Story and photos by Jen Peng
Majestic. Awe-inspiring. Spectacular. Dramatic. These are just some of the adjectives you’ll often hear used to describe Grand Teton National Park. Rising 7,000 feet straight up from the valley floor of Jackson Hole, with no foothills to hide its impact, the serrated edges of the Teton Range are a sight to behold indeed.
Located just 31 miles south of Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming, many people stop at Grand Teton almost as an afterthought, though there’s enough to see and do here to justify a starring role, whether you’re into nature, wildlife, history, photography or outdoor activities like hiking, biking, horseback riding, climbing, boating and fishing.
You can see plenty of breathtaking views just by driving along either of the park’s two main roads: Teton Park Road and U.S. Route 89. You can also drive up to the summit of Signal Mountain for sweeping views from both the Jackson Point Overlook and the Emma Matilda Overlook. But to really experience the majesty of the park, and get close to the mountains, lakes and meadows, you need to get out and walk.
There are more than 200 miles of hiking trails in Grand Teton. One of the most popular is Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point near Jenny Lake. Take the 20-scenic minute boat to the lake’s west shore to cut the hike down to just over 2 miles round trip. Extend the hike further into Cascade Canyon to escape the crowds. At the other extreme is the 58-mile backcountry trek around the Teton Crest Trail. For mountaineers, summiting the impressive 13,770-foot Grand Teton is a big draw and accomplishment.
Go boating and paddling on Jenny, String, Leigh or Jackson lakes; the latter is home to 15 islands and several boat-in backcountry campsites. Enjoy a guided scenic float on the Wild and Scenic Snake River or try to catch the Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout.
Wildlife is also plentiful here, especially in the northern part of the park. More than 1,000 bison call the park home. You might also see moose, elk, pronghorns, deer, coyote, wolves, black and grizzly bears, eagles and hundreds of species of other birds. As always, keep your distance from wildlife.
Photographers and history buffs won’t want to miss Mormon Row – a collection of more than 30 historic homesteader barns and homes. The Moulton Barn is especially photogenic. Visit at dawn for the best shots, or head over to Oxbow Bend or Schwabacher’s Landing. At sunset, head to the Snake River Overlook.
With six developed campgrounds, RV sites that have electric or full hookups, tent and camper cabins, luxury lodges and even a dude ranch, there are plenty of options for staying overnight, though you’ll want to book ahead for the peak summer season. A car is the best way explore the park. Drive in from Moran in the northeast for the most epic views. Or fly in to Jackson Hole Airport – Grand Teton is the only national park that’s home to a commercial airport.