The Complete Guide to Grand Teton National Park

Mormon Row at sunrise, Grand Teton National Park

Planning a trip to Grand Teton National Park? We’ve got your complete guide to for a vacation of adventure including what to see, do, and where to stay so keep reading...

Grand Teton National Park is home to one of the most iconic mountain ranges in the world. Located in western Wyoming, this park is full of adventure, remote wilderness, and most breathtaking sunrises you’ll ever witness.

During the summer of 2019 we stopped through Grand Teton on our way from Boise, Idaho to Portland, Maine. While our time there wasn’t near long enough, it was just long enough to fall in love with yet another national park in this beautiful country we call “home.” 

While we’re already planning our next trip back to Grand Teton, we’re also over here helping you plan your own vacation/adventure to this unique and special place. Let’s get going!

NOTE: This blogpost is focused on activities during the peak season (Memorial Day to Labor Day). There are plenty of options for activities the other months but we haven’t visited in the fall, winter, or spring so we can’t speak to that.

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1 Day in Grand Teton National Park: what to see, what to do, and where to stay
1 Day in Grand Teton National Park: what to see, what to do, and where to stay

FAST FACTS

State: Wyoming
Size: 310,000 acres / 480 square miles
Established: February 26, 1929
Numbers of visitors annually: ~3.5 million 
Nearest city: Jackson, Wyoming
Peak season: July & August

WHEN TO VISIT GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK

Every season in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton offers something unique and special that the other seasons do not. That being said, winters are harsh in Teton and perfect for skiing, but summer is ideal for visitors who aren’t fans of the cold.

According to the official Grand Teton National Park website:
“Jackson Hole has long, cold winters; snow and frost are possible any month.
Mid-April, May & June - Mild days and cool nights alternate with rain and snow
July & August - Warm days and cool nights prevail, with afternoon thundershowers common September, October & November - Sunny days and cold nights alternate with rain and occasional snowstorms
December to mid-April - Between storms the days are sunny and nights are frigid. Snow blankets the mountains and valley.” (source)

If you plan to visit Jackson Hole during the winter, you're sure to have plenty to do! From winter sports to quieter days in the backcountry, there's plenty to keep you busy even during the winter months.

WHAT TO PACK for WYOMING

Like any national park, you’re more likely to enjoy the experience if you visit prepared. That doesn’t mean you need hundreds of dollars of top notch equipment to have fun though! It means being prepared with basic necessities that are required for keeping you safe. 

Binoculars – We purchased these binoculars at REI right before we visited Alaska and have loved taking them with us to all the national parks since. If you haven’t already, invest in binoculars! Obviously they’re not required and they’re a bit expensive, but if you have the money and/or want to invest in a pair to watch wildlife, we highly recommend these.

Water Bottle - I used to be all about that Nalgene water bottle, but when I’m not trying to save a little weight in a backpack I bring my Hydro Flask because of the way it keeps my water cold (or coffee hot) for hours. Nalgene is also a great option, and so are hydration packs if you’re planning on trail running or hiking. No matter your preferred method of hydration, bring LOTS of water and stay hydrated when on the trail.

America the Beautiful Pass (National parks pass) – Every year we purchase the America the Beautiful Pass because it ends up saving us so much money. The pass is $79.99 for unlimited access to any public lands managed by the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. Denali alone costs $15 per person. If you have any intention of visiting any of the other national parks in the lower 48, get this pass!

Bear Spray – Glacier National Park is bear country so go prepared. Trust me, if you’re going to be stopping off on any sort of trail along the way, you’re going to need bear spray and bear spray holster.

Bug spray – This is a MUST. Trust me, the mosquitos can be terrible, especially during the first half of the summer. You’ll need a good bug spray just about every time you step outside.

Sunscreen – I never leave home without my favorite sunscreen.

Lots of layers – The best way to travel (especially to places like Grand Teton where you’ll encounter all sorts of weather) is by wearing layers. This way you can easily add or subtract clothing as the temperature rises or falls.
Here are a few of our favorite clothings items we always bring with us on adventures:

GETTING THERE

FLYING

Fun fact: Grand Teton is the only national park in the country with a public airport on property. It’s true! Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) is located on the edge of the park’s property and is the busiest airport in the state of Wyoming servicing ~313,000 guests per year. While the airport is relatively small, Delta, American, and United Airlines operate flights into Jackson Hole (JAC) year around. Frontier Airlines operates direct flights from Denver to Jackson Hole during the summer months as well.

Onsite rental car companies at the Jackson Hole airport include Alamo, Enterprise, Hertz, and National. A free shuttle is available to offsite car rental companies including Avis/Budget, Dollar, Thrifty, Jackson Hole Adventure Rentals, and Leisure Sports.

DRIVING

From Jackson Hole, WY = 7 minutes / 4.8 miles
From Idaho Falls, ID = 2 hours, 5 minutes / 98 miles
From Bozeman, MT = 4 hours, 23 minutes / 234 miles
From Boise, ID = 6 hours / 379 miles
From Salt Lake City, UT = 4 hours, 53 minutes / 287 miles
From Denver, CO = 8 hours, 14 minutes / 503 miles

There are no interstates that run near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The closest interstate is I-15 running north/south through Idaho Falls, Idaho. If you’re driving to Grand Teton, you’re in for the road trip of a lifetime through some America’s most beautiful places! Due to the remote location of Teton, we recommend combining your road trip with a visit to Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park if you can afford the time.

COST OF ADMISSION

We always recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful annual pass since it’ll end up saving you money if you visit at least 3 three national parks in a single year. Chances are if you’re visiting Grand Teton you’re probably planning to visit Yellowstone and Glacier National Park anyway, so go ahead and purchase your America the Beautiful pass online before you even leave home.

Private vehicle - $35
Single Entry (hiking in, bicycling in, etc.) - $30 (ages 16 and over)
Motorcycle - $20

If you do decide to bypass the annual pass, your admission cost is good for 7 days, just be sure to save your receipt for reentry.

WHERE TO STAY in jackson hole

Sunset in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
CAMPING

Camping is always our accommodation of choice when visiting national parks. We recognize that that’s not the case for everyone though so we’ve given several lodge, hotel, and Airbnb options as well (keep reading below for those suggestions). Camping in Teton is incredible! Waking up to those breaktaking, iconic mountains is unforgettable. 

There are five campgrounds at Grand Teton National Park which vary in size and amenities. Colter Bay, Gros Ventre, Headwaters Campground and RV sites at Flagg Ranch, Jenny Lake, Lizard Creek Campground, and Signal Mountain Campground

Group camping is only available at Colter Bay and Gros Venture Campgrounds (group reservations are available). Winter camping is available in the parking lot adjacent to the Colter Bay Visitor Center for $5 per night.

For reservations and more details regarding each specific campground, visit the official national park page HERE.

NOTE: Due to the popularity of the park reservations are highly encouraged. Walk up spots are available at some campgrounds, but availability is unpredictable. 

LODGES

From rustic co-ed bunk houses to full service hotel lodges, Grand Teton National Park has 5 lodges. The perk of staying on (or very near) the property is that you wake up to those breathtaking Teton views right outside your door. All you have to do is grab your backpack and head out the door and you’re merely feet from a hiking trail. 

American Alpine Club Grand Teton Climbers' Ranch (June 1 to September 15): Rustic co-ed bunk cabins with shower, potable water, flush toilets, and communal cooking area
Colter Bay Cabins (late May to late September): Located right on Jackson Lake / Open late May to late September
Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch (early June to late September): Lodge style rooms with dining, horseback riding, fishing, and gift shop onsite

Jackson Lake Lodge (mid May to early October): Full service hotel with conference space, horseback riding, and fishing

Jenny Lake Lodge (early June to early October): “Rustic and luxurious” cabins right along Jenny Lake and String Lakes

HOTELS

Because Jackson is a very common tourist destination for skiers in the winter and everyone else in the summer, there are plenty of hotel accommodations to be found. That being said, Jackson Hole is a pretty expensive town to visit. Hotel rates (even budget options) will be much higher than in most other cities around the country due to the demand and the demographic it attracts (lots of celebrities vacation here if that gives you an idea of price point).

All of the hotel options listed are within walking distance to downtown Jackson. With Grand Teton just a few miles down the road, staying in Jackson affords you the close proximity to the park while still having plenty of food and drink options within walking distance.

Option #1:Homewood Suites by Hilton / $$
Option #2: Rustic Inn at Jackson Hole / $$$
Option #3: Mountain Modern Motel / $$$
Option #4: Anvil Hotel / $$$
Option #5: Hotel Jackson / $$$$

AIRBNB

When rounding up Airbnb options, I always look for a diverse mix. Places for romantic getaways that are ideal for couples, options for families, at least one option with awesome amenities, and at least one that’s more budget friendly. The Airbnb options I choose are always places that you will have entirely to yourself. It’s my personal preference that we don’t book places where we’re renting a room inside someone else’s apartment. I’m not comfortable with that, so I’m not going to recommend that for you because I always choose places that we have either stayed at personally or would want to stay at.

Option #1: Downtown Jackson Hole 1 Bedroom King Condo // Sleeps 4
Option #2: Outpost Town Square Hideout 4A // Sleeps 6
Option #3: Outpost: One Town Hill 401 // Sleeps 4
Option #4 Mountain Modern Loft for VIP Guests // Sleep 4
Option #5: Jackson Hole Adventure Townhouse // Sleeps 8
Option #6: Luxe Penthouse with Mountain Views & Private Hot Tub // Sleeps 4

If you’ve never tried Airbnb before, you can get $40 off your first reservation when you sign up for an account
using this link!

WILDLIFE

Grand Teton is full of incredible wildlife and your chances of catching a glimpse of the majestic animals that call this place home are pretty good. Always remember to keep a safe distance from wildlife and give them plenty of space (this goes for bears, deer, and even little squirrels). The great outdoors is their home so be respectful and always always always be safe!

Bears are the most iconic animals found in and around Grand Teton National park, but there are lots of other animals you may encounter including moose, deer, antelope, wolves, bison, and elk. It’s important to know that bison and moose can both be incredibly dangerous so learn how to react if you unexpectedly encounter a moose or bison.

WILDLIFE VIEWING

Many people visit Grand Teton for the chance at viewing some of the incredible animals found within the park’s boundaries. If that’s you, there are certain places in the park where viewing wildlife is more likely. The park’s official website does a wonderful job highlighting some key areas as well as tell you what animals you can expect to find in each said area. You can learn more about wildlife viewing opportunities HERE.

Please remember to always view wildlife from a safe distance!

BEAR SAFETY

Grand Teton is deep in bear country and has both black and grizzly bears so be sure to know how to spot the difference. No matter what kind, if you come across any bear on a trail or even in your campground, keep your distance. For more specific bear safety tips for Grand Teton visit the official park website’s bear safety page HERE.

Be sure to brush up on bear safety and always carry bear spray when on the trails. Practice proper food storage techniques to help keep both yourself and bears safe. Bears can seem scary, but you can greatly reduce your chance of a dangerous encounter if you follow the basic bear safety tips.

WHAT TO SEE & DO IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK

VISIT MORMON ROW

This iconic barn set against the Tetons is one of most breathtaking views in the park. We highly recommend visiting at sunrise to see the first bits of light touch the mountains as the sky is all sorts of pinks, purples, and oranges. Bring your camera and hot cup of coffee and catch a glimpse of what it might have been like to live as a rancher on the frontier years ago.

RIDE A BIKE

Cycling is a wonderful way to see the Grand Teton! Cycling is always my go to for exploring a new place, and Teton is definitely on the list of favorite places to ride because of the breathtaking views the entire way. From downtown Jackson you can hop on the multi-use pathway that goes right through the pask as far as Antelope Flats Road (as of now-- there are plans to extend the pathway in the near future). 

All roads in Grand Teton are cycling friendly as well, just be aware of vehicles (especially RVs). 

A few important notes about the multi-use path:

  1. Pets are not allowed on the pathway
  2. The path is closed from dusk to dawn for safety of guests due to the abundance of wildlife in the area
TAKE A HIKE

Hiking is a wonderful way to get away from the crowds and a little closer to nature. While we’d love to say setting out on a trail is as easy as 1-2-3, truth is you need to be prepared. This is bear country so always carry bear spray, make noise, and know what to do if you encounter a bear in the wild.

For hiking suggestions we always refer to Alltrails and The Hiking Project for suggestions and reviews of trails from other outdoor enthusiasts. This is a great way to learn more about popularity of a trail, current trail conditions, and the technical specs (level of difficulty, length, elevation, etc.). 

GO FOR A DRIVE

If you’re crunched for time or are looking for a more relaxed way to experience the park, consider going for a drive. There are four scenic routes that wind through the park, each varying in length and features.

Jenny Lake Scenic Drive: 15-30 minutes / directions to start
Teton Park Road: 30-60 minutes / directions to start
Moose Wilson Road: 20-60 minutes / directions to start
Signal Mountain Summit Road: 30-60 minutes / directions to start

CONCLUSION

While Grand Teton is geographically one of the smaller national parks in the western half of the United States, it’s definitely not lacking in adventure. We highly recommend pairing Grand Teton with the more popular Yellowstone National Park when you visit this region of the country.

If you’ve been to Grand Teton National Park before, we want to hear from you! If you have any recommendations, tips, or tricks we should try during our next trip to the park, drop it in the comments below. And, if you have any questions when planning your own trip don’t hesitate to reach out with those in the comment section as well. Happy trials, y’all!

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