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Updated July 2023
Grand Teton National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. An itinerary for Grand Teton National Park includes the best activities such as hiking Jenny Lake and cruising Jackson Lake. Whether hiking, boating, or sightseeing, the Tetons are mesmerizing. I recommend a minimum of two days to see the park.
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Tips to Know Before You Go: Your Ultimate Guide to Grand Teton National Park
- There is a downloadable Grand Teton National Park map. Click here. When we planned this trip, I had the map laminated and downloaded the Grand Teton Park app.
- Research the park’s attractions, trails, and activities in advance. Check the weather forecast and be prepared for changing conditions, as weather in the mountains can be unpredictable.
- As part of your Itinerary-Grand Teton National Park, purchase an annual park pass. I would suggest purchasing an Annual Park pass that will give you unlimited access to all National Park and monuments. The pass costs $80 for one year.
- Be prepared if you plan to hike any of the trails in the park. You really should have good walking or hiking shoes for the trails, a quality collapsible trekking stick, and a good backpack with a water bladder for hiking can ensure you stay hydrated on the trail.
- I also packed convertible hiking pants. These are perfect for all-day hikes with zip-off legs becoming shorts almost instantly. Great, when the mornings are cool and the afternoons are warmer.
- A pair of compact binoculars is a must if you want to spot the wildlife, specifically bears and elk.
- Before your trip, check for any park alerts, road closures, or trail restrictions on the official Grand Teton National Park website.
Getting to Grand Teton National Park: Nature’s Splendor in Wyoming’s Wilderness
Getting to Grand Teton National Park is relatively straightforward, and there are multiple transportation options depending on your starting point and preferences. A road trip to Grand Teton National Park is a quintessential American experience. Driving allows you to explore neighboring attractions and enjoy scenic routes. Grand Teton National Park is easily accessible by car from various nearby cities and attractions
The closest major airport to Grand Teton is Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), located in Jackson, Wyoming. Our connection was in Denver. The flight is quick 1.5 hours and the views of the Tetons as you pass over them in amazing. Airports further from the park include Idaho Falls Regional Airport, Idaho Falls, Idaho (IDA), and Salt Lake City International Airport, Salt Lake City, Utah (SLC). Most rental car agencies are in Jackson. I would recommend at least an overnight in Jackson if you are coming from sea level to adjust to the altitude. From the airport, the park is approximately a 30-minute drive away.
National Elk Refuge: Where the Deer-Elk and the Antelope Roam
After picking up our rental car in the morning, we headed toward the park. North of Jackson on US 26/89/191 gives you access to Grand Teton National Park.
If you start in Jackson, you will pass through the National Elk Refuge. Encompassing over 24,000 acres of pristine wilderness, this refuge provides a vital winter habitat for thousands of elk and a diverse array of other wildlife species. Wonderful opportunity for wildlife observation if you stop at the turnouts.During the harsh winter months, when snow blankets the Teton Range, thousands of elk migrate to the National Elk Refuge in search of food and shelter.
One of the exclusive ways to experience the National Elk Refuge is through a scenic sleigh ride. During the winter months, visitors can embark on guided sleigh tours that take them deep into the heart of the refuge. Glide through the snow-covered landscape, getting up close to the magnificent elk herds, all while taking in the grandeur of the surrounding mountains. The proceeds from the tours go directly to the refuge. It’s a one of a kind experience as thousands of elk winter here.
Make your First Stop in Grand Teton National Park
Today, we stop at the National Elk Refuge turnout to walk the bike path in the cool morning air. The official Grand Teton National Park sign is a must-do picture stop for us. Our bucket list is to visit every park and have our picture with the park signs. The views of the Teton Mountains from the rest area are pretty amazing.
We took a video of the many Uinta Ground Squirrels scampering and feeding along the path. They are active during the day, Spermophilus armatus is found in the sage grass mountain meadows of the western United States. This Florida girl had a keen interest in watching them.
Itinerary Day 1 – Scenic Drive Grand Teton National Park
Welcome to our Day 1 of our grand adventure in Grand Teton National Park! Today, we’ll take you on a scenic drive through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the American West. Get ready to be mesmerized by the towering Teton Range, serene lakes, and abundant wildlife as we explore the wonders of this natural paradise.
Drive the 42-mile Scenic Loop in Grand Teton National Park: A Journey through Nature’s Masterpiece
If time permits, do the entire loop. It starts at the Teton Park Road, a 21-mile long scenic drive. The road heads north to the junction of Moose-Wilson Road, another scenic drive. Continuing north, the road passes the South Jenny Lake Junction, ending at Jackson Lake Junction. Turn left on US-89 (Rockefeller Parkway) towards Moran before continuing back south towards Jackson on US-191. The Teton Park Road follows the base of the Teton Range from Moose to Jackson Lake Junction. The loop includes Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake areas. You can do the loop in one day, even with multiple stops.
Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center: Gateway to the Wonders of Grand Teton
Moose Junction’s intersection is the turnoff for Teton Park Road. Approximately 0.5 miles after crossing the Snake River on the left-hand side is the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitors Center. Named in honor of the late U.S. Senator Craig Thomas, this visitor center serves as the gateway to one of America’s most cherished natural wonders. Stop at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center to gather information about the park, get maps, and learn about the park’s natural and cultural history.
The Visitor Center is a new building with exhibits that are hands-on, and media-rich. There is a video walkway the kids can “walk on water” to the great “feel free to touch” exhibits. Any itinerary for any Grand Stop at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center to gather information about the park, get maps, and learn about the park’s natural and cultural history. Knowledgeable rangers or volunteers can provide information on road & trail conditions, wildlife sightings, and activities such as ranger talks. We always check to inquire about trail information before we venture into the park.
Park personnel put together an overview video that is worth watching. When the film ends, the screen goes up, the curtains part, and the views of the Tetons are breathtaking. The Teton Range dominates Grand Teton National Park. Families with young explorers will find the Junior Ranger Program a delightful way to engage children in the wonders of the national park. Be sure to grab your passport stamps!
The Conservancy store has a wide variety of books and gift items. Walk along the outside garden trail where you will find a Japanese garden theme. Bronze artwork and native plants frequent the gardens.
Chapel of the Transfiguration: A Serene Sanctuary Amidst Grand Teton’s Majesty
Near Mentor’s Ferry Road, you will find the charming lodgepole pine chapel, with its striking mountain backdrop. The Chapel of the Transfiguration stands as a testament to the harmonious coexistence of man and nature. Constructed in 1925, the chapel has served as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike to seek solace, reflection, and worship. Operated by the St. John’s Episcopal Church, the chapel still serves as a location for weddings and functions. One of the chapel’s most captivating features is its strategic positioning. As you step inside, your gaze will be drawn to the large window behind the altar, framing the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Teton Range. So peaceful, a worthy stop to appreciate how life was like in the pioneer days.
Windy Point Turnout: Our First Views of the Breathtaking Vistas of Grand Teton
The first viewpoint on the Teton Park Road is the Windy Point Turnout about a mile north of Moose, Wyoming. As its name suggests, this scenic overlook offers panoramic views that are sure to leave you breathless. Each turnout on the Teton road provides a unique perspective of the Teton Mountain Range.
We stepped out of the rental and were greeted by a majestic panorama. This viewpoint has splendid views of the Tetons and the sagebrush outwash. The Windy Point interpretive sign details how a glacier 3,000 feet thick once filled this valley. Repeatedly, enormous glaciers transported cobbles, gravel, and coarse sand as they advanced. As the glaciers retreated, torrential meltwaters washed and spread the rocky material throughout the valley. Rain and snow percolate rapidly through the cobbles, leaving little moisture for overlying soil. Sagebrush identifies this dry outwash plain.
Teton Glacier Turnout: A Glacier’s Silent Symphony in Grand Teton National Park
The highlight of this turnout used to be the views of the alpine glaciers that frequented the tops of the Teton mountains. Today most of those glaciers have melted because of climate change. Still, you get an excellent view of the Tetons.
You cannot help but notice while driving the Teton Park road, the magnificent scenery is everywhere. We can see herds of Pronghorn Antelope in the meadows. We stopped many times to watch the female antelope with young ones videotaping them.
Exploring the South Jenny Lake Area: Requires Patience in Grand Teton National Park
At the heart of the South Jenny Lake Area lies the enchanting Jenny Lake, a glacial gem that mirrors the towering Teton peaks. Whether you choose to take a leisurely stroll along the lakeshore or embark on a scenic boat ride, Jenny Lake offers a tranquil escape into the lap of nature’s beauty. The lake itself sits at the base of Cascade Canyon. The waters are a beautiful glacial blue. This is one of the busiest areas of the park. There is limited parking, so I would advise to go early to Jenny Lake, as it fills quickly. The Visitor Center and Campground access are on the spur road off the Teton Park Road.
The Jenny Lake Visitor Center is located inside the Harrison Crandall cabin constructed in 1921. The center opens daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. As we stepped inside the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, friendly park rangers and knowledgeable staff welcomed us.
Interactive displays bring to life the park’s geological wonders, diverse wildlife, and the stories of the people who have called this area home. We saw some of Crandall’s artwork on the interior walls. The other facilities on-site are excellent and include restrooms and a gift store well-stocked with food and gifts. Jenny Lake Access map will help you locate the trails. The Ranger station issues backcountry permits.
Shuttle Boat to Hidden Falls: A Scenic Journey to Nature’s Hidden Gem
Adjacent to the visitor center, you’ll find the Jenny Lake Boat Dock. A paved walkway leads to the boat dock at the mouth of Cottonwood Creek. You can take the boat shuttle across the west-side of the lake. You can also walk the Jenny Lake Loop Trail around the lake to the West Shore Boat Dock. This convenient service saves time and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the park’s beauty. The trip across the lake made for spectacular views of the Tetons and Mt. Teewinot mirrored in the tranquil lake. We took the 12- minute shuttle boat across Jenny Lake, to cascade canyon($20 round-trip). If you hike the 2-mile trail (one-way) around the lake, you can pay for a one-way ticket. If you prefer, there are also canoe and kayak rentals available.
Hiking to Hidden Falls: Unveiling Nature’s Spectacular Treasures
The hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point is totally doable if you are in reasonably good health. There is an elevation gain of 230 feet. It wasn’t an easy trek for this Florida girl, but the breathtaking scenery made it better. Disembarking from the boat, you’ll find yourself at the base of the Cascade Canyon Trail, the starting point for the hike to Hidden Falls.
The hike begins on the Cascade Canyon Trail, climbing 0.3 miles upward through pristine conifer forest. It is the most popular trail in the park. Cascade Canyon is a deep glacial valley that cuts into the Teton Range directly behind Jenny Lake.
Note: Bears are highly active along most trails in the park. Be bear aware, carry bear spray or travel in a group.
The trail crosses Cascade Creek where it forks. The Jenny Lake Trail loops back to the Visitor Center following the lakeshore. The Cascade Canyon Trail continues to Hidden Falls. As we approached Hidden Falls, the sound of cascading water grew louder, hinting at the natural wonder that lies ahead. Suddenly, we found ourself standing before the majestic Hidden Falls—a 100-foot waterfall plunging into a rocky amphitheater.
Inspiration Point Trail: A Breathtaking Vista in Grand Teton National Park
For those seeking even more adventure, the shuttle boat to Hidden Falls provides an opportunity to visit Inspiration Point. The steep 0.4-mile climb to Inspiration Point follows a rugged trail with steps carved into the rock. At the top, the elevation is 7200 feet. Upon reaching Inspiration Point, we had to catch our breath. From this vantage point, amazing unparalleled panoramic views of Jenny Lake are below. The views across the lake with the Gros Ventre Range stretching as far as the eye can see are beautiful.
Cascade Canyon Creek: A Serene Journey into Grand Teton’s Untamed Beauty
On the descent, we spent a few moments just sitting alongside Cascade creek, listening to the rushing meltwater create utter tranquility. Cascade Canyon Creek originates high in the Teton Range, fed by melting snow and glacial streams. As it descends, the creek meanders through lush forests, rugged cliffs, and blooming wildflowers, creating a picturesque setting that is nothing short of idyllic. We watched a Clarke’s Nutcracker feeding it young small flies. They hid the nest behind a large log on the edge of the Creek. I would highly recommend this walk in the early morning.
For adventurous hikers, the journey can extend beyond Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The Cascade Creek Divide trail continues deeper into the heart of the Teton wilderness, offering a more secluded and challenging hike. This lesser-traveled trail rewards intrepid explorers with a sense of solitude and a deeper connection with nature.
Jenny Lake Scenic Drive: A Journey Through Nature’s Majestic Canvas
This short scenic drive through the conifer forest gives you superb views of Jenny Lake. The first stop on our journey was the Jenny Lake Overlook. Here,we got to witness scenic views of the crystal-clear waters of Jenny Lake shimmering beneath the towering Teton peaks.
At the String Lake Trailhead, the road becomes one-way for 1.5 miles, connecting back to the Teton Road. The String Lake Trailhead parking fills quickly as this lake is popular with swimmers in the summer months. A pleasant walk passes through fields of wildflowers. The trail loops around the lake, a great place to picnic if you can find a table. This is an easy, short hike the entire family can enjoy.
The Cathedral Group Turnout: A Glimpse of Grandeur in Grand Teton National Park
As we stepped out of our vehicle, the sight of the Cathedral Group’s majestic summits took our breath away, leaving us in awe of nature’s artistic prowess. The group comprises Grand Teton (13,770 ft.), Mount Owen (12,928 ft.), and Teewinot (12,325 ft.). From here, you can take excellent pictures of each of the mountains. The Cathedral Group refers to the cluster of sharply pointed peaks that are part of the Grand Teton range that rise over 7000 feet above Jackson Hole. The rugged cliffs, snow-capped peaks, and dramatic slopes add to the charisma of the mountainscape. On calm days, the nearby waters may offer beautiful reflections of The Cathedral Group, creating a surreal mirror image of the mountains.
Signal Mountain: A Panoramic Vista in Grand Teton National Park
Located in the heart of the park, this majestic mountain invites visitors to ascend to its summit and witness the grandeur of the surrounding Teton Range. The 5-mile drive to the top of Signal Mountain for spectacular views of the Teton Range is worth the small detour. The road climbs 1,000 feet until we spotted a few Bighorn Sheep in the valleys on the drive up the mountain. As you ascend, we passed through dense forests, each turn revealing glimpses of the surrounding landscape. At the top, you’ll find a spacious parking area and a viewing platform that offers unobstructed vistas of the Teton Range, Jackson Lake, and the vast valley below.
Picnic Lunch at the Jackson Lake Dam: A Scenic Feast Along the Water’s Edge
Just before the junction of the Rockefeller Parkway (Hwy 89) is Jackson lake. It is a natural glacial lake. The construction of the Jackson Dam enlarged the lake in 1906. Here, we turned left by the dam and park at the designated parking lot along the Snake River. The views of the lake and the mountains in the background created a picturesque backdrop for our lunchtime feast.
We ate lunch here, watching the anglers. However, w did not notice anyone catching any fish. We did observe a cheeky magpie try to mooch our sandwich.
Packing a collapsible cooler to keep drinks and lunch cool during the day is an economical way to travel. We watched as Magpies trying to steal food from other picnickers. There are only a few picnic tables located here for you to sit closer to the Snake River. There is an excellent view of Mount Moran directly behind the dam. On a day with no wind, you can catch a perfect reflection of the mountain in the waters of the lake.
This is the best location if you are looking for a panoramic of the Tetons. Early morning is best as the sun is in front of the mountains. Walk down towards the river to get a stunning reflection of the mountains in the river. If you are lucky, a moose or a bear may make an appearance.
Oxbow Bend: Capturing the Most Photographed Scene in Grand Teton National Park
This iconic location offers a postcard-perfect view of the Teton Range, reflected in the still waters of the river. With its breathtaking beauty and serene ambiance, Oxbow Bend has become a favorite spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.The stillness of the water allows for perfect reflections of the majestic Teton Range, making it a paradise for photographers seeking captivating landscape shots. Not much of a pullover. Walk down to the river to get incredible pictures in the early morning. If you are lucky, you may see a moose or a bear.
Mormon Row Historic District: Preserving the Pioneering Spirit of Grand Teton
Turn east onto Antelope Flats road and discover a historic homestead at Mormon Row. A short ride on a dirt road brings you to one of the most photographed spots near Jackson, Wyoming. The most recognizable landmarks of the Mormon Row Historic District are the historic barns and homesteads. Iconic structures like the T.A. Moulton Barn and the John Moulton Barn have become iconic symbols of the American West and are frequently photographed against the stunning backdrop of the Teton Range.
Take advantage of the self-guiding material at the John Moulton site. The back story of this location is interesting. You can take outstanding pictures of the weathered old barn with the mountains in the background. A few miles further down the road, a summer Bison herd has taken up residence. If you need pictures, this is your opportunity.
Itinerary Day 2- Grand Teton National Park- Colter Bay Village
Our Day 2 Itinerary in Grand Teton National Park starts with a trip to Colter Bay Village is on Lake Jackson. Coulter Bay is a gateway to a plethora of outdoor adventures. Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast, a wildlife observer, or a water sports lover, the area offers something for everyone.
Colter Bay Village has 166 cabins, campground (112 RV spaces), and other amenities. Grand Teton Lodge Company operates all the lodging and dining facilities in GTNP. We stayed in the Colter Bay Cabins, log cabins built around 100 years ago. The park moved them to Colter bay in the 1950s. The cabins are situated away from the village in a quiet pine forest, a little way from the lake. The charming historic cabins are just a short walk to a marina, amenities, and some great hiking.
The historical cabin was rustic although quite dark inside, had only a double bed. The mattress was not very comfortable (compared to YNP cabins). We both rolled into the middle all night. The room was quite small; the heater kept us quite warm in the cold evening, temperatures dropped into the low 30s. The shower was lukewarm and the towels (2 bath-hand) were very minimal, (no facecloths said they had a shortage).
Stay at Coulter Bay Cabins: Embrace Nature’s Warm Embrace in Grand Teton National Park
I booked this cabin in early January. I was a little disappointed we had to wait to check-in as the girl behind the counter talking about social media for 1/2 hour. Finally, another gentleman came over and got us started with a check-in. The service was excellent once we did the check-in. I think next time I would just pay the higher price for two doubles or two twins (the rooms in the images look way bigger, then our closet-size room). One of the highlights of staying at Coulter Bay Cabins is the proximity to Jackson Lake.
Because we arrived early, we sat at the laundromat and took advantage of the free Wi-Fi. We did a walking tour-looking in the General Store, well-stocked with groceries, camping supplies, and gifts. The Visitors Center has some exhibits and guest information services with an Indian Arts Museum. We had a sunny day and took the time to view the boats at the marina. The marina was the location for our morning Breakfast Cruise.
The menus at Coulter Bay restaurants were not inviting, so after check-in, we drove up to Leek’s Marina Pizzeria based on reviews from TripAdvisor. The parking lot is small. There is no table service. The line was a little long for orders, but we felt it was worth the wait.
Best Place to Eat-Leek’s Marina Pizzeria
The restaurant offers outdoor seating, ice cream, beer & wine. This pizza is to die for. We had the Leek Supreme pizza- the best pizza I have ever had. The pizza is a thin crust and they are generous with toppings. The prices were decent. The beer selection was limited, but it has some delightful local brews on tap. Extra cold beer is a wonderful thing on a hot day. We sat outside on their deck and enjoy the great outdoors, fresh air, and a beautiful view of the Tetons.
We returned to Coulter Village and had a cocktail-Teton Sunset at the Ranch House at Coulter Bay. we sat at the crowded bar since we had access to television. Most were watching the NBA finals. The waitstaff was very friendly, and the service was fast considering the number of people being served.
Lake Jackson Breakfast Cruise: A Scenic Feast to Start Your Day in Grand Teton
Add the Lake Jackson Breakfast Cruise to Elk Island to your itinerary. I highly recommend taking the breakfast cruise. The Lake Jackson Breakfast Cruise offers the perfect combination of serene relaxation and breathtaking scenery to kickstart your day in Grand Teton National Park.
We met the cruise group at the Colter Bay Marina early in the morning. This morning was freezing. I know I bundled in layers as we prepared to leave the marina for the 30-minute ride to the island. As the morning sun casts a golden glow over the Teton peaks, we made our way to the designated boarding area for the breakfast cruise.
The boat named the Teewinot, meaning Shoshone Native American word meaning “many pinnacles” with the same name given Teewinot Mountain. The ride out to Elk Island was quite crisp in the cool morning air, although refreshing. We sat inside the cabin on the way out as the crew told us the history of Colter Bay, sparking wonder at how the early settlers must have felt when they first glimpsed the lake. The lake was no ripples on the water, the panoramic mountains mirrored on the water.
Elk Island Breakfast: A Serene Morning Retreat in Grand Teton National Park
Jackson Lake is the largest high altitude lake in the US; well over 400 ft deep, while Elk Island is the largest island in the lake. This picturesque island provides the perfect setting to savor a delightful breakfast amidst nature.
The breakfast comprised a canoe filled with pastries, fruits, yogurt, and other delights on Elk Island. It was quite remarkable! The grill had fresh Idaho trout, pancakes, eggs, sausage patties, and bacon. Having trout for breakfast was unusual, must say, it was very good. The cowboy coffee on the open fire was the best!! We savored the flavors of our hearty breakfast while soaking in the breathtaking views of the Teton Range and the peaceful waters of Jackson Lake.
Ranger Peak Leisurely Hike: Taking advantage of the Grandeur of Grand Teton National Park
The crisp morning air waned with the warming sun. After breakfast, we took a leisurely nature walk around the island’s shores. Later, we made our way up the mountain trail to take in the lake’s grandeur and Tetons. By this time it had warmed, so we removed hoodies and jackets. Elk Island is not only a haven for nature enthusiasts, but also a habitat for wildlife. We kept our eyes peeled for bald eagles soaring overhead, deer grazing on the island, or the occasional moose making its presence known.
The hour here had passed quickly. On the ride back to the marina, we sat outside looking at soul-soothing views of the distant Waterfall Canyon where the Wilderness falls are taller than the lower falls of Yellowstone.
Final Thought on Making Your Itinerary for Grand Teton National Park a Reality
From leisurely hikes to scenic drives and serene boat rides, every experience in Grand Teton National Park offers something special. We suggest that you also add an adventure into Yellowstone National Park. There are so many other ways to enjoy Grand Teton National Park that will stay with you for a lifetime.
While planning an itinerary is essential, be open to spontaneity and unexpected discoveries. Nature has a way of presenting delightful surprises, so allow yourself the freedom to adapt your plans and seize opportunities that come your way. Making your itinerary for Grand Teton National Park a reality is an invitation to immerse yourself in the majesty of the Teton Range, the serenity of the lakes, and the untamed beauty of the wilderness.
Have you been to Grand Teton? What did you think? We would love to hear your feedback. Share with us below in the comments.