Most visitors to Wyoming make a beeline for Yellowstone National Park, the state’s star attraction. But Grand Teton National park is just 10 miles south of Yellowstone and should not be overlooked. If you fly into Jackson Hole airport, you will actually land within the park’s boundaries. The descent past the Teton mountain range will leave you breathless, from the view and the bumpy landing. But instead of walking from the plane to the rental car counter and immediately driving north, I encourage you to spend at least one day in Grand Teton National Park.
The park owes its name to that peaked mountain range, which early French explorers compared to large teats. (Yes, I am giving those Frenchmen side-eye as I type.) The highest peak tops out at 13,775 feet and is visible all across the valley. Popular activities in Grand Teton National Park include hiking its 200 miles of trails and trout fishing in the Snake River, which does indeed look like a serpent when viewed from above.
Yellowstone is famous for its wildlife, but you will also find plenty in Grand Teton. The park is home to large numbers of elk, moose, bison, bighorn sheep, and black bears. During my one day in Grand Teton, I saw several elk – one of which ran across the road in front of my car! – and two large herds of bison. There were also plenty of marmots and badgers in the fields.
Top Things to Do In Grand Teton National Park
Jackson Hole Aerial Tram
There is no better way to kick off your time in Grand Teton than with an invigorating ride on the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram. In just 9 minutes, “Big Red” will whisk you up to Rendezvous Peak, elevation 10,450 feet. From here, you will have an uninterrupted panorama of the valley and surrounding mountains. Once you are done gaping at the view, be sure to pop into Corbet’s Cabin for a delicious waffle. This place has been a Jackson Hole institution since the 1960s. (Though word on the interwebs says Corbet’s is getting replaced with a new facility in the near future.) In lieu of riding the pricey tram both ways, it’s also possible to hike up and/or down. Note that the peaks are covered in snow even during the summer months, so don’t forget your jacket!
Mormon Row Historic District
In the 1890s, Mormon homesteaders built a cluster of farms in northwestern Wyoming. With backbreaking work, they eked out an existence despite the region’s extremely harsh climate. The farmers toiled through winter snows and gusting winds, spring floods, and scorching summers. Electricity wasn’t connected here until the 1950s. By then, many of the homesteads had been sold to the government and incorporated into Grand Teton National Park. The remaining wooden barns and structures look picturesque now with the peaks jutting up behind them, but living conditions for the early settlers were grim.
Formed by glaciers over 12,000 years ago, Jenny Lake is arguably the best attraction in Grand Teton. From the shore closest to the visitor’s center, you can take a shuttle boat across the lake, which is around 250 feet deep and covers nearly 1,200 acres. Once on the opposite shore, you can hike to Hidden Falls, a 100 foot waterfall peeking between the evergreens, and Inspiration Point for a view over the lake. If you’d rather enjoy a more leisurely afternoon on the water, you can also rent kayaks and canoes at the boat launch.
Tips for Making the Most of One Day in Grand Teton National Park
You will need a vehicle to explore the park. Check the National Park Service website before setting out, as road closures are common. Jackson Hole Airport is a a great place to rent your ride.
Entrance to Grand Teton costs $35 per vehicle, and is valid for seven days. If you are continuing north to Yellowstone, which has a separate $35 entry fee, an annual park pass might be a worthwhile investment. For $80, the annual pass grants you entry to any national park in the US and is good for one year from the date of first use.
Public parking and toilets are available at most of the main attractions within the park. The only food options I saw were in Teton Village, the ski resort in Jackson Hole where you catch the aerial tram. Thankfully, I had stocked up at the Target in downtown Jackson.
Ready to plan your one day in Grand Teton National Park?
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