Have you decided to visit Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming? If so, read on! We will share with you our experience visiting the park in an epic road trip, our full 5 day itinerary and things to do with lots of pictures and videos so you know what to expect! We will also include our list of top things to do in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Grand Teton in case you only have 3 days, or maybe even just 1 day to spend visiting Grand Teton National Park.

Here are the topics we will cover in this post and other related posts. Click on any link to skip to the relevant section.

1) WHAT IS GRAND TETON FAMOUS FOR?

2) GRAND TETON AREA MAP

3) WHERE TO STAY IN GRAND TETON?

4) HOW MAY DAYS TO SPEND IN GRAND TETON?

5) DAY BY DAY 5 DAY ITINERARY AND RELATED POSTS

6) OTHER SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES

7) TOP 5 THINGS TO DO

8) MUST HAVE’S FOR YOUR TRIP!

 

What is Grand Teton National Park Famous for?

Grand Teton National Park is a beautiful untouched wilderness of over 310,000 square miles just a hop, skip and a jump away from the quaint, historic town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s known for it’s rising peaks (especially the 13,770 ft tall Grand Teton) that are as grand today as they were thousands of years ago when man first stepped foot into the Jackson Hole Valley. This series of peaks cluster together and stand as silent, prehistoric guardians of a landscape that has sat unchanged since before human beings set foot on the continent. During your stay you will experience breathtaking postcard perfect landscapes, crystal blue lakes with lots of water activities, over 200 miles of trails in the wilderness where you can hike in solitude till your feet cave in, and of course lots of wildlife – bears, moose, elk and deer. They can often be seen right by the roadside, but also expect to run into them in longer hikes. Carry a bear spray!  
“Of all the places in the rocky mountains that I know, it is the most beautiful, and, as it lies too high for man to build and prosper in, its trees and waters should be kept from man’s irresponsible destruction” – Owen Winster, 1876
 

Grand Teton Area Map

Here is the map of Grand Teton from the NPS website to get you oriented with the park. There are 5 intersections (marked in red) on Teton Park Road which is the main artery in the park. Note that this road is closed Nov – May due to snow conditions.
  • Moose Junction is the closest intersection from Jackson, where you can detour to Phelps Lake, Mormon Row & Shadow Mountain. This will be the first intersection you hit when entering the park from Jackson.
  • South Jenny Lake Junction is where you can catch the boat shuttle to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Falls & Cascade Canyon. Probably the most popular area in the entire park.
  • North Jenny Lake Junction is where you can take a hike to Paintbrush Canyon and visit String Lake & Leigh Lake. It is also where Jenny Lake Lodge is located.
  • Jackson Lake Junction leads to Jackson Lake on one end and Colter Bay on the other. You can also exit the park and head to Yellowstone National Park from here.
  • Moran Junction that takes you out of the park on the east side. No major attractions on this side, other than the RV park that we stayed at.
   

Where to Stay in Grand Teton National Park?

Hotels

When visiting Grand Teton National Park, the town of Jackson, Wyoming is THE PLACE to stay. It is only 5 miles from the south entrance to the park and has plenty of hotels, shops, restaurants, and touristy things to do. Make sure you book your trip months in advance though as the hotel rooms can get booked fast all year round. There aren’t very many options other than Jackson that are convenient to access the park. If you’d like to stay inside the park, Jenny Lake Lodge is right by the Jenny Lake and is a very popular option. You can also stay at Signal Mountain Lodge, or Jackson Lake Lodgeboth of which offer lakeside accommodations.

Camping & RV

If you’re doing the trip in an RV like we did, you may want to check out Fireside Buffalo Valley RV Park which is just outside the north entrance of the park past Moran junction. The RV park itself was ok (we’ve been to better ones) but we chose it because its only 4 miles to the north entrance. Other campsites within the park are Jenny Lake Campground and Signal Mountain Campground  

How many days to spend in Grand Teton?

There are so many things to do in Grand Teton, that you can easily spend more than a week here and do a different set of activities every day. Most people spend 3-5 days though, and combine a visit to Grand Teton with Yellowstone National Park which is only 70 miles north. We recommend spending at least 5 days here to be able to do some of the longer hikes and enjoy the breathtaking scenery without being rushed. That said, if you’re short on time, 3 full days should be enough to get you a taste of the Tetons. We spent 5 days in the Tetons and have compiled a list of the must do things in the park. Following is our day by day itinerary.  

DAY 1: GETTING TO KNOW THE PARK

SCENIC DRIVE AROUND PARK

Road to Grand Teton National Park
Sunset at Cascade Canyon
Golden Hour sunset on Teton Park Road, Grand Teton
Teton Park Road Viewpoint
Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park Sign
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As you enter the park on Highway 191, you can’t miss the majestic Teton range on the west side. The first thing to do in the park is to drive on a 48 mile loop around the park that lets you see the breathtaking scenery from different viewpoints along the road. By the end of this drive, you will surely be ready to have a closer look at the parks many attractions. Here are some of our pictures from the Scenic Drive around the Tetons.

Phelps Lake Trail

Phelps Lake, Grand Teton National Park
Phelps Lake, Grand Teton
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We started exploring Grand Teton from the South end on Phelps Lake Trail which is a 4.7 mile roundtrip with a 965 feet elevation gain. Along the way about a mile into the trail, there is an overlook that has amazing views of the lake. You can also continue on to the Death Canyon hike, which is 10.5 mile roundtrip and is rated “difficult” due to the 2800ft elevation gain. Check out our video of the hike to Phelps Lake.

DAY 2: LAKESIDE PICNIC AND A HIKE TO WATERFALLS

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake
Unusual sighting of Bears at Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park
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One of the more popular areas of the park is Jenny Lake which is a prime location for scenic tours and motorboating. It also serves as a starting point for many hikers that often choose to hike the 7 mile Jenny Lake trail that loops around the lake itself, or the dozens of other nearby trailheads. We spent an afternoon here by the lakeshore and it was a perfect way to relax in the Tetons.

Hidden Falls & Inspiration Point

View from Cascade Canyon with mountains on either side
Cascade Creek at the bottom of Cascade Canyon
View of Cascade Canyon from Inspiration point
View of Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point, Grand Teton
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Jenny Lake has a boat shuttle that takes you to the other side of the lake (for a roundtrip fee of $18 per person) to the trailhead for Hidden Falls, Inspiration point and Cascade Canyon. Most people do the Hidden Falls and Inspiration point hikes, both of which are fairly easy 2.5 miles roundtrip. Cascade Canyon hike is 9 mile round trip with a 1000+ ft elevation gain, and you can continue further to Solitude lake which adds another 2.7 mile one way.

Jackson Lake

The biggest lake in the Tetons, Jackson Lake is not to be missed. As you enter the park from Moran junction, the Teton Park road leads to right into the Jackson Dam, which is the origin of the Snake River. A short walk along the dam is a great way to spend an evening watching the sun set behind the Teton range.

DAY 3: A CANYON HIKE AND A SPECTACULAR SUNSET

String Lake & Paintbrush Canyon

String Lake, Grand Teton National Park
Jackson Lake
Paintbrush Canyon, Grand Teton
Paintbrush Canyon, Grand Teton
Paintbrush Canyon, Grand Teton
Paintbrush Canyon Creek, Grand Teton
String Lake, Grand Teton National Park
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Of all the canyon hikes, we decided to do the Paintbrush Canyon hike, which is 24 mile roundtrip to Lake Holly (we turned around at half way point). The trailhead to the hike is along String Lake and Leigh Lake both of which have spectacular clear waters with reflections of the Teton range

Signal Mountain

Signal Mountain, Grand Teton National Park
View of Tetons from Signal Mountain at Sunset
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Signal Mountain gets its name due to a cell tower thats at the top of the mountain and is a great place to get 360 views of the Grand Teton Valley and catch plenty of wildlife on the drive up to the mountain. We spotted a buck and a black bear on our way up and another buck on our drive down. Its an easy activity to do and your legs will welcome it especially after hiking all day!

DAY 4: A TOURIST TOWN AND THE WORLDS MOST BEAUTIFUL BARN

Jackson Downtown

Jackson Hole Square
Jackson Hole Shops
Streets of Jackson downtown
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For a brief change from the beautiful scenery in Grand Teton, spend at least a few hours walking around the streets of the quaint little town of Jackson. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants around the Jackson Town Square area to keep you entertained. This would be the perfect opportunity to get those souvenirs from one of the gift shops, although be aware that this area can be a bit of a tourist trap.

Mormon Row

Barn in Mormon row, Grand Teton
Molton Barn at Mormon Row, Grand Teton
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Mormon Row is only a couple miles from Moose Junction on Highway 141, and is a historic site where Mormons settled in early 1900’s. The most famous feature of Mormon Row is a barn known as “John Molton Barn” (presumably after the owner’s name) that has the most amazing postcard perfect backdrop of the Tetons. The barn attracts lots of tourists but is nevertheless a great place to get some iconic photos.

Shadow Mountain

Take a short drive from Mormon row on a dirt road (4×4 is recommended), to Shadow Mountain area which is a great place to watch the sun set behind the Tetons. This place is actually outside of the National Park boundary, and is also lesser known so you will not find very many people here. (We only ran into 2 other cars). There are no vehicles allowed on the road after about 4 miles so you will have to turn around at that point.

DAY 5: PIT STOP AT A BAY ON THE WAY TO YELLOWSTONE

Colter Bay

Colter Bay is on the north east edge of Jackson Lake on the way to Yellowstone on Highway 287. There are plenty of activities to do here – kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, or even boat tours around the lake. We decided to take a short walk along the marina and picnic by the lakeshore.

FEELING A BIT MORE ADVENTUROUS?

If you have some extra time and are feeling bit more adventurous, here are some other suggested activities to do in Grand Teton National Park. These are activities we did not include in our trip but maybe of interest to some travelers.

Backcountry Camping

Backcountry camping is a great way to get out and explore nature the way the first pioneers would have the only difference is you will have a GPS system in a bear canister when you go because those are required by the park! A lot of people will plan on trying to make it through one mountain pass a day for as long as it takes to get from there drop off point to their destinations. It is highly recommended that you reserve your permit ahead of time. Make sure you pack plenty of gear to keep yourself hydrated and fed!

Seasonal Ranger Programs

There are some great ranger led seasonal programs to explore. In spring, they “Grouse Street Program” several weekends in April where rangers will lead guests out onto the Prairie to view the remarkable native grouse in their mating season, where they do special and elaborate dances to attract a mate. Another option is the Autumn Tipi demonstrations where you can learn about how indigenous people of the area lived before settlers arrived. If you are extremely brave and show up in Wyoming during the dead of winter you can reserve a spot in a Ranger-led snowshoe hike.

Mountaineering

Grand Teton has long been a site (and a sight!) for mountaineers across the country both experienced and tenderfoot! You don’t even need a permit to go mountaineering in the park but if you plan on staying overnight swing by the visitor center and pick up a backcountry camping permit. Precious few footsteps have followed the initial assents of the first mountaineers, like Philip D. Smith, which means you’ll be able to enjoy picturesque scenery that has been untouched since prehistory.

Hunt Wildlife!

Don’t worry, though there are actual fall hunting zones in the area, you can opt to shoot these majestic, bugling creatures with a camera, not a high powered rifle. The Tetons are ablaze with color in the fall and it’s a great time to come out and witness “the Rut” as elk, Whitetail deer, mule deer, and even moose strutting around trying to find “Mrs. Right”. It’s also a great time to catch a view of bears and wolves fattening up for winter, but be careful and admire them from a distance of 100 yards at least!

TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN GRAND TETON

If you are short on time, and are looking for the absolute best things to do in Grand Teton in short amount of time, here are our favorite top 5 things to do based on our own experience

  1. Teton Park Road Scenic Drive: You can’t not do this. Its the best way to see all the viewpoints in the park and get some great shots in a convenient 2-3 hour drive.
  2. Jenny Lake: A very popular lake with views of the Tetons and a chance to get your feet wet!
  3. Hidden Falls & Inspiration Point: Combine a visit to Jenny Lake with a short boat ride across the lake that takes you to the trailhead of Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Both trails combined are only about 2.5 miles.
  4. String Lake: A much less crowded lake with beautiful mirror reflection of the Tetons
  5. Paintbrush Canyon: One of the most secluded canyon hikes. If you can only do one canyon hike (out of Cascade Canyon, Death Canyon and Paintbrush Canyon), do this one!

MUST HAVE’S FOR YOUR NATIONAL PARK TRIP

Here are some must have’s for your National Park trip – to not only save you money but also for you to have all the information you need, when you need it (i.e. when on a trail with no signal). We found these incredibly valuable during our trip!

National Geographic Guide to National Parks

This eight edition of National Geographic’s 496 page guide includes 80 colorful maps and directions to help you make your way through the parks, and includes information on various activities, camping information, and travel tips. Carry this along with you in hard copy during your trip.  Yes, you can always Google stuff and find things on the fly. But if you are on a trail with no reception, a physical guide will come in handy. Besides, there is some pleasure in the good old way of discovering a new place by reading a book! This guide is a must have for anyone planning to travel to national parks. 

AMERICA THE BEAUTFUL ANNUAL PARK PASS

This Annual Pass is a MUST HAVE for any frequent national park visitor. For $80 you get a pass to visit ALL of the national parks with no entry fees for whole year. With entry fees ranging $30-$35 per park, they add up pretty quick! You will not regret buying this. Make sure to order in advance though as a physical card is mailed to you via regular mail.

All TRAILS iOS APP

The AllTrails iOS app is a comprehensive database of 75,000+ hiking trail maps around the world. If you buy their “Pro” version subsription, which is $29.99 per year, you can download the maps for offline use. This feature comes in handy when you have no cell phone reception and just want to know basic things like how far have you hiked so far. We highly recommend getting this app.

Are you ready for the Tetons?

With its many wild habitats and fantastic creatures, Grand Teton National Park a great place to visit any time of the year. Whether your ideal vacation is roughing it in the backcountry like a pioneer or lazily floating around in a boat on Jenny Lake, Grand Teton has an option for everyone seeking to spice up their vacation with a little adventure! Here are our other posts covering Grand Teton National Park. Hopefully these will help you plan your trip and have a memorable visit to the Tetons.
If you have been to Grand Teton National Park, let us know in comments what was your experience like. We would love to hear from you! Hope you loved it just as much as we did!
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