Grand Teton National Park, does that ring a bell? I won’t be surprised if you have Yellowstone National Park in your bucket list and have not heard of this national park. This picturesque wonder may be popular among climbers, photographers; but the rest of the masses might overlook it. Located in Northwest Wyoming, just few miles south of Yellowstone, you witness the mighty Teton Range which is part of the Rocky Mountains in North America and the tallest peak, Grand Teton, after which the park has been named.
When I first saw the Tetons, I was blown away by the majesty of it all. Like other mountain ranges that I have seen, I was expecting a slow introduction; where you see them peaking behind one another. But instead you see these huge jagged peaks in a row. The absence of foothills makes for one bold geological statement and there I was taken completely by surprise by this abrupt power of the mountains.
By Air – The closest airports to the park are: Jackson Hole Airport, Jackson (Wyoming); Yellowstone Regional Airport, Cody (Wyoming); Casper–Natrona County International Airport, Casper (Wyoming); Idaho Falls Regional Airport, Idaho Falls, (Idaho) and Salt Lake City International Airport, Salt Lake City, (Utah).
Stay: Apart from lodging available inside the park, the closest town is Jackson, Wyoming. The town is charming and touristy with great dining and lodging options. Other close by cities are Idaho Falls and Driggs (Idaho); Moran (WY).
Entrance fee: $30 for private noncommercial vehicle, $25 for a motorcycle and $15 for person above 16 years entering on foot or bicycle. The pass is valid for 7 days. Tip: If you are clubbing Yellowstone & Grand Teton in one trip, get a 7 days pass for $50 for both parks and save $10.
SEE AND DO
Mormon Row Historic District is a line of historic barns and homesteads with the Tetons as backdrop which makes for one of the most scenic landscapes. There is a great contrast with the simple man made houses and nature’s gigantic mountains. It is one of the popular locations in the park especially at sunrise. Mormon Row is located off Antelope Flats road on Highway 89 north of Moose junction.
Chapel of the Transfiguration is a rustic log chapel and still a functioning church. Religious or not you would want to stop here for the awe-inspiring views.
Jenny Lake is one of the highlights of your trip to Grand Teton National Park. The lake is absolutely beautiful with its pristine water and dramatic mountain scenery. When it comes to lakes you would want to get to a higher point or overlook for breathtaking views. The North Jenny Lake Scenic Drive is a 4 mile one way road that takes you to an overlook of Jenny Lake.
If you have the time to hike you HAVE to make it to Hidden Falls & Inspiration Point. The hike is perfect because its gives you different vantage points of Jenny lake, a waterfall and in the end, the aptly named Inspiration Point. I am not sure about the round trip length of this hike but it I think it is close to 7 miles. You can cut it short significantly if you take the shuttle boat at Jenny lake. The best part really is in the end when you walk through a rocky ledge to Inspiration Point to see sweeping views of Jenny lake and the mountains behind. Be mindful, that at 7200 feet it gets super windy up there.
Signal Mountain Summit Road is a scenic drive of 5 miles that take you through a winding road to the top of Signal Mountain which is 800 feet above the valley. From here you can see the Jackson lake the biggest lake in the park and the panoramic views at this point are simply amazing.
Oxbow Bend Turnout is one of those places that really warms up your heart. You know those scenery drawings we all made as kids with the mountains, sun, river and birds. Well this is that place in reality and it is so magical. I got here just in time for sunset and it was so peaceful and calming. Judging by the number of people and their tripods out there, it is safe to say that this is a great spot for photography.
You are lucky if you get that one moment or scene during your travel that makes you completely speechless. No matter how much I try to explain here the beauty of that moment, words won’t do it justice. I read somewhere that the light here keeps changing so no two photos of Oxbow Bend ever look alike. I went there again the next morning and it was still beautiful but not the same as the previous evening.
Snake River Overlook off highway 89 is best known for Ansel Adam’s famous photograph of this location. I feel like I a broken record here but this is a gorgeous setting with the snake river winding through and the Tetons towering over the valley.
Lastly, Schwabacher Landing gives you easy access to the snake river and reflection of the Tetons in the river and if you are lucky you may spot some wildlife there. That day I woke up super early while it was still dark outside to get to Schwabacher Landing.
I was lucky to find a coffee shop that early in the day, spotted a moose just off the road and experienced a spectacular sunrise. The morning light is unlike any other time of the day which is why photographer’s go for early morning shoots. While it may not be conducive to wake up at the crack of dawn during your vacation, but I urge you to wake up just one day and see it for yourself.
Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone may be just few miles afar, but they are world’s apart. While Yellowstone in simple terms is a geothermal marvel and vast wilderness, Grand Teton’s sublime beauty is unsurpassed; if I may say so. Each remarkable in their own way. As rightly said by the National Park Service, “Few landscapes in the world are as striking and memorable as that of Grand Teton National Park.”