by the bigger, more popular Yellowstone National Park but don’t make the mistake many do!
Make sure you book at least 2 days in this magical part of the world. Grand Teton is probably my FAVORITE national park (so far) and one of my favorite places in the country! We only had 2 days here and we often kick ourselves for that. Our plan is to go back one day and spend at least 4-5 days exploring more of what this park has to offer. With all that being said, I’m so excited to bring this Grand Teton National Park guide to you, my dear readers (even if there’s only 2 of you!).
Grand Teton National Park was established in 1950 to preserve the valley and unique mountain range. Tourists began to over run the beautiful landscape and John D. Rockefeller actually bought a ton of private land in this area starting in 1926. He donated the land to the government in 1949 where it became an official national park one year later. It is 485 square miles or 310,000 acres (much smaller than the neighboring 2 million acre Yellowstone). Grand Teton boasts so much wildlife, alpine lakes, glaciers, and the most gorgeous hikes. Teton holds over 200 miles of trails and the beautiful Snake River runs right through for your to dip your toes in or throw in a tube and drift away.
How to get to Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is located 7 miles from Jackson, WY. There are a few airports that are near the park:
- Jackson Hole airport (4.4 miles)
- Bozeman, MT (166 miles) – This is a good choice if you’re planning to also hit Yellowstone.
- Salt Lake City (284 miles) – obviously if you choose this route, you’re in for a bit of a road trip. But so worth it! We did this and the scenery was amazing the whole time. It took so much longer because we kept stopping for pictures!
If you fly into one of these airports, you’ll need to rent a car. A car or bike is really the only way to get around the park… and it would be a long bike ride to the park depending on what airport you choose to fly into! You can also obviously drive to the park if you live close enough. In which case, you should drive. Not fly. That would be silly.
The park entrance fee is $35. If you have an America the Beautiful Pass that will cover your entrance to the park.
Lodging in Grand Teton National Park
Just like most popular national parks, lodging in the park is very limited and books up quickly. There are several lodges within the park:
- Triangle X Ranch: Open mid-May through mid-October and for peak winter season
- Signal Mountain Lodge: open early May through mid-October
- Jenny Lake Lodge: open early June through early October
- Jackson Lake Lodge: open mid-May through mid-October
- Headwaters Lodge and Cabins and Flagg Ranch: open early June to late September
- Colter Bay Cabins: open late May to late September
- American Alpine Club Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch: open mid-June to mid-September
Make note of the specifications of each lodge because some are truly just lodging–no eateries/restaurants or amenities and will require camping gear. The other option would be camping whether in a tent or with a trailer/RV. You need a reservation for these sites. Reservations are available starting on a specific date each year (usually mid to late January) and spots go fast. Make sure you mark in a calendar or set an alarm in your phone to log into recreation.gov when sites become available! If all the sites are full, you can always camp in the Targhee National Forest or John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway. Camping here is dispersed, aka it’s dry and FREE!
Outside of the park, there’s not too much in the way of lodging until you get into Jackson. However, there are two great resorts in Teton Village (about 10 miles from the park). We stayed in Snake River Lodge and Spa. It’s pretty pricey but it was beautiful and magical! We’d love to go back and stay during ski season. The other option is the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Within Jackson, you’ll have several more options from hotel chains, local hotels, to Airbnbs. Jackson is about 30-45 minutes away from the south park entrance.
Grand Teton National Park Weather and What to Pack
Like Yellowstone, Grand Teton gets covered in snow during the winter months. Because of this, many of the roads and centers within the park are closed. You can snowshoe/snowmobile in/around but because hiking is the main attraction of this park you’d be better off waiting until the snow melts in the spring to visit. If you’re here to ski in Jackson Hole, I’m sure you know to pack warm!
Like most places, the summer is the most crowded time in Grand Teton. Lots of tourists. But if that’s the only time you can go, don’t let it stop you! It will definitely be less crowded than Yellowstone! It’s warm in the summer with temperatures averaging around 75 during the day and 40s at night. Bring shorts or hiking pants, short sleeve shirts, and a jacket for chilly afternoons and evenings. Don’t forget your rain jacket!
This doesn’t have to do with weather, but for packing purposes make sure you plan to buy or rent bear spray. You can buy it in some local shops in Jackson or at the visitor’s center in the park but it’s more pricey ($50). I recommend renting it if you’re staying less than a few days because it’s cheaper.
Also make sure whatever you bring you plan to take out with you! Leave no trace!
Things to do in Grand Teton National Park
Hiking is the obvious thing to do, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting if you’re not an avid hiker. Even just driving along the main parkway through Grand Teton is worth it for the views. Here are some things to do aside from hiking.
- Float or boat in Jenny or Jackson Lake: if you decide to do this and don’t take the Jenny Lake shuttle, please familiarize yourself with all of the permits required and safety precautions.
- I’d recommend using a tour guide if you’re not familiar with the area. The NPS website has some great options.
- Float the Snake river: the Snake River is a complex beast. Floating or boating along it requires serious planning and careful navigation so prepare accordingly!
- I’d recommend using a tour guide if you’re not familiar with the area. The NPS website has some great options.
- Explore Moose and Mormon Row: Mormon Row is two v old barns called the Moulton barns that were homesteads long ago (can you imagine living with that view!?). Moose is a tiiiiiny little community that is really home to mainly moose. It connects Grand Teton to Jackson and is great for scenic views and a stop by the visitor center.
- Drive the Moose-Wilson Drive: Moose-Wilson Drive is an 8 mile backroad that will take you to the Jackson Hole Mountain and is crawling with wildlife! It took us quite some time to make it ust 8 miles but it was SO worth it. We saw a moose, a brown bear, and several other little creatures. There are signs all along the road warning you about the high wildlife activity in this stretch.
- Bike along the pathway through the main stretch of the park
- Signal Mountain: The lodge at Signal Mountain has lake views and I’ve heard the huckleberry margarita from the bar here is to die for!
- Swim at String Lake (but go early, because it gets crowded in the summer!)
The best hikes in Grand Teton
This wouldn’t be a Grand Teton National Park guide without dishing all the best hikes in the park!
- Delta Lake (via Lupine Meadows): 7.4 miles out and back, rated as hard that brings you to a glacier lake. This is our favorite hike EVER!
- Jenny Lake: 7.9 miles out and back around the famous Jenny Lake. This is probably a more crowded hike as Jenny Lake is one of the main stopping points along the parkway. However, if you venture far enough out the crowds will begin to dwindle. –
- Cascade Canyon Trail: 9.7 miles, out and back, rated as moderate that brings you to a lake-
- Lake Solitude: 13.7 miles and rated hard, this heads to a lake and will be a fullll day hike!-
- Inspiration Point via Jenny Lake Boat Shuttle: 1.8 mile hike if you take the shuttle across, or you can take a longer hike around the lake to get to Inspiration Point – which is a beautiful viewpoint across Jenny Lake.
Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park
Many people tack a visit to Grand Teton onto their Yellowstone trip. But how easy is it to get from one park to another? I think this depends on your goal. North entrance of GT to the South Entrance of Yellowstone through the Targhee National Forest is 40 miles, or about 1-2 hours depending on time of day and traffic. However, there’s no lodging right at either of the entrances so you’ll need to add on some drive time to wherever your destination is.
Michael and I chose to drive through Grand Teton and along the John D. Rockefeller parkway into Yellowstone. We had to get to West Yellowstone for our Airbnb and we left right before sunset. It was a longgggg drive–probably about 4 hours. But. It was SO WORTH IT. Our first time in Yellowstone, we got caught in a bison traffic jam and saw a coyote. Traffic was also much lighter than if we attempted this drive during the day. Many other people will try to sway you from taking this route and opting for the highway route, but as long as you’re not a total butthead (yeah, I said butthead its my blog and I’ll do what I want) when you’re driving and keep a keen eye out for wildlife this route is so worth it.
The highway route will take you about 2.5 hours, but again, this depends on what entrance you’re trying to get through and what is your destination. Always check Google Maps to get an idea for yourself!
Day Trips from Grand Teton
- Yellowstone: I’m sure you know Yellowstone is a stone’s throw away from Grand Teton. You most likely won’t be able to hit all the best spots in one day, but you could certainly see Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful in one day. Maybe even Yellowstone Lake if you hustle!
- Jackson: This town is so cute you’d be remiss to not even venture in one evening for dinner. It’s so close to Grand Teton and packed with shopping, restaurants, breweries, and gorgeous scenery. Our favorite was Snake River Brewing Company. The beef and bison chili was amazing!
While a much smaller park, there is no shortage of adventure and beauty to be found in Grand Teton. Don’t miss out on the hike of a lifetime or seeing moose or grizzlies by passing over this park in favor or just Yellowstone. If you plan a trip with this Grand Teton National Park guide, let me know! I’d love to hear from you.
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