What to Do at Grand Teton
For a memorable trip more ambitious than the popular hikes and ranger programs, look into additional tour activities offered by licensed operators. Learn kayaking basics and embark on a sea kayaking tour or relax on a rafting trip with O.A.R.S.
Both Flagg Ranch Resort and Grand Teton Lodge Company offer guided horseback rides along various scenic trails by woodlands, ponds, willows, and more. Riders must be at least eight years old, but Grand Teton Lodge Co. also offers pony rides for younger kids and wagon rides to a picturesque breakfast spot for all.
Wintertime offers an exciting alternative for exploring Grand Teton. There are ranger-led snowshoe tours, a variety of skiing options, and snowmobiling. Operators who lead activities in the park often provide snow gear, food, and spa treatments after a strenuous day in the snow. Other options, such as sleigh rides and dog sledding, are available. Contact www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/winter.htm for more information.
Right off U.S.191, Teton Park Road begins at Moose and traces the Teton Range base to Jackson Lake Junction. The 20-mile road provides a great overview, traversing a good length of the park and passing several bodies of water. To get closer to the breathtaking peaks, take a detour after 8.5 miles at Jenny Lake Road. After merging back onto Teton Park Road, enjoy the scenery for another nine miles, then climb 800 feet on Signal Mountain Summit Road for spectacular views of the Teton Range, Jackson Hole Valley, and Jackson Lake. The rest of the drive skirts Jackson Lake before hitting the scenic John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Parkway.
Easy: Those who want to start off taking it slow can ease into a day of hiking with Lunch Tree Hill, a half-mile round-trip trail that can be completed in half an hour. This trail by Jackson Lake Lodge is lined with interpretive signs that will help you find your way along a route that climbs a total of 80 feet. The overlook at the top of the hill offers a great view of the Teton Range's grand peaks, as well as the willow thickets, grassy meadows, and the creeks and beaver ponds of Willow Flats.
Moderate: For more of a challenge, go to Jenny Lake, off Cascade Canyon, and hike the popular five-mile round-trip Hidden Falls trail. Climb 550 feet in about three hours, taking in the sapphire waters while skirting Jenny Lake's south shore. Keep your eyes out for furry marmots as you climb to the top of the trail, then soak in the glorious 200-foot-high waterfall.
Strenuous: For experienced hikers, the 12.4-mile round-trip Holly Lake trail by String Lake is an eight-hour trek that climbs 2,625 feet and winds through the wildflower-strewn paths of Paintbrush Canyon trail, before arriving at the sparkling waters of an alpine lake.
Combine the Paintbrush Canyon trail with the Cascade Canyons for a hike on the 19.2-mile round-trip Paintbrush-Cascade Loop. This longer hike along the Paintbrush Divide will take about 14 hours. The hike is very strenuous. With 4,840 feet of total climbing, this journey takes you to great heights.
Home to the largest bird in North America, the trumpeter swan, Grand Teton National Park also hosts the smallest bird on the continent, the calliope hummingbird, which weighs less than one tenth of an ounce. In addition to supporting a range of bird species, the park's many habitats feature over 60 species of mammals, from majestic elk to predatory wolves to small pikas. If you're near the water, there's a chance that a river otter might be splashing around.
For photographers, there are several popular spots to view wildlife (at a safe distance). You'll find fish, pelicans, muskrats, and other mammals at Oxbow Bend, one mile east of Jackson Lake Junction. To catch sight of quick-footed elk and pronghorn antelope, visit Timbered Island near Jenny Lake. Cascade Canyon, west of Jenny Lake, is home to smaller creatures, like pikas, yellow-bellied marmots, pine martens, and ground squirrels.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Excursions Outside the Park
Yellowstone National Park, America's first national park, is located just north of Grand Teton park. After gazing at the peaks, valleys, and lakes of Grand Teton, shift gears in Yellowstone with up-close views of geysers and hot springs.
Archaeology lovers won't want to miss a visit to Fossil Butte National Monument. A little more than 150 miles south of Grand Teton, this 8,198-acre park features sub-tropical fossils found in cold sagebrush desert. Check out more than 80 fossils on view at the visitors center, make fossil rubbings, and watch fossil preparation demonstrations.
For a more lively adventure, visit the National Elk Refuge in winter for a horse-drawn sleigh ride alongside thousands of elk. Elk and bison hunting is also offered in the fall as a part of herd-size management. If you're in town the Saturday before Memorial Day Weekend, the Jackson District Boy Scouts auction off dozens of elk antlers from the National Elk Refuge and donate 80 percent of the proceeds to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Stop by the city's Town Square to bid.
For hands-on learning, drive about ten miles south of Grand Teton to the Center for the Arts for dance classes and a variety of conferences. In addition to art exhibits, the center hosts a wide range of live events, from acrobats to ballet shows to music performances.