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Many of our nation’s national parks experience very distinct seasons and the time you choose to visit can make or break your trip! There are positive and negatives at any time of year… but which is right for you? Keep reading to discover when is the best time to visit Grand Teton National Park.
Grand Teton is one of my FAVORITE places in the whole entire wide world. Ok, ok I haven’t been to *that* many places yet but I’ve been to quite a few so that’s still saying something, right?! There’s something about the jagged, towering gray mountains surrounded by an amazing valley that I’ll just never get over. It’s also a goldmine of wildlife spotting at any of time of the year which is really the key to my heart!
But when should you visit? Not every season in the Tetons is equal but there IS something for everyone during each season. Grand Teton National Park experiences 4 distinct seasons with snowfall almost a given from mid-to-late October all the way until May.
Summers can get very, very warm but overall pretty comfortable. The most popular time to visit the park is between May and September but it is open year-round. In this post, I’m sharing the good and the bad during each season so you can make the decision for yourself…. When’s the best time to visit Grand Teton?
Deciding when the best time to visit is truly dependent upon what you want to experience.
☀️To avoid crowds, I always recommend the low or shoulder seasons–so, anything but summer.
🥾 If you want to do good hiking, late summer to early fall is your best bet.
🐻 Both mid-fall and mid-spring are great times to see some unique wildlife experiences.
❄️ Winter is great for winter sports and wildlife that thrives in the snow!
Keep reading for more details on the best of every season!
About Grand Teton
Grand Teton National Park is not only one of MY favorite places in the whole world, it often becomes a favorite of many travelers! I think it’s because it is so unexpected… We hear so much about Yellowstone that we overlook Grand Teton! But don’t make that mistake, friend. You MUST take time to visit this magical park.
Grand Teton National Park is located in Wyoming about 20 minutes from the famous ski town of Jackson Hole. It’s relatively easy to get to and has things to do for all abilities and ages. Be warned, though. It is a bit pricey to stay here because of its location and how touristy Jackson can be at times. However, it is absolutely the best option for visiting the park because of its proximity and ease. I promise it’s worth it!
While you can see the park during any time of the year, each season has pros and cons. The park itself is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. May through September, all roads, campgrounds, and visitor facilities are open for normal operating hours. In October, the park begins to reduce its visitor facilities and by November until April roads, campgrounds, and visitor facilities are closed. Head over to the NPS website to view precise dates and times of visitor facility operations and road closures.
Which is the best time for you to visit Grand Teton? Let’s talk about the perks and drawbacks of visiting during each season and you can decide for yourself!
But before we get into details, I’ll give you a spoiler alert. I think September or October is the absolute BEST time to visit Grand Teton. The weather is still nice but not TOO hot and crowds are thinning out. Wildlife is preparing for a cold winter so they are very active, giving you more chances to spot that elusive grizzly and see moose taking a dip in a river.
When is the best time to visit Grand Teton National Park?
Summer is undoubtedly the most popular time to visit Grand Teton National Park. Like most other national parks, it’s filled with families and travelers from all over enjoying summer break and warm weather. The biggest drawback of visiting in summer? The crowds. Traffic can be bad, hikes are crowded, and lodging is near impossible to get if you haven’t planned well in advance. To visit in the summer, just prepare with an extra dose of patience. Enjoy the ride and the slow pace 🙂
Grand Teton in the summer is also VERY hot. The sun can be unrelenting and many of the hiking trails don’t have tree cover the entire time. It is a dry heat for the most part, so that makes it a bit more bearable 😉
Summer does have its benefits, though! If the only time you can manage to make a trip is summer, you will still have an excellent time. Everything is open in the park so you can take full advantage of every hike (Delta Lake included!), boat ride, and amenity. You also don’t have to worry about snow if you are taking hikes into the mountains!
I know I mentioned the heat being a huge drawback… but it’s just that much more refreshing to dive into one of the many amazing alpine lakes when you’re super sweaty from a tough hike.
There are MANY alpine lakes to choose from but diving in isn’t for the faint of heart! Even in the dead of summer, these bodies of water are SO cold. Like 50-55 degrees cold. But after a nice long hike, we enjoyed dipping into Jenny Lake to cool down our muscles. And it was delightful.
Every campground is open in Grand Teton National Park in the summer, as well. Many do require reservations 6 months in advance and the first-come, first-served options will fill up fast so plan accordingly!
While it’s very common to experience wild weather shifts at any time during the year, spring is an extra wild time in Grand Teton National Park. You can get 6 inches of snow one day and have it be mostly melted by the next day. Depending on when in the spring you visit, it could still very well be full on “winter mode” around here! When visiting in the spring, be prepared for any type of weather.
The month of April is typically referred to as “mud season” as the snowfall lessens and the temperatures start rising. That can make for a less than enjoyable hike. But don’t let that alone deter you! Spring in Grand Teton is a great time for wildlife viewing as the animals start making their way back up to the Tetons for the summer. Bears are ready to make their debut usually around mid-April and into the beginning of May.
The days are still cool with very chilly mornings and nights, but if you bundle up you could very well have the park almost to yourself! Be sure to pack a really great pair of waterproof hiking boots, a warm jacket (this one is my favorite for layering!), and a rain coat.
The National Park Service opens its doors on May 1st. There’s usually still some snow hanging around but you can be sure the valley is clearing out. Some lower elevation hikes may be fully ready for traversing, but the higher elevation hikes will most likely still be snowed out. Come prepared if you visit in the spring!
The best time to visit Grand Teton National Park is definitely spring if you want fewer crowds and some awesome opportunities to view wildlife!
Ah, my favorite. I’m actually a self-proclaimed summer gal but there’s something about hiking and exploring national parks in the fall that I’ll never get over. I already said in the spoiler alert that fall is MY favorite time to visit Grand Teton but let me tell you why…
Late summer and early autumn boasts spectacular weather. It’s not scorching hot but still warm enough to hang outside without a jacket, the nights are cool, and it’s still pretty dry. The long summer heat has melted away most of the pesky snow pack so almost no hikes will be off limits to you! Towards mid-to-late autumn, some higher elevation hikes may start to get a bit of snow towards the summits. For example, Delta Lake had a bit of a snow shower a couple days before we got there in mid-September! But it wasn’t enough to prevent us from reaching the lake.
In addition, most kiddos have gone back to school, people aren’t headed out on summer vacations anymore, and you’ll generally have fewer crowds to fight with. Fall is still a very popular time to visit this area because of the gorgeous weather but it’s manageable.
Most of the amenities, visitor centers, and restaurants are open until around mid-October when it starts to get more snowy. You’ll still have plenty of options within the park and most campgrounds are still open for lodging. I still recommend booking as soon as you’re able if you want to snag a campground or a room in a lodge within Grand Teton, though!
The MOST exciting part about visiting Grand Teton in the fall? The wildlife! Animals are sensing the change in weather and starting to make their treks and preparations for a long, cold winter. Bison, pronghorn, and elk all travel through the Tetons as they move to their winter resting places. And elk, deer, and moose mate during the fall so you’ll most likely hear their calls or even see the males fighting! Bear are fattening up for their hibernation so grab your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled.
Of course, fall is the time when leaves change. Grand Teton has some amazing fall foliage. Hop in the car and take a scenic drive to Oxbow Bend, Willow Flats, Jackson Lake, and Pilgrim Creek Road for some breathtaking foliage!
Winter lovers rejoice! I know you’re out there. While I may not *quite* be ready to traverse through feet of snow (but hey, I’ve done it before), I can truly imagine what a magical scene Grand Teton is in the winter. Blanketed in layers and layers of snow, people enjoy coming for winter sports. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing await you. You’re also just around the bend from Jackson Hole, one of the best ski mountains in the country!
You also have a great shot at seeing elk, bison, moose, and even wolves in the winter. With a stark white contrast behind them, I can only imagine the amazing photos you could get! There are several wildlife area closures throughout the park during the winter months to protect many species, so be sure to refer to the NPS website to plan around that.
The winters are harsh and cold, with many roads being closed due to snowfall. You’ll be limited to where you can take a car so if you want to do even more exploring, strap on those snowshoes! So while there are things closed during the winter, you can still have an amazing experience if you’re willing to get out there and brave the elements.
Once you’ve decided when to visit, make sure to check out The Ultimate Guide: Planning a Trip to Grand Teton National Park.
So, which season is best to visit Grand Teton?
The best time to visit Grand Teton National Park is truly anytime you can make it happen. There are plenty of pros and cons to each and every season but the beauty and magic of the Grand Tetons is alive and well no matter what the weather is like.
Deciding when the best time to visit is truly dependent upon what you want to experience.
- To avoid crowds, I always recommend the low or shoulder seasons–so, anything but summer.
- If you want to do good hiking, late summer to early fall is your best bet.
- Both mid-fall and mid-spring are great times to see some unique wildlife experiences.
- And winter is great for winter sports and wildlife that thrives in the snow!
If you only plan to go to Grand Teton National Park once in your life, fall is a great time to experience absolutely everything with some really nice weather. But…. Can I suggest going back during EVERY season?! I have to know… what season would you choose for your first visit?
After you’ve decided what time of the year to visit, head over to this blog for the ultimate guide to visiting Grand Teton National Park!