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Death Canyon Trail in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. The Teton Range rises from the flat plains around Jackson Hole, creating an awe inspiring view as you approach the vast mountains. Located in Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone National Park, many people want to combine their visits of Grand Teton and Yellowstone. It’s completely possible but will require planning. With that being said, here’s what you should know about Grand Teton before going:

1. When Should You Go?

What you see on your visit can vary depending on when you go. It can also make a big difference with crowds, with peak summer months filling up parking lots and nearby lodging. Smoke is also an issue during summer months as it can be very thick, making it impossible to see the mountains on many days. I always check the air quality webcam on run by the National Park Service.

  • May

Great for beating crowds and seeing snow covered peaks:

o May is a great time to visit if you want to see the mountain peaks still covered with snow.

o Crowds haven’t arrived yet, so Visitor Centers and hiking trails aren’t as crowded.

o The weather can change quickly, with one day being warm and sunny and the next having a snowstorm.

o Roads and trails begin opening later in the month, but be aware that many trails may still be closed due to heavy snow over the winter.

o Wildlife are abundant and easily viewed around the park.

  • June

Great for hiking and beating peak crowds:

o June is another great time to go because summer crowds are only just arriving and hiking trails are open.

o The mountain peaks will still have a good amount of snow, just not as much as in May.

o The weather has gotten much warmer, and it’s sunnier overall this month.

o Some of the more popular hiking trails like Taggart Lake start to get crowded.

o If you are wanting to visit the Jenny Lake Visitor Center for the ferry across the lake, be sure to go early because crowds start building quickly.

  • July

Peak season has come, so plan ahead to try and avoid crowds:

o July isn’t my favorite time in the park due to the sheer number of people. Try to avoid going around the 4th of July if you can, as that week and the week after can be the most crowded time for the whole summer.

o This is also “smoke season” where any nearby wildfires cause smoke to drift into the valley and cloud the view of the Tetons. Fire restrictions are also probably going to be in place.

o Jackson usually has a nice 4th of July celebration that’s fun for the whole family. Check with the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce for more information.

o Visitor Centers are packed. I gave up trying to get into the Jenny Lake Visitor Center after seeing people parking all along the road up from it. If you want to take the ferry, PLAN AHEAD.

o Hiking trails, even the longer ones, have a lot more people.

o The weather can vary, with thunderstorms often appearing in the afternoons.

  • August

Peak is still here:

o August is still very crowded and often smokey due to wildfires.

o If the summer has been more dry than usual, the water levels in the different lakes will have dropped.

o This month is very warm, and thunderstorms often roll in by the afternoons.

o The mountain peaks won’t have much snow anymore, but they are still stunning.

o Crowd levels are still extremely high, with parking at visitor centers nearly impossible.

  • September

Fall is Here:

o September is a great time to see the leaves changing, especially towards the latter half of the month.

o The aspens turn various shades of gold, making the views along the roads absolutely breathtaking.

o Crowds can be high around Labor Day, so try and avoid that time if possible.

o Campgrounds, lodging, and visitor centers begin closing or reducing their hours.

o The weather is definitely cooler, with snow coming later in the month.

o The peaks don’t have much snow on them unless a storm has come through recently.

  • October

Winter is coming:

o October is a great time to visit, but be prepared for anything.

o The weather is a mixed bag, with snowstorms often appearing by the second week. It could then melt or be there to stay.

o Roads, lodging, and visitor centers begin closing by mid-October.

o Crowds have mostly gone.

o The leaves have still turned, but the peak colors are usually gone by the second week.


2. Where Should You Stay?

Choosing where you stay is going to depend on when you go, what kind of accommodations you’re looking for, and if you want to spend time in Yellowstone or not.

· Staying in Yellowstone

Old Faithful Inn

If you stay on the southern side of Yellowstone, it will give you a great opportunity to see both parks.

o The Grant or Old Faithful areas are the most southern, with Grant being a little more accessible to Grand Teton.

o Be prepared to drive more to get back and forth from your lodging to Grand Teton, with drives from Grant to the first Grand Teton park sign being about 40 minutes one way.

o Plan on when you want to get back into Yellowstone. The southern entry can be really crowded, with a line of cars that can take over an hour to get in. If you wait until later in the afternoon or evening, the lines are much shorter. Just be careful not to wait too late or you’ll have to drive on a winding road in the dark!

· Staying in a Campground

General Store at Colter Bay

There are 7 main campgrounds located along the park: Headwaters, Lizard Creek, Colter Bay, Signal Mountain, Jenny Lake, and Gros Ventre.

o My personal favorite is Colter Bay since I’ve been visiting there from a young age, and it’s really changed a lot over time.

o Colter Bay is a great option, but be aware that it’s very popular. They also have a great gift shop for any Grand Teton souvenirs. Its RV sites are fairly close together, but still under trees. Be sure to try and request a site closer to the lake! (though be aware that the lake level in recent years has dramatically decreased)

o All park campgrounds require advanced reservations, so be sure to plan way ahead (at least 6 months if you can). You can reserve sites on

o Headwaters, Lizard Creek, and Colter Bay offer shorter drives to Yellowstone, while Signal Mountain, Jenny Lake, and Gros Ventre are closer to Moran and Jackson.

o For more detailed information regarding the differences in the various campgrounds, go to

· Lodging in the Park

Jenny Lake Overlook

There are 7 main lodges in Grand Teton: The Climber’s Ranch, Jackson Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain Lodge, Jenny Lake Lodge, Triangle X, and Colter Bay Cabins. Headwaters Lodge is also a good option, but is located further north.

o The Climber’s Club usually opens in June through mid-September. It’s more rustic and dorm-like with co-ed bunk rooms and communal bathrooms and cooking areas.

o Colter Bay Cabins open late May and offer both log and tent style cabins. There are multiple activies like horseback riding based here, and there is a Visitor Center, General Store, and Dining on the property.

o Headwaters Lodge and Cabins open early June through September and is more like a hotel, with lodging units with queen and king beds. There are also plenty of activities based here. This location is also a good middle location in order to see both Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

o Jackson Lake Lodge is a personal favorite, with a massive 60 ft viewing window to see Jackson Lake and the Teton Range. It’s also sometimes a good place to view moose! This is a more upscale lodge, with nice lodge rooms and cottages. You also have Wi-Fi access here, and a lot of people even have phone service around this location.

o Jenny Lake Lodge is a cute, historic group of cabins in a perfect location for viewing the Tetons. It offers many activities like horseback riding, and they’re known for having a really good breakfast and a 5-course dinner.

o Signal Mountain Lodge opens in early May through mid-October. It has some lakefront apartments with little kitchenettes as well as log cabins with fireplaces. It’s also very close to Jackson Lake with its own marina (though be advised that lake levels have been very low since mid 2021).

o Triangle X Ranch opens mid-May through October, as well as peak winter season. It’s a dude ranch that features horseback riding, cookouts, and float trips. It offers about 20 log cabins with private bathrooms and porches with Adirondack chairs.

· Staying Outside of Grand Teton

Heading into Grand Teton National Park from Jackson

Jackson is the most convenient city to stay if you’re wanting to stay outside of the park.

o You’ll find plenty of stores, restaurants, museums, and an airport. Also check out the elk antler archways in the town square! Just know that prices here can be higher due to more amenities in an upscale area.

o The nearby towns of Wilson and Teton Village are also options if you want to avoid some crowds.

o Going further away, you also have the towns of Victor, Alpine, and Bondurant. They’re all about 45 minutes away from Jackson, and even further from Grand Teton. I wouldn’t recommend staying here if you also want to see Yellowstone. Due to the more distant locations, this is a more budget friendly option.


3. Where Can You See Wildlife?

There is a wide variety of different wildlife to see in and around the park. Elk, bison, moose, pronghorn, and grizzly and black bears are found throughout. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM ANY WILDLIFE!! Make sure to keep at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and 25 yards from other wildlife. There will often be rangers or other officials to enforce this.

· Elk

Elk can be found just about anywhere around the park.

o During their calving season (mid-May to mid-June), you can usually see them in the Willow Flats area within the tall grass. This area is closed for them during this time, but there are pull-offs and observation points nearby.

o They can also be seen along the Moose-Wilson Road in the forested areas.

o During the winter, you can visit the National Elk Refuge just north of Jackson to see hundreds of elk.

· Bison

Bison are common around the park.

o A great time to see them is during their calving season in May or during their breeding season in August.

o The best places to find them are around Antelope Flats loop and Elk Ranch Flats.

o Yellowstone is also a great place to view them, particularly in Hayden and Lamar Valleys.

o During the winter, you can easily find them around the National Elk Refuge.

· Pronghorn

Pronghorn often travel in small herds.

o I most often saw them around larger herds of bison.

o The best places to view them are Elk Ranch Flat and Antelope Flats.

· Wolves

Wolves can be found in Grand Teton, but they are easier to find in Yellowstone.

o They usually travel in packs of about 10.

o You can sometimes find them around Willow Flats or in different areas with sagebrush.

· Moose

Moose are more commonly seen in Grand Teton compared to Yellowstone.

o Willow Flats and along the Moose-Wilson Road are good places for viewing moose (there’s a nice pull-off at the top of the first hill).

o They can also be seen along different river corridors.

o If you’re staying in the Jackson Lake Lodge, I’ve seen some from their massive window.

o They’ve also been seen on a few different hiking trails across from Jenny Lake, Christian Pond, and around Oxbow Bend.

· Bears

Both grizzly and black bears can be found in the park. Grizzlies tend to be larger than black bears, and black bears can vary in color (they’re not always black, and sometimes brown).

o It’s easier to see bears in the spring, particularly May or June.

o Willow Flats is a good place to look, as well as Jenny Lake (if it’s not too crowded), Cascade Canyon, and the Teton Park Road between Signal Mountain and Jenny Lake.

o If you see a park ranger parked along with a crowd, there’s a good chance that there’s a bear nearby!


4. What are the Best Drives?

Just entering Grand Teton is a beautiful drive itself, but there are several roads in and around the park that offer stunning views, wildlife, and seasonal diversity that enhance anyone’s visit.

· Jenny Lake Scenic Drive

Located after the Mountain View Turnout, you can take the Jenny Lake Loop to get better views of Jenny Lake.

o This is a one-way road that can get crowded at times, so plan ahead.

o It also leads to several trailheads (like String Lake), the Jenny Lake Lodge, and a picnic area.

o During the spring, the wind can be strong around the lake, so make sure to bring a jacket.

o During the fall, the leaves along this road can be amazing!

· Moose-Wilson Road

This is a personal favorite of mine for both wildlife viewing and fall foliage.

o This road is located just outside of the park entrance, being the first turn on your right as you exit the park.

o You can take this road and turn over to the Death Canyon Trailhead (my favorite hiking trail). Be aware that the pavement ends as you approach the trailhead. High clearance is preferred. Just be careful when it’s muddy!

o The road opens in the spring, with the date depending on snowpack.

o It connects the towns of Moose and Wilson, but be aware that only part of the road is paved. The other 1.5 miles that's unpaved can be bumpy, but it wasn’t too bad even in a low clearance car.

o If you want to see fall foliage, this is the place! The trees all turn along this road, particularly in late September.

· Signal Mountain Road

Located after the dam and Signal Mountain Campground, this road is the first turn on your left as you’ve entered the park and passed the dam.

o It’s not very long, but the view at the top is beautiful.

o Be careful since this road is very narrow in places.

o At the top of the mountain, you can see panoramic views of the Teton Range and Jackson Hole on clear days.

o I preferred driving the road in the spring when everything was really green, but the fall would also be a good time with the leaves changing along the way.

o Also be aware that it can get crowded during peak summer months.

· Teton Park Road

This is the main road in the park that follows the base of the Teton Range.

o It’s a beautiful drive with close up views of the Tetons.

o There are a lot of pull-offs along the way for you to stop and take plenty of pictures.

o Be aware that the road gets crowded during peak summer months, especially if someone spots an animal or is trying to take a picture from their car.


5. Where are the Best Places to Take Pictures?

The whole park is picturesque. It just depends on what type of scenery you’re looking for and what time of year. There is no right or wrong for locations, so these are just a few of my favorite places:

· Mountain View Overlook

There are many different overlooks along the main road, but this is probably my favorite.

o There’s a medium sized parking lot here that faces the Teton range.

o At this point, you’re close enough to the mountains to get a lot of detail, but you’re still far enough that you can see different peaks.

o I also like that there is a trail that looks like it’s leading towards the mountains.

· Jenny Lake Overlook

This is my favorite overlook involving a lake.

o It can often be windy here, so be sure to have a jacket handy.

o This is located off of the Jenny Lake Loop, which is a right turn off of the main road. Just follow the signs to Jenny Lake.

o You can also access the String Lake Trailhead from here.

o Be aware that the parking lot is very small, so be courteous and try not to take too long here (it will be very tempting to stay).

· Glacier View Turnout

This turnout is actually located outside of the park along Hwy 26.

o You get a really nice, more distant view of the entire range.

o Not many people pull off at this pull-off, and the parking lot is fairly large.

o If you are there on a clear day, you can also see planes flying into Jackson Airport.

· Moose-Wilson Road

This road isn’t necessarily the best place to view the mountains, but it’s my favorite place for fall foliage.

o Located outside of the park entrance (the first turn on your right as you leave the park), this drive is beautiful in the fall.

o It’s a great place for viewing wildlife as well.

o Take you time driving since it’s a narrow road that can be windy in places.

· Oxbow Bend

This is a more famous spot that’s located along Hwy 191 inside the park.

o It’s beautiful in the spring with lots of green and snow-capped peaks.

o I personally like it in the fall with golden aspens all around.

o It can be crowded, particularly around sunset.

o The parking lot is small, but there are a couple of places to pull over on the side of the road as well.

· Mormon Row

This area has certainly gained in popularity over the years, but it’s still an all-time favorite of mine.

o It’s located outside of the park. You turn onto Antelope Flats Road off of Hwy 89.

o Due to its recent popularity, I’d recommend coming when fewer people are around in the spring or fall.

o Little prairie dogs pop up and roam around in the spring, and they are often ready to pose for pictures.

o The Moulton Barn is perfect against the Teton Range, particularly when you have a clear day.

o There is a small parking lot next to the couple of buildings, and there’s more parking along the side of the road.

o There are some other buildings located across the road in the Mormon Row Historic District.


Overall, I believe that Grand Teton National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world. There’s so much to see and do that you could easily spend a lifetime here. Be sure to plan carefully if you want to avoid crowds, and always be aware of your surroundings in case of wildlife. Enjoy your visit and always remember that we need to protect places like this.


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