The beauty and splendor of Grand Teton National Park create jaw-dropping views as soon as you enter the park. The mountains thrust up to the sky with tall, jagged peaks seemingly out of nowhere, and the lakes run right up to the base of the mountains without any foothills to speak of.
Let’s learn how to make the most of your Grand Teton National Park visit!
Where is Grand Teton National Park?
Grand Teton National Park is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, just 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park. It covers about 310,000 acres (~484 sq. miles).
Together with surrounding National Forests and Yellowstone to the north, it is a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) that protects 22 million acres of mid-latitude temperate ecosystems – one of the world’s largest.
You may think that for being right next to each other, Yellowstone and Grand Teton would be similar. But as you pass from one park to the other, there is a noticeable change!
The uniqueness of the Grand Tetons comes from how young and steep they are. This steepness is caused by a break in the earth’s crust called a fault that runs through the Jackson Hole Valley.
Tremendous forces are still acting upon the range today and it continues to be a geological wonder. Glaciers also left their mark on the range and left behind depressions and moraines that turned into the Teton’s many mountain lakes.
Things to Do in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park offers world-renowned recreational opportunities within its borders. These are some of the best things to do while visiting.
Explore Taggart Lake
Looking for an easy, family-friendly hike? Or a breath-taking view for sunset? We recommend the short 3-mile roundtrip hike to Taggart Lake. Just because it was an easy hike did not mean you won’t be greatly rewarded!
Hike Around Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake is one of the most famous lakes in the park. Formed by glaciers pushing rock debris down Cascade Canyon some 12,000 years ago, it allows motorboats and has many hiking trails around it.
We hiked around Jenny Lake and up into Cascade Canyon, one of the most popular scenic areas of the park.
Explore Cascade Canyon
We hiked up into Cascade Canyon and were treated to amazing views on both sides as we trekked along Cascade Creek. We saw a mother moose and her baby grazing the brush along the creek.
Many mountain waterfalls poured down the slopes from the melting glaciers above.
Swim in Phelps Lake
A fellow camper tipped us off to our next Grand Teton National park hiking adventure. Phelps Lake is at the base of the entrance to Death Canyon (inviting sounding, isn’t it?).
Phelps Lake is known for having Jumping Rock that sits on the northern side. It is called “Jumping Rock” for the reason that it serves as a natural diving board.
It is a 25–30 foot drop into the lake, but the water is plenty deep for those brave enough to jump in. Be warned: the water is cold, even in August! Tom joined the dozens of others that braved the jump.
Photograph the Snake River
The famous photographer Ansel Adams loved photographing the Grand Tetons over the Snake River, and it’s easy to see why. The majestic peaks tower over the glinting river winding through Jackson Hole valley.
Professional and amateur photographers alike flock to the park to capture its charisma and majesty. So don’t forget your camera on your visit to Grand Teton National Park!
Be Prepared for Your Teton Adventure
The Grand Tetons are at higher elevation than most are used to and is home to many species of wildlife. Come prepared for recreating in this beautiful yet rugged landscape with these ten tips:
#1. Be Prepared for Bears
You are almost guaranteed to come across a Brown or Black bear in the park. Their numbers are up to over 1000 and they are very active in the summer. Encounters are frequently not dangerous but be prepared by carrying bear spray, which you can order here.
Making noise may also scare the bears off before you even see them. Also, use Bear Resistant Containers for food.
#2. Check for Wildfires
Wildfires are very common in this area in the summer. While we were there we had a few days where smoke choked the valleys. Know where they are by checking the alerts tab on the websites or checking Inciweb for details on fires in the entire region.
#3. Drink LOTS of water
Grand Teton National Park is at high elevations above 6,000 feet with many hikes above 10,000 feet. At these elevations and in the dry conditions found in the parks in summer, your body loses water over twice as fast as at sea level. Pack plenty of water and keep hydrated!
- Camelpaks work well: http://amzn.to/2n9uf8O
- Nalgenes are also great: http://amzn.to/2npQJEH
- Lifefactory Waterbottles, Glass, BPA free: http://amzn.to/2n9unFk
#4. Avoid the crowds by visiting early in the morning or late in the evening
We went exploring around 6:00 each morning and after 6:00 in the evening. In the mornings the park will start to fill by 9:00 and be busy untill 6:00 in the evening.
#5 Consider Camping Outside the Parks
While visiting we stayed in national forest campgrounds on the outskirts of the parks. Not only are the campgrounds crazy busy in the parks they are quite expensive for not having any hookups at most of them. Use the https://www.recreation.gov/ website to find campgrounds.
#6. Be Respectful of Wildlife
Visiting the park you will get up close and personal with lots of big animals. Don’t get too close or you will get hurt. Also do not feed the animals.
We saw people feeding foxes and squirrels. Doing this gets animals too reliant on humans or makes them dangerous. Help spread the message with these cool stickers.
#7. Be Wary of Other Drivers in the Park
We have never had so many close calls with vehicular accidents as our time in the park. There are so many distractions and so many people, many with RV’s and large vehicles. This is a recipe for disaster so driver defensively, and watch out for other drivers. Drive safely and don’t cause an accident.
#8. Stop at the Visitors’ Centers
They are incredibly helpful and will help you have the best experience possible. Utilize their service when you get to the park!
#9. Leave Your Dogs at Home
Your dogs are not allowed on any trails or any undeveloped place in the park. Your dog smells like a wolf to many creatures and their scent can screw up natural patterns.
Many large animals are also more likely to attack you with a dog. We saw too many people disobeying these rules. Don’t be that person. You could also face hefty fines.
#10. Be Safe, and Don’t Push Your Luck
Think things through and don’t go beyond your means. We saw many people doing dangerous things or clearly unprepared. Be smart and stay safe with proper hiking gear and emergency first aid.
- Hiking Boots: http://amzn.to/2npPPIl
- Sunhat: http://amzn.to/2mSEr3O
- Hiking Poles: http://amzn.to/2npyGyB
- First Aid Kit: http://amzn.to/2nfhon7
Read More About the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem:
- Getting to Yellowstone, Which Entrance Should I Take?
- Buffalo Bill Cody, Wyoming
- Grizzly Bears of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
- Yellowstone National Park – East
- Grand Teton National Park
- Yellowstone National Park – West & Overall Thoughts
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