Best of Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is a beautiful area located in northwestern Wyoming, bordering Yellowston National Park. Comprised of several diverse habitats, the park is home to 7 species of coniferous trees and more than 900 species of flowering plants. There are more than 300 species of birds, 16 species of fishes, and several species of mammals, including elk, moose, pronghorn, mule deer, bison, black and grizzly bears.
The park has more than 100 alpine and back country lakes, and seven lakes at the base of the Teton Range: Jackson, Leigh, String, Jenny, Bradley, Taggart, and Phelps. Snake River flows through Grand Teton National Park, offering spectacular views of the mountains reflecting in the water. A heaven for outdoor enthusiasts, Grand Teton National Park offers hiking, wildlife viewing, nature photography, backpacking, camping, climbing, fishing, swimming, boating, floating, canoeing, and biking. Read our article 7 Scenic Overlooks and Hidden Drives in Grand Teton.
Easy and moderate day hiking trails can be found in all parts of the park. Here are some hikes you may consider: the Phelps Lake Overlook, Heron Pond - Swan Lake Trail, Two Ocean Lake, Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls.
There are several lodges in the park. Jackson Lake Lodge features spectacular views of the Tetons, the park wildlife, and romantic sunsets. Signal Mountain Lodge overlooks Jackson Lake and offers three restaurants. You can also stay in several hotels, lodges and inns in the nearby Jackson Hole, including the Teton Mountain Lodge, Snake River Lodge and Amangani.
During the summer months, Grand Teton National Park appears all but quiet. Roads are busy with tourists hurrying to secure a camping spot, make a float trip, and pack as much sightseeing as possible into a short summer vacation. Do you want to have Grand Teton National Park all to yourself? Here is the secret: get up early. Whether you are driving down the main park road, or gazing across the Willow Flats from Jackson Lake Lodge, early in the morning the park is deserted. You will hear birds and easily spot wildlife that comes out to feed. Find more National Park vacation ideas and Best Green Vacation Ideas.
1. Jenny Lake is One of the Most Beautiful Mountain Lakes in the United States
Jenny Lake, formed by melting glaciers about 60,000 years ago, is a beautiful blue mountain lake set in the heart of Grand Teton National Park, at the base of Teewinot Mountain. On the west side, the lake touches the Teton Mountain Range. The lake is about 260 feet deep at the deepest point.
Jenny Lake is the starting point for numerous hiking trails in the area, including Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. There is a 6.6-mile long trail that winds around the entire lake. Begin your trip at Jenny Lake Visitor Center, which has a large parking lot. Once at the Visitor Center, you can decide to follow the trail around the lake or take the shuttle boat to the other side. Jenny Lake is one of the most visited spots in the park, so you should expect at least a short wait at the boat dock.
The shuttle boat landing is at the Cascade Canyon trailhead which also leads to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. In July and August when daytime temperatures are in the 80s, a quick dip in the cold mountain lake can be quite refreshing, so bring your bathing suit just in case. After hiking near Jenny Lake, drive about 15 minutes north to Signal Mountain Lodge for a scenic lunch overlooking Jackson Lake. The road from Moose to Jenny Lake is only open during the warmer months and closed in the winter.
If you don't feel like hiking, look for the Jenny Lake Overlook. The one-way paved road from North Jenny Lake Junction leads to a high point overlooking Jenny Lake, called Jenny Lake Overlook. Visitors can park their car at the overlook and access the path which leads to the 6.6-mile long trail that winds around the entire lake. Otherwise, you can keep on the road and park at Jenny Lake Visitor Center. From there, you will have easy access to the marina and the shuttle boat which takes visitors to the other side of the lake in the summer.
2. Hike to Inspiration Point above Jenny Lake
In the summer, the trail up to Inspiration Point is one of the most popular hikes in Grand Teton. Inspiration Point is a very appropriate name for this beautiful scenic spot. Your soul will feel inspired, surrounded by all of this natural beauty. The trailhead can be reached on foot or by shuttle boat which departs from the marina located near the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. The trail to Inspiration Point climbs 420 feet over one mile. On the way to Inspiration Point you can also visit Hidden Falls, a beautiful, 80-foot-high waterfall. National Park service offers ranger-led hikes in the summer, starting at 8:30 am every day. The hike lasts about 2.5 hours. The hike is limited to the first 25 visitors, and there is a fee for the boat. Call the Moose Visitor Center for details at 307-739-3399. Hidden Falls is a beautiful 80-foot-high waterfall on the way to Inspiration Point.
3. Jackson Lake Lodge
Jackson Lake Lodge is a scenic lodge overlooking Willow Flats. The lodge offers 37 guest rooms in the main lodge building, and 348 rooms in ajacent cottages. The main building rooms are very hard to get, especially those with a view. Even if you do not have time to spend a night at Jackson Lake Lodge, you should not pass up a visit to this unique building. The main lodge room features 60 foot picture windows with spectacular views of the Tetons. This is where you should go to experience a magical sunset over the mountains.
Dine at the Mural Room, a formal restaurant serving delicious entrees. Come early to get accommodated at one of the two-person tables next to the windows overlooking the Teton mountain range. In the evening and early morning, the Jackson Lake Lodge terrace overlooking Willow Flats is a great place to spot wildlife such as moose or elk. Room rates at Jackson Lake Lodge start from $167 for non-view rooms, from $235 for rooms with a view, and from $410 for suites. For reservations, call 800-628-9988 or 307-543-3100. The lodge opens for the summer season in May.
4. Willow Flats are home to numerous species of wildlife
Willow Flats are freshwater marshes stretching between Jackson Lake Dam and Colter Bay. The best place to get a view of the flats is from Jackson Lake Lodge. Early in the morning and in the evening, Willow Flats become the preferred feeding area for elk and moose. Streams that flow throughout the flats are home to beavers, muskrats and waterfowl. In the evening, the Tetons form the perfect backdrop for a beautiful mountain sunset. Mornings are the best time to enjoy a peaceful view of Jackson Lake and Mt. Moran from Jackson Lake Lodge.
5. Dining with a view at the Signal Mountain Lodge
Stop for a scenic lunch at one of the Signal Mountain Lodge restaurants which overlook Jackson Lake in Grand Teton. There are three different dining options to choose from. Trapper Grill serves casual American foods, such as burgers, sandwiches, salads and tasty deserts. The Peaks Restaurant offers a continental menu with regional specialties. Or have a pizza at the Leek's Marina & Pizzeria which overlooks Jackson Lake and the Tetons. If you are there just for the view, Deadman's Bar serves margaritas.
The Signal Mountain Lodge also offers accommodations, starting from $98 per night for non-view cabins, and from $199 for a room overlooking the lake. For reservations, call 307-543-2831. Be sure to book early.
6. Yellow pond lilies blanket Swan Lake in July and August
From the Hermitage Point Trailhead, located at the south end of the Colter Bay Visitor Center, trails lead to Swan Lake and Heron Pond. The trail from Hermitage Point Trailhead to Swan Lake leads past numerous wildflowers. Swan Lake is nestled in lodgepole pine forests and covered with yellow pond lilies, especially favored by beavers. The 3-mile Swan Lake - Heron Pond loop is quite flat and takes approximately 3 hours to complete. Parts of the trail are in the shade which is quite welcoming in the summer.
Heron Pond is nestled in lodgepole pine forests. We saw two trumpeter swans on the lake. After you pass Heron Pond on your hike, complete the loop by returning past Swan Lake back to Colter Bay.
The Colter Bay Village is situated on the shores of Jackson Lake. It offers accommodations, a visitor center and a full service marina. Colter Bay features a wide variety of wildlife and flowers. The Hermitage Point Trailhead is located near the marina. From there, trails lead to Swan Lake, Heron Pond, Third Creek, Hermitage Point, Colter Bay Corral and the Jackson Lake Lodge. The ponds are inhabited by beavers, muskrats, waterfowl and otters. You may also spot moose or elk chewing on the juicy green grass near the lakes. For beautiful views of Jackson Lake and the Tetons, follow the 2-mile Lakeshore Trail to a forested peninsula on the lake.
7. The Rockefeller Parkway connects Grand Teton and Yellowstone
If you have time, a visit to Yellowstone is a must. To get there, take the scenic Rockefeller Parkway north through the park. In 1972, Congress dedicated a 24,000-acre parcel of land as the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway to recognize the generaosity of the late conservationist and philanthropist who made significant contributions to the national park system.
The highway from the south boundary of Grand Teton to West Thumb in Yellowstone was also named after John D. Rockefeller. The Rockefeller Parkway connects Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. From the road, national park visitors enjoy views of the woodlands, and the mountains. The Rockefeller Parkway end at the South Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
8. The Two Ocean Lake Loop
Two Ocean and Emma Matilda Lakes were formed 70,000 years ago by a glacier. There are hiking trails around both lakes which are not very frequented. Keep in mind that this is bear country - pay attention to National Park Service warnings to ensure your safety.
Along the way, you will see wildflowers, open meadows and woodlands. Two Ocean Lake lies at 6,896 feet and the trail that surrounds it is quite flat. In the summer, there are many insects near the lakes, so insect repellant will come in handy.
Elk feed on meadow grasses in the early morning and in the evening. Other mammals that live in this areas include martens, red squirrels, mule deer, coyotes and black grizzly bears. The Two Ocean Lake hiking loop measures 6.4 miles roundtrip, with a 80-foot elevation change, and takes approximately 3 hours to complete.
9. Hiking to Phelps Lake Overlook
Hikers to the Phelps Lake Overlook from the Death Canyon Trailhead are rewarded with a magnificent view of Phelps Lake and the surrounding mountains. From the Moose-Wilson road, drive to the Death Canyon Trailhead on an unpaved road, and park your car at the trailhead. The uphill trail to the Phelps Lake Overlook follows a stream which is home to numerous birds such as hermit and Swainson’s thrushes western tanagers, MacGillivray’s warblers, northern flickers, Lazuli bun-tings, ruby-crowned kinglets and green-tailed towhees. Once you reach the Phelps Lake Overlook, look for calliope and broad-tailed hummingbirds which feed on scarlet gilia below the overlook.
10. Wildlife Watching
Grand Teton National Park features 17 species of carnivores (black and grizzly bears), 6 species of hoofed mammals, 3 species of rabbits/hares, 22 species of rodents, 6 species of bats, 4 species of reptiles (none poisonous), 5 species of amphibians, 16 species of fishes, numerous invertebrates (no poisonous spiders) and over 300 species of birds.
Wildlife is attracted by the park's diverse habitats: alpine, sagebrush, forests, rivers, lakes and ponds. Near the water, look for moose, river otters, beavers, muskrats, coyotes, bison and mule deer, especially early in the morning and in the evening when the animals come out to feed. Forests provide cover and food for many mammal species, including elk, mule deer, martens, red squirrels, black bears and snowshoe hares. Sagebrush is the most widespread habitat type in the park and home to coyotes, bison, badgers, elk and Uinta ground squirrels.
11. The Jackson Lake Dam
Jackson Lake Dam is located in Grand Teton National Park, between Signal Mountain Lodge and Jackson Lake Junction. Vistitors can park near the dam to walk across it and down to Snake River which continues to wind trough the park. After you view the dam, stop at the Jackson Lake Lodge for lunch or dinner. Nearby, you will also find several hiking trails, including Swan Lake and Heron Pond.