Continuing on from our guide to Yellowstone National Park, many will add on a visit to Grand Teton National Park as almost an afterthought. This is underestimating the rugged beauty, peacefulness and array of experiences on offer. From moments of solitude on a river or lake, witnessing the cabins and landscape homesteaders had to enjoy (and endure) or the many wildlife watching opportunities.
As always, the key is to plan ahead, prepare a detailed itinerary, and make lodging reservations well in advance.
From modern hotel rooms and rustic cabins to hostel-style bunk rooms and scenic tent spots, lodging options in Grand Teton National Park are vast and varied. All offer lovely natural settings and convenient access to park sights. Expect to pay a premium at lodges such as Jackson Lake Lodge and Jenny Lake Lodge. Reservations open a year in advance and often fill quickly.
The American Alpine Club operates an affordable non-camping option in the park. At the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch, you’ll find hostel-style lodging with bunk rooms, bathhouses, and communal cook space.
All campsites in the park are available via an advanced reservation system only. There are six campgrounds in the park and some offer pay showers, full hookups, and camping cabins. Reservations open six months in advance.
It can sometimes be difficult to secure lodging reservations inside the national parks, especially during the peak summer season. Luckily there are numerous options for all budgets and tastes right outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
West Yellowstone, Montana, is the closest town to Old Faithful and you’ll find plenty of lodging, dining, and other attractions here. The Town of Gardiner, Montana, is situated near the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park and also offers several lodging options. Cooke City and Cody, Wyoming, both make great basecamps for exploring the eastern side of the park.
Right outside Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming, you’ll find a huge variety of hotels, resorts, vacation rentals, and private campgrounds to choose from. You’ll also find several national forest campgrounds in the neighboring Bridger-Teton National Forest. Jackson is also a convenient place to stay for exploring the southern end of Yellowstone.
Two days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Grand Teton National Park but you can still see plenty if you only have one day.
With only one day in Grand Teton National Park, you’ll want to focus on the Jenny Lake and Mormon Row areas and take in many of the scenic viewpoints along the park road. Hit Oxbow Bend first thing in the morning for sunrise and then head over to the Mormon Row and explore the historic pioneer buildings. Spend the afternoon at Jenny Lake and take the hike to Inspiration Point.
With two days in Grand Teton National Park, you can spend the first day exploring all the sights in the southern end of the park including the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, Jenny Lake area, and Mormon Row. Then on your second day, explore the sights in the northern end of the park such as Oxbow Bend, Signal Mountain, Jackson Lake.
Oxbow Bend is one of the most famous photo spots in Grand Teton National Park. The reflection of Mt. Moran in the Snake River is one of the most gorgeous scenes in the park and it’s best at sunrise.
The Snake River Overlook is where Ansel Adams took his famous shot of the Teton Range. There’s even an interpretive sign here that shows where Adams took his iconic photograph. The overlook is great any time of day but is particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset.
The Mormon Row Historic District is what remains of a late 19th-century homestead community established by Mormon pioneers. It’s here you’ll find one of the most photographed barns in America, the T.A. Moulton Barn, and a collection of other historic structures with the Tetons as a staggeringly beautiful backdrop.
Jenny Lake is one of the most popular destinations in the park and the Jenny Lake Overlook, located along the Jenny Lake Overlook Road, offers one of the best views across the lake. From here, you’ll enjoy a wonderful view of Cascade Canyon and the Teton Range.
If you only have time for one hike in Grand Teton National Park, make it the hike to Inspiration Point. Along this trail, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of Jenny Lake, a 100-foot (30-meter) cascading waterfall, and views down into Jackson Hole Valley. Reach Inspiration Point via the Jenny Lake Loop Trail (5.8 miles/9.3 kilometers round-trip) or take the shuttle boat across the lake (for a fee) and then it’s only 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) round-trip.
If you’re looking for a longer, more strenuous hike, the Cascade Canyon Trail is the one to do. The hike begins near Inspiration Point and then climbs through Cascade Canyon with stunning views of the Tetons and gorgeous alpine scenery.
This easy 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) trail hugs the shoreline of Jackson Lake to a pebble beach with outstanding views of the entire Teton Range.
The String Lake Loops is a great option for visitors looking for a gentle hike packed with scenic views. This easy hike around String Lake provides amazing views of Teewinot, Grand Teton, and Mt. Owen. This calm lake is also a wonderful spot for canoeing and kayaking.
Jenny Lake canoe and kayak rentals allow you to spend a few hours leisurely exploring the lake and enjoying views of the Tetons from the water. Boat rentals are available first-come, first-served at the South Jenny Lake docks.
The Snake River winds right through Grand Teton National Park and several area outfitters offer float trips down this scenic and gentle section of the river. Visitors often see wildlife such as moose and eagles from the boat and will learn about the area’s unique history and geology from a guide.
Drive slowly along the road connecting the town of Moose and Teton Village and keep your eyes peeled for both black bears and grizzlies, moose and deer through the trees and marshy habitats.
Clothing Layers: You could expect hot sun, rain, cold wind, sleet and even snow any month of the year. Conditions can change rapidly, so pack extras layers in case. And bring along a lightweight rain jacket or poncho to stash in your daypack in case it starts to rain on any hikes.
Good Hiking Shoes: There are plenty of hikes to enjoy. If you plan to stick to the boardwalks and paved trails, any good comfortable walking shoe will do. Bring along a sturdy pair of hiking boots or trail shoes if you plan on doing any of the longer, more difficult hikes.
Sun Protection: The high elevation sun can be strong so you’ll want to make sure you come prepared with sunglasses, sunscreen, chapstick, and a hat.
Binoculars: Binoculars are a must if you want a better chance of spotting animals from a safe distance. A spotting scope is even better for visitors serious about finding wildlife.
Bear Spray: Bear spray is a must if you plan on doing any hiking in Grand Teton National Park. Park staff advise all hikers carry bear spray and know how to use it. You can find bear spray in camping stores, or rent some at gear shops in Jackson, Wyoming.
Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is important at altitude and dehydration can be a problem if you’re not drinking enough water in the high elevations. Carrying a reusable water bottle or hydration bladder while hiking is a must.
Lunch, Snacks and Water: There are services inside the park, but it’s best to bring your own. If you get that ultimate wildlife watching opportunity from your car, you can still enjoy without getting hangry.
DC Charger: Your battery will drain quickly using location services for the tour. Bring a DC car charger and or a portable battery charger to ensure you keep your cell phone and camera fully charged at all times.
Plastic Bag: We always like to take along a plastic bag to pick up any trash we find along the trails or boardwalks. #leaveitbetterthanyoufoundit
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