After living and playing at the base of the Tetons for ten years, I ventured off to the big city to pursue a graduate degree. A few months away from Jackson Hole, and I realized how much I had taken for granted. The majestic and raw beauty of the Tetons, as well as endless opportunities for adventure, cannot be replicated. Located only twelve miles south of Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) on highway 26/89, Jackson is the perfect ‘base camp’ for park excursions throughout the entire year. In addition to ideal proximity, Jackson offers amenities ranging from affordable to luxurious, a plethora of family activities, and knowledgeable guiding services. Following are some considerations that you might not think of initially but will insure the best trip possible to the Tetons and surrounding areas.
What should we bring for a park excursion?
- Appropriate Clothing: Although summer days can often be warm, temperatures can dramatically drop after an afternoon thunderstorm or as evening approaches. Being prepared with layers and a rain jacket. If participating in a winter activity, be sure to dress VERY warmly. Temperatures can be frigid, especially on clear days. Regardless of season, it is better to dress in a base layer that is non-cotton, such as wool or polypro.
- Food and Water: GTNP does have several places to eat. Most locals will bring their own food and drinks for their hikes, climbs, or canoe trips. In addition to being expensive, the park concessions are somewhat spread out. That being said, there is nothing quite like rewarding yourself with pizza and a beer after a hike while gazing up at a spectacular Teton sunset from Dornan's in Moose, Wyoming. For supplies and a pre-packaged lunch, visit one of Jackson’s numerous grocery stores or delis/café’s.
- Park newspaper and map: Teewinot, the park’s seasonal newspaper, and a map are also crucial for a stress-free and fun outing. In Teewinot, one can find information on the most current road closures, campgrounds, activities, and backcountry travel safety tips. These publications can be obtained at the Park entrance, local stores, and the park’s website.
When’s the best time of year to visit Grand Teton National Park?
Every season has something to offer when visiting the park. However, there are certain things to keep in mind when planning your trip. Due to the weather and long days, summer is the most popular time of the year for visitors. This also means more traffic and crowds. In the spring and fall, there are less people, but weather is more unpredictable. Animals tend to be more active in these cooler months as well. Although winter brings road closures, specifically the inner park road and much of the Moose-Wilson road, there are plenty of things to do. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are common ways to experience a Teton winter wonderland.
Grand Teton National Park is much smaller than neighboring Yellowstone, which means less driving and more time to spend in the mountains. If your trip to the area is a quick one, one day is enough time to tour the park, take some amazing pictures, and view wildlife. Begin by driving north on the outer park road to the Gros Ventre and Antelope Flats roads. Buffalo herds and remnants of the original settlers are popular attractions. After this detour, continue north on the outer road up to Moran junction and Jackson Lake. Take in the vistas of the northern Tetons, such as Mt. Moran, as you begin driving south on the inner park road. Before taking a detour on the String Lake scenic drive, meander up to Signal Mountain for elevated views of the range. As you continue south towards the Moose-Wilson Road, there are numerous pullout areas. The Moose-Wilson road is a great way to end the day, as there is ample wildlife that typically appear at dawn and dusk.
To truly experience the Tetons, allow a few days for day hikes and a family canoe trip. Some ideas include taking the Jenny Lake boat over to Hidden Falls and then hike up into Cascade Canyon. Canoeing Jenny Lake or String Lake is also popular with locals and visitors alike. Visit the Craig Thomas Visitor Center for more information and day outing ideas.
Plan Your Trip: