The Ultimate Guide to Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park may share a border with Yellowstone, but the two parks might as well be worlds apart. Yellowstone is known for its geothermal natural wonders, but Grand Teton offers a more peaceful experience. You don’t have to worry about boiling hot geysers or supervolcanoes at Grand Teton, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the rugged mountains, beautiful valleys, and the abundant wilderness wonders that the park has to offer.
Grand Teton National Park
Some tips for visiting Grand Teton National Park:
- There are some shuttles and plenty of roads through the park, but biking is a really effective way to get around. It allows you the freedom to take more rugged trails and really appreciate the views.
- The park itself isn’t huge, it’s only 484 square miles (compared to Yellowstone’s 3.5 thousand square miles), but the area around it is also worth exploring. The National Elk Refuge next door is a great way to spend a day, as are the National Forests, and, of course, Yellowstone.
- Check out the ranger activities here. From tipi demonstrations to campfire story sessions, there’s usually something going on at one of the ranger or visitor centers.
T.A. Moulton Barn
The park is home to one of the most photographed barns in America, the T.A. Moulton. You’ve probably seen it before (well, a picture of it at least), the weathered wood, grassy valley, and blue mountains (and herds of bison, if you’re lucky) in the background make it insanely photogenic. But even though many have seen it and snapped its picture, few know the history behind it. Thomas Alma Moulton and his sons built the barn as part of a larger farm between 1912 and 1945, it’s now the only building on the Moulton family homestead, and was one of the last parcels of land sold to the National Park Service for Grand Teton. It’s not hard to see why the family wanted to hang on to it for as long as possible, it really is a gorgeous view.
Goosewing Ranch is a little further off the beaten path, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have loads of amenities that make it well worth a stay. Private cabins, decked out to rustic perfection, outstanding staff who will work with you and your horse, loads of other activities (from massages to fishing trips to ATVs), plus a bar and super nice dining room, and more make this the coziest cowboy experience in Wyoming.
Flat Creek Ranch
Flat Creek Ranch is a little more luxurious, offering clawfoot bathtubs, four-course dinners, an outdoor sauna, and capacity to hold no more than 14 guests at a time. You’ll still get as much of the dude ranch experience as you want though, with guided hikes, horseback rides, fly fishing trips, and more.
Granite Hot Springs
Tucked away in the mountains of Jackson, Wyoming, Granite Hot Springs comes with two pools (one man-made, the other natural) filled with warm, mineral-rich spring water, as well as a campsite. There’s also hiking in the Gros Ventre Mountains and fishing in Granite Creek, and the stunning Grand Teton National Park is only about an hour’s drive away. Imagine taking a soak in the healing springs after an intense day of hiking the Tetons. A soak will only set you back a few bucks, so take advantage.
Mormon Row Historic District
Mormon Row is Grand Teton’s very own ghost town, where many Mormons settled as they moved to form communities outside of their home base at Salt Lake City. The row of old homesteads, set against the majestic Tetons, and home to herds of bison, are a popular place for tourists to take some pictures.
National Museum of Wildlife Art
This is a unique kind of museum that you’d only find in Wyoming. Dedicated to art depicting animals, the National Museum of Wildlife Art has over 5,000 pieces from “early Americans to contemporary masters.” It’s a unique look at the convergence of natural science and art, and it’s all set in a lovely stone castle-like building on a cliff. Definitely check out the sculpture trail.
Wyoming Balloon Company
Mountaineering is one of the most popular activities in the park (the peaks are easily accessed by the roads, so an experienced climber can tackle a climb in under a day), but climbing isn’t the only way to get a picture-perfect view of the park. If “physical activity” isn’t your cup of tea (or even if it is) then consider a hot air balloon tour of Grand Teton National Park from the Wyoming Balloon Company. You’ll see a totally different side of the park from so high up…and the pilots are total pros, offering all kinds of extra info on the balloon, covering the wildlife and the park itself.
The Antler Inn
The retro exterior and neon sign make The Antler Inn feel like a classic roadside hotel, but the inside is a perfect blend of modern and vintage Western vibes. Some of the rooms have stone fireplaces and wooden walls. Also, the location, right in the center of Jackson, can’t be beat.
Antler Arches of Jackson
If you’re looking for an iconic photo op in Jackson, head to George Washington Memorial Park to pose for a pic with the city’s famed antler arches. They’re made of elk antlers, since elk seem to be everywhere around here, and there are four of them at each corner of the park, and they’re even bigger in real life.
Hiking, biking, hot air ballooning, fishing, skiing, whitewater rafting and more, are all right at the doorstep of Amangani, one of the country’s swankiest getaways. The rooms in the hotel are luxurious to say the least, and some have sunken baths and redwood furniture and faux fur rugs, but why bother with the king-sized bed when you have a balcony with some of the best views in America? They’ve got an awesome restaurant on site, a cozy library, a lounge with roaring fireplaces, even the fitness center is done in the outdoorsy hardwood theme. But the centerpiece of the experience has to be the pool. It offers the best views of the surrounding mountain scenery, and since it (like the whirlpool hot tub) is heated all year round, you can even enjoy it during the winter. Imagine warming up with a dip after a long day of skiing while watching the sunset.
One of the park’s many lakes, Jenny Lake is a great place to spend a morning or afternoon. Take a shuttle out here, and then rent a boat or hike the four-mile loop around the water, it’s a great place to spy wildlife and soak in the views.
Leigh Lake is undoubtedly one of the prettiest and most off-the-beaten-path spots in the Tetons…and it has a beach. Of course, instead of panoramic ocean views and rolling waves, you’ll have to settle for the surrounding mountain scenery and crystal-clear lake waters. It’s a decent length hike, but it’s level and relatively easy. Besides, there’s no better reward for a brisk hike than enjoying a picnic and a swim on the sandy shore.
More accessible than Leigh Lake, but a little more hidden than the popular Jenny Lake, you can rent a canoe in town and drive it out to String Lake for a slightly less busy boating experience.
A hike from Jenny Lake through Cascade Canyon will take you past hidden waterfalls, lakeshore and mountain views, and up granite slopes, through dense pine forests, and into secluded canyons. It’s a great sample of everything that Grand Teton National Park has to offer.
Jackson Lake is one of the park’s biggest, and it’s popular for a reason. The views of the mountains reflected in Jackson Lake’s water are incredible, and there’s great trout fishing here and plenty of places to rent a boat. There are even islands in the lake to explore. Of course, since the water is glacial melt, it’s pretty chilly, but a great way to cool off after a hike.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway
The John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway is the scenic road that connects Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park. The scenery between the two parks is vastly different, so a drive along here will take you from volcanic lava beds to soaring granite mountains…plus the wildlife you can see along the way is great, and the Snake River is absolutely stunning.
Grand Teton is home to some pretty incredible wildlife: wolves, elk, moose, big horn sheep, coyotes, and more have called the park home for centuries, but it’s only recently that the park’s population of grizzly bears has begun to boom. There are only about 1,500 grizzlies in the continental US right now, and 600 of them live in the Yellowstone-Teton area. If you’re looking to see them in the wild, they can be best seen in June and July at Willow Flats. And, just in case you have an encounter with one, brush up on your bear safety. Don’t make eye contact with it, act aggressively, or run; instead, back away slowly. And remember to bring bear spray and bear-proof containers for food.
Triangle X Ranch
Grand Teton National Park used to be filled with dude ranches, but today Triangle X Ranch is the only remaining ranch inside the park. They offer accommodations in adorable rustic cabins, include meals with your stay, and they plan excursions for their guests, like fly fishing trips, horseback riding lessons and tours, river floats, and much more.
Snake River Overlook
The winding Snake River, which starts in Yellowstone, weaves for over 1,050 miles, a small portion of which is located in Grand Teton National Park. It’s an incredible river to float or boat down, so book an excursion with an outfitter, and go in the morning if you can. However, if you still want to appreciate the river’s beauty without the effort of getting on the water, head to Snake River Overlook and take it all in.
The best time to visit Grand Teton National Park: Grand Teton is one of those parks where there’s really not a bad time to visit. Winter means many things are closed, but some people are drawn in by the snow sport opportunities and lack of crowds. Summer is the most popular time to visit, since the weather is warmer, although fall and spring bring fewer crowds and equally breathtaking views.
What part of Grand Teton National Park are you most looking forward to experiencing? Let us know by tagging us on Twitter.
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