Rising out of the Wyoming landscape like some colossus teeth, the Teton Range stands as a reminder of what can be accomplished when people come together to preserve a unique and vital landscape. Grand Teton National Park protects thousands of acres of pine forest, clear mountain lakes and dozens of species of wildlife, including grizzly bears, moose and wolves.
This national park is often high on many adventurer’s must-visit travel lists — and for good reasons. Home to over 200 miles of trail, 1,000 campsites and numerous outdoor activity possibilities — from casual river fishing trips to multiday backcountry extravaganzas — Grand Teton National Park has a lot to offer.
If you are planning an epic trip up to this mountainous park, then this ultimate adventure guide is for you. Full of useful information — including how to reach the park, where to camp and what to do once you get there — this guide should help you have one amazing adventure.
Keep reading to learn more.
\\ Fast Facts About Grand Teton National Park
Year Established: 1929
Where is Grand Teton National Park: in western Wyoming — a state in the western half of the USA
Total Size: 310,000 acres
Number of Annual Visitors: about 3.3 million in 2020
Cost to Enter Grand Teton National Park: $35 per private vehicle (valid for 7 days)
Best For: hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, fishing, and wildlife spotting
➳ Explore the Grand Teton National Park website.
\\ A Brief History of Grand Teton National Park
The first efforts to preserve the region as a national park began in the late 19th century, and culminated in 1929 when Grand Teton National Park was finally established. The park’s purpose was to protect the Teton Range’s major peaks as well as the area's abundant wildlife.
The park gained more and more land over the years, thanks in large part to conservationists — including John D. Rockefeller Jr. — who continued to purchase land in the Jackson Hole valley and add it to the national park. For Rockefeller’s environmental efforts, the road that connects Grand Teton with Yellowstone National Park (a mere 10 miles away) was named after him.
Along with the large surrounding national forests, these three areas (Grand Teton, Yellowstone and the national park-managed Rockefeller Memorial Highway) cover nearly 18 million acres of now protected land. This is known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and it is one of the world’s largest intact mid-latitude temperate ecosystems.
Grand Teton National Park is named for the iconic Grand Teton — the tallest mountain in the whole Teton Range. The name is thought to have originated from early 19th-century French-speaking trappers (the word translates to les trois tétons or the three teats). The name would eventually be anglicized and shortened to just the Tetons.
\\ When to Visit Grand Teton National Park
The best time to visit Grand Teton National Park is between the months of July and October. This is especially true if you plan to do a lot of hiking and/or backpacking. While the winter brings a lot of snow to the area — which is gorgeous — it also means a lot of the park is inaccessible unless you are highly skilled in snow safety.
💬INSIDER TIP: I visited the national park at the end of May and found a lot of the trails — especially the ones at higher elevations — to still be covered in snow. Likewise, you are more likely to run into bad weather during this time of year, most notably heavy rain storms and hail.
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK WEATHER
There are four distinct seasons in Grand Teton National Park. In the summer (specifically July and August) you can expect hot days (usually in the low 80s) and cool nights with afternoon thunderstorms, especially in the high country. In the fall (September to November) the days are still pleasant and warm, especially in September, while the nights are quite chilly. There is also a high chance of rain and even some snow.
During the winter (December to mid-April) expect lots of snow — especially in December and January — and a few sunny days. The weather is quite cold, and downright freezing at night. The springtime (mid-April to June) includes a high chance of rain showers and storms with warm temperatures. You can still expect snow on the trails until at least mid-May (and often later).
\\ How to Get to Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is located in the far western half of the state of Wyoming. While quite close to Yellowstone National Park, the park is pretty far from any major city. The closest metropolises are Salt Lake City, UT; Denver, CO; and Boise, ID.
The easiest way to reach the park is to drive — though be prepared for a long day of driving if planning to fly into a major city and then rent a car. Below are basic driving directions and distances from the aforementioned major cities.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT TO GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
From the capital city of Utah, you will need to drive north on I-15 (a major interstate) before turning onto Highways 30, 34, 89 and finally 191. While it is a somewhat long drive — roughly 5 hours — it is quite pretty, especially during the late spring and early summer.
🛣 DISTANCE: 282 miles
🕝TIME: 4 hours and 45 minutes
DENVER, CO TO GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
From the major city of Denver in central Colorado, you can expect to be on the road for nearly 8 hours. From someone who has done this route multiple times, I will say it is pretty boring — though not entirely ugly (it can be especially nice during the late springtime or fall). Head out on I-25 before cutting over to I-80, Highway 287 and finally Highway 26 (this latter road is actually quite nice).
🛣 DISTANCE: 482 miles
🕝TIME: 7 hours and 45 minutes
BOISE, ID TO GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
The final option for driving (if you are planning to start in a major city) is to begin in the capital of Idaho. Boise has quickly become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts thanks to its central location to many adventure opportunities. If you are thinking of flying into Boise, be prepared for a pretty boring drive to the national park — most of which will be on either Interstate 84, 86 and 15. It is really only in the last hour — the drive from Victor, ID to Jackson, WY — that the scenery really becomes special.
🛣 DISTANCE: 374
🕝TIME: ~ 6 hours
If you really don’t want to drive to the park, there is also the option to fly into Jackson Hole Airport, located in the town of Jackson (the closest town to the park). From the airport, you can rent a car and then drive the roughly 10 minutes to reach the park entrance. In fact, the airport is technically in the national park — the only airport in the USA to have that designation.
❔GOOD TO KNOW: during peak season — summer and winter — you can fly into the airport from 15 major cities via United, Delta, Alaska, and American Airlines.
The closest Amtrak train station (the only rail service in the United States) is in Salt Lake City, Utah. So, while you can take a train to Salt Lake City from various major cities in the USA — including Chicago, IL, and San Francisco, CA — it doesn’t really make sense since you will then have to rent a car and drive the final couple of hours to the park.
\\ How to Get Around Grand Teton National Park
While the national park is relatively spread out, there really is only one major road — Teton Park Road — that crosses the park from north to south. From this main artery, you can reach many different trailheads, visitor centers and campgrounds.
Do note that during the busy season (June — September), the roads can become quite congested and entrance stations can easily back up. If planning to visit during this time, try to enter the park early in the morning (before 8AM) or in the late afternoon (after 4PM).
Also, when driving in the park, ALWAYS pay attention and keep an eye out for wildlife on the roads. The park is a haven for animals, including large mammals like bear, deer, elk and moose. So when driving always stay focused and aware of your surroundings. Likewise, when wildlife is spotted near the roads, traffic can quickly become congested. When driving in these busy areas keep an eye out for people crossing the road, children and cars pulling in and out.
❔GOOD TO KNOW: if you don’t feel like driving, you can also hop on a bike and discover the park via two wheels. The Grand Teton Pathway can be ridden pretty much from downtown Jackson all the way into the park and up to many of the popular trailheads, including Jenny Lake Trailhead and Taggert Lake Trailhead.
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK VISITOR CENTERS
The national park is home to three visitor centers: Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center, Jenny Lake Visitor Center and Colter Bay Visitor Center. There is also the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center, which is open to the public and a great place to head to to learn more about Mr. Rockefeller’s vision and conservation legacy (Rockefeller was instrumental in protecting the Greater Yellowstone region).
The three visitor centers are a great place to start your Grand Teton adventure — especially if you are looking to get more information on the local wildlife and plant life, get a ranger’s recommendation on what trail to explore (one of our favorite ways to find those more off the beaten path routes), or just pick up a cool national park souvenir.
🕝HOURS: all visitor centers are open from 9AM to 5PM.
📌LOCATION(S): the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center is located near the Moose Entrance (exact location), the Jenny Lake Visitor Center is located at Jenny Lake Trailhead (exact location), and the Colter Bay Visitor Center is located near the large Colter Bay Campground on the far northern side of the park (exact location).
💬INSIDER TIP: you can get backcountry camping permits at all three visitor centers (well, technically at Jenny Lake you have to head right next door to the ranger station, but practically the same thing). But if you are needing a bear canister — which is HIGHLY recommended — you will want to head to the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center where you can either rent or buy one.
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCE STATIONS
There are two entrances to Grand Teton National Park: the Moose Entrance in the south (near the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center) and the Moran Entrance in the north (off of Highway 191/John D. Rockefeller Parkway, the road that eventually enters Yellowstone National Park).
The Moose Entrance is the closest park entrance to Jackson, the Jackson Airport and anyone coming from Salt Lake City, UT or Boise, ID. The Moran Entrance is the closest entrance to Yellowstone and the Highway 26 Junction. No matter what entrance you take, you can easily hop on Teton Park Road and explore the whole park.
💸COST TO ENTER GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK: it costs $35 per private vehicle to enter the park, $30 per motorcycle and $20 per person (either walking or biking). All are valid for 7 days.
Are you planning to explore and adventure in multiple national parks — either while on your trip to Grand Teton or later in the year? If yes, then consider purchasing the America the Beautiful Annual Park Pass. While it does cost $80, it is good for a full year and covers ALL entrance fees to national parks, national monuments and national historic parks (in total, 400+ destinations).
➳ Learn more about the pass here.
\\ Grand Teton National Park Camping
Grand Teton National Park is home to a 1,000 campsites spread across 7 campgrounds. Most campsites include the standard amenities: metal fire grates, picnic tables, and metal bear boxes for storing all food/smelly stuff, as well as potable water and bathrooms with running water.
There are also a good number of campgrounds that have sites specifically for RVs and include electrical hook-ups. The only campgrounds that do not have sites with hook-ups are Jenny Lake (tents only) and Lizard Creek.
❔GOOD TO KNOW: all campsites (tent and RV) MUST be reserved ahead of time. You can do this online at recreation.gov.
Below is a brief outline of the campgrounds, including the number of sites, their opening seasons (this does sometimes change due to snow) and the cost per night for a basic campsite. You can learn more about camping in Grand Teton National Park here.
GROS VENTRE CAMPGROUND
The largest campground in the park and the closest one to Jackson. Near the Gros Ventre River and a common spot to see deer, moose and bison.
🏕 NUMBER OF SITES: 279
☼ SEASONS: open May — mid-October
💸COST PER NIGHT: $50
JENNY LAKE CAMPGROUND
This small campground is centrally located on the banks of Jenny Lake. There are some great hiking trails nearby. This campground is TENT ONLY.
🏕 NUMBER OF SITES: 61
☼ SEASONS: open May — end of September
💸COST PER NIGHT: $49
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN CAMPGROUND
Located in an open lodgepole pine forest near Signal Mountain, this campground has great views of Jackson Lake and the Teton range.
🏕 NUMBER OF SITES: 81
☼ SEASONS: open mid-May to mid-October
💸COST PER NIGHT: $54
COLTER BAY CAMPGROUND
This large campground is also located in a lodgepole pine forest near the Colter Bay Village — which has many facilities, including a visitor center, restaurants, stores, cabins, and marina.
🏕 NUMBER OF SITES: 324
☼ SEASONS: open end of May/early June to end of September
💸COST PER NIGHT: $50
❔GOOD TO KNOW: right next to the Colter Bay Campground is the Colter Bay RV Park, where you will find over 100 sites with hook-ups, and the Colter Bay Tent Village, which offers 66 tent structures.
LIZARD CREEK CAMPGROUND
This more remote and rustic campground is situated between Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, making it a good base for exploring both parks.
🏕 NUMBER OF SITES: 60
☼ SEASONS: open mid-June to mid-September
💸COST PER NIGHT: $48
Another great option if you are planning to visit both national parks (Grand Teton and Yellowstone) is this much larger campground. This one also has a good number of RV sites as well as cabins available.
🏕 NUMBER OF SITES: 171
☼ SEASONS: open mid-May to October 1st
💸COST PER NIGHT: $52
VANLIFING NEAR GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Even if all of the campgrounds are full or you just don’t feel like paying to camp (I feel yah), you still have a lot of options for staying near the national park.
Surrounding the national park and the town of Jackson, is the large Bridger-Teton National Forest. Within the forest, you can find many wild campsites (meaning no amenities except maybe a stone firepit) as well as some forest-run campgrounds.
While it is usually pretty easy to find campsites by just driving around on the forest roads, if you want to come prepared then make sure to check out such apps as iOverlander.
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK LODGING
The park has a number of lodging options for people not looking to rough it in the campgrounds. From standard cabins to dude ranches to more luxe lodges, you can find the right spot for you.
➳ Find the full list of park lodging options — including how to reserve your stay — here.
\\ What to Bring With You to Grand Teton National Park
You will want a solid pair of hiking boots with you when exploring Grand Teton National Park — especially if you are planning to head into the high country and/or do a multi-day adventure. These Danner hiking boots offer complete waterproofing to help keep your feet dry no matter how much snow is left on the trail, plus the OrthoLite footbed adds underfoot support for all-day comfort.
For a full day on the trail, you will want a lightweight backpack that can hold all your gear while still being comfortable at mile 10. This one by Black Diamond includes a handy hydration compartment for a bladder and is made completely from recycled materials.
While you should always pack sunscreen as well (no matter what activity you are doing) it is always a good idea to bring a nice sun hat with you, especially when out on the trails or the water. This cute Patagonia trucker hat includes a brim made from recycled fabric.
Wildlife is abundant in the national park, but not always easy to see. If you want some great views of the animals — including bears, moose and wolves — then make sure to pack a pair of compact binoculars for your next trip. This pair by Nocs is rugged, water and fog proof and easy to throw in your daypack.
Bugs can be a serious downer when out hiking or backpacking anywhere, but in this national park they can be downright awful — especially when the weather heats up and the snow starts to accumulate in stagnant puddles and ponds. Always pack bug spray or be prepared for mosquito swarms day and night.
Rain is always a possibility in the park — especially at the higher elevations. So come prepared with a comfortable rain jacket that can be worn even in the worst downpour. This Patagonia Torrentshell rain jacket includes a H2No Performance Standard shell as well as a microfleece-lined neck.
No matter what time of year you are visiting Grand Teton National Park you will want to pack a cozy stocking cap — especially if you are someone who likes to get up early and hit the trail (mornings stay chilly year-round). This one by The North Face does the job well without breaking the bank.
THE LAY OF THE LAND | THE TOP ADVENTURES IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
\\ Hiking in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park has over 250 miles of trails. From full day high alpine adventures to short, family-friendly hikes to forested mountain lakes, you can find the right trail for you.
A few important things to know about hiking in Grand Teton National Park:
| Many bears live there — including grizzly and black bears. Always stay bear aware by making noises when coming around a blind corner, hike in a group when possible, and consider carrying bear spray if planning to explore more remote regions of the park. Learn more about hiking safely in bear country in this article.
| Weather can change quickly. Even if it is hot and sunny when you start out on your hike that does not mean it will stay that way the whole day. Come prepared with an extra layer (preferably something water-resistant) just in case the weather turns nasty.
| Snow melts slowly. If planning to visit during late spring or early summer (before July) then expect some of the trails — especially the ones at higher elevations — to still have some snow coverage. Be smart about hiking in snow and only continue if you have the right gear and/or knowledge about snow travel.
| Always carry water and let someone know where you are going.
| During the high season (summer) the trailheads can fill up quickly — especially on the weekends. If possible, try to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
TOP HIKES IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
JENNY LAKE LOOP
Hike around the entire Jenny Lake and check out stunning views of the Teton Range, Cascade Canyon and the lake itself. This loop begins and ends at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and can be shortened by using the shuttle boat that crosses the lake.
🥾DISTANCE: 7.1 miles, full loop
TAGGART LAKE AND BRADLEY LAKE LOOP
Head out on this relatively flat loop that takes you to Taggart and Bradley Lakes (both are quite pretty) and affords you great views of the Tetons. While this trail is 6 miles total, there isn’t much elevation change. To begin the hike, park at the Taggart Lake Trailhead.
🥾DISTANCE: 6 miles, loop
CASCADE CANYON TRAIL
For a full day of hiking adventures, consider heading out on this trail near Jenny Lake. By far one of the most popular hikes in the park, this trail does get quite busy — especially during the weekend. BUT, most people don’t do the whole trail (they often stop near Inspiration Point).
We did this hike in late July and it was absolutely stunning! Almost no snow, lots of flowers and plenty of wildlife (including a black bear and two moose). If you want a beautiful long hike in the park then definitely consider doing this one.
💬INSIDER TIP: while the standard route is a roughly 9-mile out and bike hike, you can make it as long as you want by adding on trails to mountain lakes and to more remote areas of the park.
🥾DISTANCE: 9.1 miles, out and back
DEATH CANYON TRAIL
For a full day adventure (or maybe a short overnight backpacking trip) consider taking on Death Canyon. This trail is located in the more southern part of the park (near the Moose entrance station) and is a good spot to head to to avoid some of the crowds (especially after the first couple of miles of trail). Do note that this trail has a decent amount of elevation gain (3,792 feet) and is a common spot to see bears. You will start and end the hike at the Death Canyon Trailhead.
🥾DISTANCE: 18.7 miles, out and back
➳ Find even more hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park here.
\\ Backpacking in Grand Teton National Park
If you are looking to get deeper into the Teton range and explore some of the park’s more hidden wanders (or if you just want to escape the crowds for a bit) then consider planning a trip into the backcountry.
Do note that there are a few important things to know before heading out on your backpacking adventure:
| ALL backcountry camping requires a permit. You can either reserve one ahead of time (recommended) at recreation.gov or pick up one of the first-come, first-served permits the day before your trip (1/3 of permits are put aside for this option). It costs $45 for a reserved permit and $35 for a day-of/walk-up permit. Learn more about getting your permit here.
| Bear canisters MUST be used while in the backcountry. Bears are very common in the park and you need to therefore plan accordingly. This means carrying a bear canister that can hold all of your food and smelly stuff (including toiletries) with you. If you don’t have your own, you can rent one (free of charge) at one of the park visitor centers.
| Be a good steward of the park by carrying out ALL of your trash and gear, sticking to the trail and not cutting switchbacks, keeping a safe distance and never feeding wildlife, and finally, when using the bathroom (especially when going #2) make sure you are always a healthy distance from all waterways (at least 200 feet) and you bury it 6–8 inches deep. Also, pack out all TP and any other hygiene products.
TOP GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK BACKPACKING ROUTES
CASCADE CANYON — PAINTBRUSH CANYON
A 19 mile round-trip loop through two stunning mountain canyons; this route can be quite busy during the summer season so try to reserve your permit early. Requires at least 1 night.
GRANITE CANYON — OPEN CANYON
Another loop through two beautiful canyons, this one measuring just over 20 miles total. Less busy than the route above and also requires at least 1 night.
TETON CREST TRAIL
This route can be a lot of different lengths depending on where you start and end. The most southern start point is Granite Canyon while the most northern terminus is Paintbrush Canyon. If you do the full route it is just under 39 miles and requires 4 nights.
The route is mostly in the high alpine and crosses multiple mountain passes. Be prepared for quickly changing weather, snow even in late summer and the possibility of altitude sickness.
➳ Learn more about backpacking in Grand Teton National Park here.
\\ Boating in Grand Teton National Park
For something a little different, consider heading out on one of the park’s lakes or rivers — including Jackson Lake and the beautiful Snake River. This can be especially fun if you are looking to do some fishing (the park offers world-class options), take in the views of the mountains in a bit of a different way, or if you are hoping to spot wildlife from the water (many animals flock to the lakes and rivers, including moose).
❔GOOD TO KNOW: the national park is one of the few places in the USA where you can catch the Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout.
A few things to keep in mind about boating (or floating) in Grand Teton National Park:
| All boats — no matter if they are motorized or non-motorized — require a Grand Teton Boat Permit prior to launching. This includes standup paddleboards (SUPs) and any windsurfing apparatus. Permits may be purchased online ahead of time at recreation.gov or at either the Colter Bay Visitor Center or the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. It costs $75 for a motorized boat and $25 for a non-motorized boat.
| Similarly, before you even can get your permit from the park you will need to secure a Wyoming AIS (aquatic invasive species) Decal. The cost for the sticker is between $30 and $5 depending on the type of boat and whether you are a Wyoming resident. Likewise, even if you have the decal, you will still need to have your boat inspected in the park before launching.
\\ Mountaineering in Grand Teton National Park
Another popular adventure to partake in in Grand Teton National Park is climbing and mountaineering — most notably on the iconic Teton peaks. While this is a relatively common adventure in the park, it still obviously comes with some inherent risks. If you are new to the sport make sure to do lots of research and planning and/or consider going with a guide.
A couple of important things to know about mountaineering in the park are:
| Weather is extremely fickle up at higher elevations. Conditions can change quickly so make sure you come prepared with the right gear (especially for rain, snow and hail), and that you check the weather ahead of time and have a plan if it does start to turn bad.
| Snow often sticks around until mid-July and maybe even later if it has been a really snowy winter. Make sure you pack shoes that can handle the slick trails/routes and know what to do when hiking/climbing in snowy terrain.
| Know your physical limits before heading out. There is no shame in knowing what your body can and cannot do. Obviously, it is good to test yourself, but you also always want to stay safe. Therefore you should NOT attempt the hardest peak first and you should talk to a ranger before setting out if you have any questions and/or worries. Likewise, mountaineering in Grand Teton National Park means you are at higher elevations for a decent amount of time. Know the signs of altitude sickness and have a plan in place if you do start to feel sick.
| Bring the proper gear and know how to use it. While you might look cool with all the sweet climbing gear on your harness, it really doesn’t mean sh*t if you don’t actually know how to use it properly. When mountaineering in the park, you will have to cross steep snow fields. Know how to use an ice axe and how to self-arrest (this is the number one cause of injuries and death in the park) before stepping foot on the trail.
| Just like with hiking and backpacking, it is very important to be a good steward while exploring. Pack out all trash and gear, stick to established trails (even if they are just climber trails), be respectful of environmentally sensitive areas (especially in the alpine), keep a safe distance from wildlife and don’t go to the bathroom near water (and dig a deep enough hole).
\\ Must-See Spot Near Grand Teton National Park
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
One of the most visited and well-known national parks in the USA is luckily only a short drive away from the northern border of Grand Teton National Park, making it super easy to combine the two parks into one adventure-filled trip.
It takes roughly 15 minutes to drive the 10 miles from Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park, and along the way you can stop off at hiking trails, a hot spring and even stay the night at a campground.
Highly recommend adding Yellowstone to your adventure itinerary if you have the time. Learn more about the historic and beautiful park here.
Grand Teton National Park is an absolutely stunning place to explore — especially if you are looking for a trip that involves hiking/backpacking, boating, camping, and/or wildlife spotting. I have been lucky enough to visit this park a couple of times, and every time I leave I tell myself I have to come back because there is still so much I want to do and see.
Hopefully, this Grand Teton National Park Adventure Guide helps you plan your own epic adventure. But if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or reach out directly.