Best Things To Do in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is filled with natural wonders, such as the towering Grand Teton and the glittering Jenny Lake, and historic settlements, including Mormon Row and Menors Ferry. But before travelers start climbing and hiking, touring and wildlife watching, they should stop in at one of the park's numerous visitor centers to get the scoop on how best to organize their vacation. The Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center is a good place to start.
Updated August 18, 2017
- #1View all PhotosfreeJenny Lake#1 in Grand Teton National ParkHiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The 2-mile-long, 250-foot-deep Jenny Lake is the muse of many an artist and photographer –and a great place to base your Grand Teton National Park trip. Depending on the weather, visitors can fish, paddle, swim, or boat its waters, or they can take the moderate 7 ½-mile round-trip hike from the Jenny Lake Trailhead for views of Cascade Canyon, Storm Point, Symmetry Spire and Mount Moran, among others. There is also a much shorter 1 ½ -mile round-trip hike to Hidden Falls, which is a traveler favorite. It's a central spot for visitors wanting to spend a night at the campsite or upscale Jenny Lake Lodge. If travelers would rather boat than hike their way to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, they can hop aboard the Jenny Lake Boating shuttle service, which offers shuttles every 10 to 15 minutes during the day. Taking the shuttle will knock off 2 miles (each way) to the Cascade Canyon trailhead.
Hit this popular trail early to avoid the crowds (the parking at the southern end of Jenny Lake is often full from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), but don't miss it since recent travelers describe it as a "must-see" with "great views." Others called Jenny Lake the "prettiest" in the country.
- #2View all PhotosfreeTeton Park Road#2 in Grand Teton National ParkSightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Teton Park Road winds around the base of the Teton Range, offering visitors an overview of the park, including views of the Tetons, Menors Ferry Historic District, the Snake River Overlook and Jenny Lake. You'll also likely spot some wildlife, such as elk, moose, bison and maybe even a bear or two.
If you can't hike through the park, one traveler says Teton Park Road is the next-best way to explore the park, adding that the turnouts are "amazing." As with other popular attractions within the park, reviewers advise you get an early start to avoid a slowdown. Several visitors also suggest purchasing the GyPSy Guide app for your smartphone if you're interested in a more in-depth commentary than the visitor center pamphlets can provide.
- #3View all PhotosfreeGrand Teton#3 in Grand Teton National ParkHiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing, FreeTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing, FreeTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Carved by glaciers and continually reshaped by water and wind, Grand Teton is the 13,770-foot peak of the Teton Mountains – so tall it's visible from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Although this jagged, snow-covered mountain is only summited by the most experienced climbers, usually via the Upper Exum Ridge, long distance hikers can take the Paintbrush Canyon-Cascade Canyon Loop, which offers magnificent views of Grand Teton. Visitors of all kinds can ascend Grand Teton virtually by watching this NPS video.
After viewing Grand Teton, some say that it's one of the most "beautiful" and "stunning" places in the United States. In fact, one recent visitor called Grand Teton National Park her new favorite because of this towering mountain.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Grand Teton National ParkShopping, Sightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDShopping, Sightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The $22 million, 22,000-square-foot Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center, which is colloquially called the Moose Visitor Center, was built in 2007 to spread awe among visitors about the majesty of the Teton Mountains, which are on display through the center's enormous floor-to-ceiling windows. Not only does it contain the usual maps and information about hiking trails and ranger programs, it also offers an in-house theater that airs a documentary on the park.
Recent visitors said the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center is a must-do, whether you enter the park from the north or the south since it's filled with such great information and exhibits. Plus, one traveler notes that you can stop in without paying the park's entrance fee.
- #5View all PhotosfreeTaggart Lake Trail#5 in Grand Teton National ParkHiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Most of the hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park are listed as strenuous or, at the very least, moderate. The Taggart Lake Trail is described as easy-to-moderate by most hiking guides, and it's a good one to attempt if you're a novice hiker or visiting the park with kids, since the elevation change is roughly 400 feet and the distance is only about 3 miles round-trip. If you're a seasoned hiker, don't let the trail's moderate degree of difficulty sway you from making the trip: Visitors say the views of Taggart Lake and the surrounding streams, meadows and conifer groves are nonetheless rewarding.
If you're looking for more of a challenge, some travelers recommend extending this lovely hike to about 5 miles by trekking on to Bradley Lake. Others say that the chance to dip into Taggart Lake makes the trail a kid-pleaser. To avoid the midday crowds and secure a parking spot, reviewers suggest arriving before 10 a.m.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Grand Teton National ParkRecreation, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRecreation, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
One of the most refreshing ways to explore Grand Teton National Park – especially in the heat of summertime's peak season – is via boat. A number of tour companies operate float or rafting trips down the Snake River or mini-cruises on the park's Jenny and Jackson lakes. Some of these companies also rent kayaks and canoes should travelers want to take self-guided tours of the river and lakes.
Travelers can't say enough about their boat trips, citing friendly and knowledgeable guides and wildlife-spotting opportunities. If you need a break from all the hiking, reviewers say a float or boating trip is a nice change of pace.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Grand Teton National ParkSightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Visitors are transported back to the Wild West when they enter the Menors Ferry Historic District. William (Bill) D. Menor settled beside the Snake River at the turn of the century and built the ferry that transported people across the river. Unlike other ferries, Menor's was fashioned in such a way as to allow it to move sideways in the river. Along with preserved 19th-century barns and cabins, the district features a working general store. Quick tip: Visitors heading to Menors Ferry should stop in at the Chapel of the Transfiguration for an awe-inspiring view of Grand Teton. This 1920s log chapel, which hosts Sunday services in the summer, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and contains an enormous window that overlooks Grand Teton.
Some recent visitors enjoyed learning about the history of Menors Ferry through the guided tours, which are offered in the summer. Stopping in at the Chapel of the Transfiguration is a must-do, according to most travelers.
- #8View all Photos
Photographers, wildlife watchers and history buffs will all enjoy a stop at the Mormon Row Historic District. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this tract of land was founded as a Mormon ranch settlement in the 1890s and to this day contains preserved homesteads and barns that provide a compelling foreground to the Teton Range in the backdrop. If you're lucky, you might see some antelope or other mammals grazing.
A recent visitor comments that photographers will enjoy shooting images of the district's Moulton barns, especially during different times of days to capture various lighting effects. To increase your chances of spotting wildlife while on-site, several past travelers recommend arriving around sunrise or sunset.
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