First established in 1929, Grand Teton National Park is only 10 miles from Yellowstone National Park. Within its more than 310,000 acres are amazing scenery, historic sites, and loads of outdoor recreational opportunities. As such, it draws visitors from across the country and around the world. It’s also loaded with so many attractions that knowing where to go and what to see first can often seem overwhelming. To simplify things, here are some top sites to include on your next visit.
Spanning nearly 1,200 acres, the National Park Service rightfully refers to Jenny Lake as the “centerpiece of the park.” From the lake, you can access many of the park’s most popular hiking trails, including Cascade Canyon, which provides access to the backcountry area. Pick up your backcountry and boating permits at the Visitor’s Center located on the lake’s southern shore. There you can also take part in ranger-led programs, shop at the Grand Teton Association store, and view exhibits relating to conservation inside the National Park system.
Want to see more of the lake, but have only a limited amount of time? Take the three-mile Jenny Lake Scenic Drive instead. This drive begins by the Jenny Lake Lodge and ends at Teton Park Road near the southern shore. While en route, stop at the Jenny Lake Overlook to enjoy one of the most iconic views of the lake. Jenny Lake is open year round; however, certain areas may become difficult to access during the winter months.
Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls
From Jenny Lake, take the trailhead leading to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. It’s approximately 2.4 miles around the lake to this trailhead. However, many people prefer to take the shuttle across Jenny Lake instead.
As its name suggests, Hidden Falls can’t be seen from the main trail. To reach it, you’ll take a short, half-mile hike that begins from the boat dock on the western edge of Jenny Lake. After seeing the falls, continue uphill for another half mile until you reach Inspiration Point. From there, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of Jenny Lake as well as nearby Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Mormon Row Historic District
As Earthtrekkers explain, the Mormon Row Historic District was first settled in 1890, when a group of Mormons from Salt Lake City established 27 homesteads here. Today, it’s one of the most visited-and most photographed-locations in Grand Teton National Park. In particular, the John Moulton and T.A. Moulton barns have been featured in thousands of photographs and paintings worldwide.
While the barns are among the most popular locations for selfies, there are plenty of other buildings to explore too. Many original homesteads remain standing, including the entire Chambers and Reed Moulton farms.
Chapel of the Transfiguration
A short distance from Mormon Row, the Chapel of the Transfiguration sits just inside Grand Teton National Park’s south entrance. This is another great attraction if you are into visiting or photographing historic buildings. It’s a rustic log structure where church services are still held occasionally. Even so, it’s open to guests for self-guided tours from dusk to dawn (weather permitting).
42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive
This scenic drive takes you through many iconic places throughout the park, including Jackson and Moose Lakes. It consists of two roads: Highway 26/89/191 (the outer road) and Teton Park Road (the inner road). Highway 26/89/191 is open year round, while Teton Park Road is closed during the winter months. Accordingly, you can only make the full drive between May 1 and October 31.
There are three entry points along the scenic loop. However, you’ll enjoy the best views if you begin at Moose Junction and travel counterclockwise. If you start before sunrise, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing views of the sun coming up over the top of the mountains. But dusk is also a great time to visit, particularly if you are also wanting to view wildlife.
You can easily complete the entire loop in only a couple of hours. But you’ll need between eight and ten hours to fully enjoy all the stops along the route. A few places you’ll definitely want to take in include:
- Dornan’s Village to grab a quick bite or load up on snacks
- Blacktail Ponds Overlook, a popular grazing spot for the park’s blacktail deer
- Schwabacher Landing, where you can see the crystal-clear reflection of the Teton Mountains in the Snake River
- Teton Point Turnout, which offers a spectacular view of the Teton Mountains and their glaciers
- Cunningham Cabin Historic Site, a well-preserved historic cabin dating to 1885
- Elk Ranch Turnout, a site that was previously the largest cattle ranch in Jackson Hole
- Mountain View Turnout, one of the best places to view Grand Teton Mountain
Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve & Visitor Center
The land on which this 1,100-acre wildlife refuge now sits was donated by the Rockefeller family in 2001. Today, the visitor’s center remains a quiet, serene location in which to connect with nature. It offers trail information, ranger-led programs, exhibits, and a reading room complete with a cozy fireplace. It’s also the starting point for the Phelps Loop Trail, a moderately-challenging 7-mile loop that takes between 3 and 4 hours to complete.
Finding a parking spot can be especially challenging, so plan to arrive as early as possible. After 9 am, it’s nearly impossible to snag a parking spot, especially during peak season.
So Much to See and Do!
This is only a sampling of what’s in store for you inside Grand Teton National Park. And that doesn’t even begin to account for the attractions that are outside the park. For example, whitewater rafting tours are an exhilarating way to enjoy the natural beauty this area has to offer. Start planning your visit to Grand Teton National Park today!