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Welcome to the stunning Grand Teton National Park! If you’re planning your first trip to this breathtaking destination, you are in for an unforgettable experience.
Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park is a natural wonderland with its majestic peaks, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife.
However, to make the most of your trip, it’s important to come prepared. In this post, I will be sharing the 11 best Grand Teton tips for first-timers to ensure you have an amazing adventure while exploring this iconic national park.
From must-visit trails and scenic viewpoints to wildlife watching I have got you covered. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your camera, and let’s dive into the top tips for an unforgettable Grand Teton experience!
- 1. Grand Teton National Park At-A-Glance
- 2. 11 Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
- 2.1. Drive Grand Teton's 42-Mile Scenic Loop
- 2.2. Go Hiking in Grand Teton National Park
- 2.3. Take a Gondola Ride to Rendezvous Mountain
- 2.4. Go Fishing in Grand Teton National Park
- 2.5. Take a Dip in Granite Hot Springs Pool
- 2.6. Watch Sunrise in Grand Teton National Park
- 2.7. Observe Wildlife in Grand Teton
- 2.8. Rent a Kayak or a Canoe in Grand Teton National Park
- 2.9. Go Bike Riding in Grand Teton National Park
- 2.10. Check Out Some Best Places to Eat in Jackson Hole
- 2.11. Go Horseback Riding in Grand Teton
- 3. Intrepid Scout's Tips for Grand Teton
Grand Teton National Park At-A-Glance
Before diving in, here are a few highlights to help you plan your trip:
- Best Time to Visit Grand Teton National Park
Hands down, summer is the best (and most popular) time to visit Grand Teton National Park. The weather is warm and all park facilities are open. However, my favorite time to visit is early to mid-September. The weather can be awesome in the fall and it is a great time to avoid the crowds and find some solitude on the trails.
- Where to Stay In or Near Grand Teton
Nothing beats staying inside the park! There are several great lodges inside the park. However, you need to make reservations well in advance. If all the lodges are booked, then there are a few places that I stayed at, and I highly recommend them. In addition, there are great campsites inside the park as well. To sum up, before you make any reservations, make sure to check out my post Where to Stay in Grand Teton: 7 Amazing Places to Stay.
- How to Get to Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming and the closest airports to Grand Teton National Park are Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) – 8 min, Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) – 2 hours, and 11 min, Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) – 5 hours. Now, Salt Lake City International Airport is a major airport and all major airlines fly into this area from large cities all over the U.S. and internationally. Use Skyscanner to browse flights and find the best price.
- How to Get Around in Grand Teton National Park
There is no shuttle service in the park and the best way to get around is by having your own car. I use dicovercars.com to browse deals on rental cars or rent an RV or campervan with Outdoorsy!
- Intrepid Scout’s Tip:
It costs $30 to enter the park. The entrance pass is good for 7 consecutive days. If you are visiting several national parks then make sure to get America the Beautiful National Park Pass. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and gets you into all 400+ national park sites!
11 Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
Drive Grand Teton's 42-Mile Scenic Loop
The 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive is one of the best ways to experience Grand Teton National Park. The loop consists of two roads: HWY 191/89/26 – OUTER ROAD (one road, just shares three numbers) and Teton Park Road – INNER ROAD.
There are at least 24 overlooks, turnouts, and points of interest on the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive. It takes about 1-2 hours to drive the loop without stopping. However, if you are planning on stopping at each viewpoint, then, it is going to take you at least 8-10 hours to do the entire loop.
Here are the best stops on 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive:
- Moulton Barns on Mormon Row
I am sure you have seen the pictures of the famous Moulton Barns on Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park. These are the most photographed barns in the world!
By the way, there are two barns that are famous ones, so make sure to photograph both of them. The T. A. Moulton Barn has a triangle roof and the John Moulton Barn has a 4-sided roof. Also, make sure to explore the other buildings on the row. You will get a better idea of what 19th-century frontier life was like.
Moulton Barns on Mormon Row / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
- Schwabacher Landing
Schwabacher Landing is one of my favorite spots in Grand Teton National Park! Here, you will see absolutely picture-perfect reflection of the Tetons in the still waters of the Snake River. So, have your camera ready, because you will take a ton of pictures at Schwabacher Landing.
Schwabacher Landing / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
There is a trail that starts right at the parking lot and meanders along Snake River. At about two-tenths of a mile from the parking lot, you will come across a beaver dam. And, beavers can be very entertaining to watch!
1. Beavers secrete a goo that smells like vanilla
Castoreum is a chemical compound that mostly comes from a beaver’s castor sacs, which are located under the tail. It is secreted as a brown slime that’s about the consistency of molasses and smells like musky vanilla. It’s an FDA-approved natural flavoring.
2. Beavers are romantics at heart
Or at least they’re monogamous. Dams are usually started by a young male looking for love or by a mated-for-life new couple. A whole beaver family will live in a single dam—mom, dad, young kids, and yearlings.
3. Beavers’ front teeth are orange
To gnaw through tree trunks, they need extra-strong teeth. Fortunately, their tooth enamel contains iron, which makes them incredibly strong, sharp, and orange.
Source: Mental Floss
- Snake River Overlook
Snake River Overlook is one of the most famous spots in Grand Teton National Park. It was the shooting location for Ansel Adams’ famous 1942 black-and-white photo.
However now, it looks much different. The tree growth obstructs the view of Snake River. However, no matter, that the view of the river has changed since 1942, it is still one of the most iconic views of the Tetons.
Snake River Overlook / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
- Oxbow Bend Turnout
Oxbow Bend Turnout is another one of my favorite spots on the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive in Grand Teton National Park. Needless to say, it is a very popular spot for photographers to gather and wait for that perfect light. Oxbow Bend Turnout provides a perfect view of Mount Moran.
Oxbow Bend Turnout / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
Go Hiking in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is a hiker’s paradise! It is the best thing to do in Grand Teton National Park!
Whether you like leisurely walks, short and easy tracks or challenging trails, the list of hikes where you are guaranteed to see wildlife and breathtaking scenery is simply endless.
First of all, if you are looking for short or easy hiking trails, then check out my list of 11 Easy Hikes in Grand Teton National Park. Need more ideas, look no further! Check out an extensive list of the 17 Best Hikes in Grand Teton National Park.
I know! So many choices! What if you could just do a couple of hikes? Then, I say, Hermitage Point Trail is my choice! It offers unsurpassed views of the Grand Tetons. My second recommendation is Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point Trail. It is a classic hike in Grand Tetons that needs to be on your list.
- Hermitage Point Trail
What you need to know is that the roundtrip distance on this hike is 10 miles. However, you. can shorten it any way you like. Also, the hike is mostly flat, except for a couple of short sections with a short ascent, just to give your heart and your legs extra exercise. Following is the map of the trail:
Map of Hermitage Point Trail in Grand Teton National Park. Image Credit: NPS / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
The hike to Hermitage Point begins from the Hermitage Point Trailhead. The Hermitage Point Trailhead is located at the south end of the Colter Bay Visitor Center. To get to the trailhead, drive about 5.4 miles from the Jackson Lake Junction to the Colter Bay Visitor Center.
At about 0.7 miles from the trailhead, you will reach a side trail leading to Jackson Lake Overlook. The views of the Tetons are fantastic here!
At about 1.4 miles, you will reach Heron Pond. Heron Pond is quite a sight when it is all covered with lilies. Moreover, be on the lookout for wildlife. I have seen moose here on several occasions.
Next, you will reach Half Moon Bay Overlook. What can I say? It will take your breath away! Just take your time here and soak in the views!
Finally, you will reach Hermitage Point. It is a perfect spot for a break. In my opinion, at this point, you will get some of the best views of the Grand Tetons.
On the way back, you will be rewarded with another spectacular area: Swan Lake. Swan Lake is beautiful when it is covered with blooming lilies. Take your time here and try to spot a trumpeter swans!
Hermitage Point Trail in Grand Teton National Park / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
- Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point
Another trail that I am recommending is Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point Trail. It is one of the most popular hikes in Grand Teton National Park where you can take a shuttle to the west side of Jenny Lake and then hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.
Shuttles are operated by Jenny Lake Boating. They run every 10-15 minutes. You can purchase the tickets at the Jenny Lake East Boat Dock. Tickets cost $18 for a round-trip and $10 for a one-way trip.
Hidden Falls is a beautiful waterfall that drops 100 feet in a series of cascades and the views of Jenny Lake, Jackson Hole, and the Gros Ventre Range are stunning from the Inspiration Point.
The hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point starts at the Jenny Lake Trailhead. To get to the trailhead, turn west off Teton Park Road at the South Jenny Lake Junction.
All in all, the trail is 2.2 miles round trip and it should not take you more than 1-2 hours to complete the hike.
Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
Hidden Falls / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
Hidden Falls / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
Take a Gondola Ride to Rendezvous Mountain
Teton Village has both an aerial tram and a gondola which you can take to Rendezvous Mountain. The ticket to ride a gondola costs $37 for an adult. However, starting at 5 pm, the gondola ride is free!
If you want to go for free, then you need to plan ahead! People start lining up around 4 pm. So be there no later than 4 pm! But, once 5 pm hits, the line starts moving pretty fast. The ride to Rendezvous Mountain takes about 12 minutes.
What you need to keep in mind is that the last gondola ride up is at 8:30 pm. and the last gondola down is at 9 pm (just a reminder, so that you don’t get stuck up there). Also, my recommendation is to take a break (lunch) at Piste Mountain Bistro and enjoy the spectacular views
Another idea is to ride the gondola to Rendezvous Mountain in the morning (unfortunately, it will not be free) and then hike to Marion Lake. It is a great hike with awesome views along the way.
View from Rendezvous Mountain / Grand Teton Tips
Go Fishing in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is fishing heaven! It does not matter if you are a bait, spinner angler, or fly fisherman. I assure you that you will have a great time fishing in Grand Teton National Park. The lakes and streams in Grand Teton National Park offer some excellent trout fishing opportunities. Cutthroat, brown, rainbow and lake trout can all be caught in the park’s waters.
Here are my favorite (actually my daughter’s favorite) fishing spots in Grand Teton National Park:
- Snake River (just below Jackson Lake Dam)
One of the best fishing spots is on Snake River just below Jackson Lake Dam. You can float or wade this section of Snake River. It is about a 5-mile stretch that offers some good fishing until you reach Pacific Creek.
- Jackson Lake (close to Jackson Lake Dam)
There are a number of access points around Jackson Lake. In my opinion, the best spots are anywhere close to the dam.
Jackson Lake Dam / Grand Teton Tips
- Jenny Lake
There are plenty of access points around Jenny Lake. However, it does get busy, so do not expect any solitude.
- Leigh Lake
It is a bit of a hike to get to Leigh Lake, but it is my favorite fishing spot. If you do not mind hiking then head directly to Leigh Lake. Actually, my recommendation is to do some hiking and fishing.
Here is a hike that is absolutely perfect for it: String, Leigh, Bearpaw, and Trapper Lakes Loop Trail is a super cool hike. The trail goes along four beautiful alpine lakes. You will get to enjoy the ever-changing scenery with the Grand Tetons reflecting in the waters of the lakes and you can do some fishing as well!
The round-trip distance for this hike is about 12 miles and you need about 5-6 hours to do the hike, plus some fishing, then, all in all, I would plan for an entire day. The trail starts at the String Lake Trailhead. The trailhead is located north of Jenny Lake.
To get there, turn west off Teton Park Road at the North Jenny Lake Junction. North Jenny Lake Junction is located about 10.6 miles from Moose Junction, and 10 miles south of Jackson Lake Junction. Once you turn west off Teton Park Road, continue driving for about 1.4 miles until you get to the parking lot located right at String Lake Trailhead.
Right below is a map of how to do this hike.
Map of String, Leigh, Bearpaw, and Trapper Lakes Loop Trail / Grand Teton Tips
Fishing at Leigh Lake in Grand Teton National Park / Grand Teton Tips
What you need to know about fishing in Grand Teton National Park is that a Wyoming fishing license is required.
- License fees: Resident – Annual $27.00, One-Day $6.00, Youth (14-17, annual) $3.00, Under 14 (creel limit applies) free. Non-resident – Annual $102.00, One-Day $14.00, Five-Day $56.00, Youth (14-17, annual) $15.00, Under 14 (creel limit applies) free.
You can purchase fishing licenses at Wyoming Game and Fish offices, online, or from license vendors throughout the state. Also, you can purchase a fishing license within the park at Snake River Anglers at Dornans, Signal Mountain Lodge front desk, Colter Bay Village Store, and the Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch.
Lakes within Grand Teton National Park are open to fishing year-round with the following exception of Jackson Lake, which is closed to fishing from October 1 through 31. Source: NPS
Take a Dip in Granite Hot Springs Pool
Granite Hot Springs Pool needs to be on your list of things to do in Grand Teton National Park! Nothing can feel better than a dip in a hot pool to relax your sore muscles after a long day of hiking.
Granite Hot Springs Pool is located at the end of Granite Creek Road, south of Jackson, Wyoming, and of Highway 189.
If you are driving from Jackson, then it will take you about 1 hour to reach Granite Hot Springs. Granite Creek Road is just a bumpy dirt road, so slow down and watch out for potholes. However, it is all worth it!
Watch Sunrise in Grand Teton National Park
The Teton Mountain Range faces east, so sunrise provides the best light to illuminate the face of the mountains. However, sunsets can be as spectacular as sunrises in Grand Teton National Park. The scenery alone is dramatic with the craggy peaks rising above the flat plains.
To top it off, you have Snake River winding its way through pine forests and lush meadows. And, Jenny Lake or Jackson Lake with the most incredible reflections of the Tetons in the water. I have to honestly say that grand Teton National Park is a photographer’s dream!
Following are some of my favorite locations to watch the sunrise:
- Mormon Row
Mormon Row is a famous spot for sunrise photography in Grand Teton National Park. I have to honestly say that it is one of my favorite spots to photograph the Teton Mountain Range bathed in the morning sunlight! Thomas Alma Moulton Barn with the pointed roof and John Moulton Barn with the rounded roof in front of the towering Tetons are iconic sights.
- Schwabacher Landing
Schwabacher Landing is is another very popular spot to watch the sunrise in the Grand Teton Mountains. My recommendation is to take time and find your perfect spot.
There is a trail that starts at the parking lot and goes along Snake River. At about two-tenths of a mile from the parking lot, you will get to a beaver dam. This spot is the best place to see some wildlife. Be on the lookout for moose, elk, and bison that like to graze in the grassy meadows along the river. It is a perfect place to see bald eagles, osprey, and great blue herons.
Schwabacher Landing at Sunrise / Grand Teton Tips
Observe Wildlife in Grand Teton
Grand Teton National Park is home to a wide variety of animals. Grizzly and black bears, bison, moose, elk, pronghorn, and more live throughout the park. Some of my favorite places to see wildlife in Grand Teton National Park are:
- 8-Mile Scenic Section of Moose-Wilson Road
Hands down, the 8-Mile Scenic Section of Moose-Wilson Road is one of the best drives for observing wildlife in Grand Teton. Your chances of spotting moose are pretty good! Be on the lookout for mule deer, elk, and black and grizzly bears.
- Blacktail Pond
Blacktail Pond is a great place to see wildlife. It is located about 0.5 miles north of Moose on US Highway 191/89/26. There are some beaver ponds that have been filled with sediment and now support grassy meadows where elk graze and moose munch on willows growing along the river.
The 8-Mile Scenic Section of Moose-Wilson Road is one of the best drives for observing wildlife in Grand Teton / Grand Teton Tips
Blacktail Pond is a great place to see wildlife / Grand Teton Tips
Rent a Kayak or a Canoe in Grand Teton National Park
Of more than 100 lakes in Grand Teton National Park, 10 are available for human-powered vessels.
The most popular lakes to kayak or canoe are Jenny Lake, String Lake, and Leigh Lake. All three of them are easily accessible making them very convenient for kayaking or canoeing. Plus, a bonus! You are surrounded by the towering Teton Mountains.
If you want some solitude then you should kayak at Bradley Lake, Taggart Lake, and Phelps Lake. However, getting to these lakes requires a bit of a hike! Plus, you have to carry your equipment.
Now, if you can, then bring your own kayak or a canoe. It is the best alternative, because, all you will need to do is get a permit.
If you do not have your own kayak or a canoe, then it is not a problem. I have rented kayaks in Grand Tetons several times. So that you know, there are three places in Grand Teton NP where you can rent kayaks or canoes:
Colter Bay Marina Boat Rentals – A single kayak is $30 per hour (2-hour minimum), and a double kayak is $40 per hour (2-hour minimum). Canoes are $25 per hour (2-hour minimum, 3 people max). You can rent a motorboat as well.
Jenny Lake Boating – At Jenny Lake Boating, you can rent only non-motorized vessels (kayaks and canoes). The cost is $20 per hour (1 hour minimum) and $80 per day.
Jackson Lake Boat rentals (Signal Mountain Lodge on Jackson Lake) – A single kayak is $22 per hour and $95 per day, and a double kayak is $27 per hour and $115 per day. You can rent canoes as well for $25 per hour and $99 per day (max 3 people).
Kayaks at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park / Grand Teton Tips
Kayaking at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park / Grand Teton Tips
- Always wear a personal floatation device (PFD) and do not take it off as long as you are on the water.
- Make sure to wear synthetic quick-drying clothing. Do not wear anything made out of cotton. It sucks up all the moisture and dries slowly.
- It can be cold in the morning, and the weather can change fast. So, dress in layers. Also, protect yourself from the sun (wear a hat and long sleeve shirt).
- Hands down, mornings and evenings are the best time to go kayaking or canoeing in Grand Teton National Park! Mornings and evenings tend to be calmer on the lakes. The wind starts to pick up by the early afternoon.
- Keep in mind that the weather can change very fast, so make sure to check the weather forecast before heading to the boat rental place.
Go Bike Riding in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is probably the most bike-friendly park in the United States. It claims to have the most paved trails out of any national park and to top it off, with the most recent completion of the Jenny Lake Pathway, I am sure it can boast to have the best-paved biking trails.
Some of my favorite biking routes are:
- Moose to Jenny Lake – 7.1 miles one-way
- Teton Village to Moose – 8.8 miles one-way, and
- Wilson to Teton Village – 6.1 miles one-way
My recommendation is to check out Friends of Pathways (friends of Pathways is a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit that focuses on promoting and advocating a complete pathway system, safer streets, and great trails in Jackson Hole) for more ideas.
If you have a bike, then, by all means, bring it with you and you are ready to go!
If you need to rent a bike, then check out some of the bike rental places. Prices vary depending on what type of bike you are planning to rent and for how long. My recommendation is to stick with a ‘road bike’ and rent it for a day. By the way, one-way rentals are available as well:
In Jackson: Hoback Sports
In Teton Village: Jackson Hole Sports
In Moose: Adventure Sports – Dornans
Also, make sure to check out START Bike. It is a community bike share program servicing the town of Jackson.
Biking Trails in Grand Teton National Park / Grand Teton Tips
Map of Biking Routes in Grand Teton National Park and Vicinity. Image Source: Friends of Pathways / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
Check Out Some Best Places to Eat in Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole is located is a cute little town surrounded by awesome views of the Teton Mountains.
Jackson Hole / Grand Teton Tips for First-Timers
First of all, make sure to stop by and snap a couple of pictures of the famous antler arches and head on and try some of the best places to eat in Jackson Hole!
Antler arches / Grand Teton Tips
Here is my list of places that you need to check out:
Persephone Bakery – If you are staying in Jackson Hole, then I guarantee that you are going to go back again and again to Persephone Bakery. They have excellent pastries, yummy breakfasts, and delicious sandwiches. Their coffees are creations of art.
Picnic – Make sure to visit Picnic! It serves the most amazing breakfasts and lunches. The sandwiches and salads are top-notch. Try their coffee as well. They know what they are doing!
Moo Ice Cream – Their huckleberry ice cream is to die for! It won the Food Network 2013 Best Dessert in Wyoming. But, make sure to try their boysenberry sorbet. It is simply delicious.
Pinky’s G Pizzeria – I don’t know about you, but I love great pizza. I am recommending Pinky’s G Pizzeria. It is my place to go whenever I am in Jackson Hole. You will not be disappointed.
Go Horseback Riding in Grand Teton
If you can splurge a little, then consider horseback riding in Grand Teton National Park. It is one of the most fun things to do in Grand Teton NP!
My recommendation is to check out Teton Village Trail Rides and give it a try. They offer 1-hour rides for $55 or 2-hour rides for $75.
Horseback riding in Grand Teton National Park/ Grand Teton Tips
Intrepid Scout's Tips for Grand Teton
That is quite a list of things to do in Grand Teton National Park, right? What if you only have time to do a couple of things?
No problem! Here are my absolute 3 you simply cannot miss on your first visit to Grand Teton National Park:
- Hands down, of all the things to do in Grand Teton National Park, the number one is to drive a 42-Mile Scenic Loop. It is the best way to experience the beauty of the Teton Mountains from the comfort of your car. You can do it in one hour or you can take your time and stop and explore at every turnout and overlook.
- Second, take the boat shuttle to the west side of Jenny Lake and then hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.
- And finally, watch the sunrise at Schwabacher’s Landing. It is one of the things you will remember forever!
Make sure to buy America the Beautiful Pass. Hands down, it is a great deal! If you are visiting several national parks during your vacation (or during the entire year), you should buy an annual pass and save some money.
The cost of the annual pass is $80. However, the annual pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, such as national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and grasslands.
You can purchase the pass online at America the Beautiful – National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass
If you are planning a trip to Grand Teton National Park, then you should look into visiting Yellowstone National Park as well. Both parks make for an awesome road trip!
More Helpful Posts About Grand Teton National Park:
11 Things You Can’t-Miss on Your First Visit to Grand Teton National Park
7 Amazing Places to Stay in Grand Teton National Park
6 Best Photography Locations in Grand Teton (+Useful Photo Tips)
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