By Lisa Whitlaw, Cami Sauder, John Chavez and Lyn Mettler
Are you ready to lace up your hiking boots and get out and explore our nation’s beauty?
Grand Teton National Park is one place you might want to consider adding to your National Park bucket list. Less crowded than its counterpart, Yellowstone National Park, blue skies, pristine mountain panoramas and crystal clear waters await you at this national gem.
But because the two are so close together, you should consider doing both on the same trip.
Entering Grand Teton National Park costs $35 per vehicle for a seven-day pass. If you’re also visiting Yellowstone National Park, which is just north of Grand Teton, you can get a two-park pass for $50 per vehicle.
Planning on hitting more than these two parks in one year? Spring for the $80 annual pass, which is good from the month you buy it until the same month the following year.
Senior citizens can purchase a lifetime senior pass that covers ALL national parks and is good for everyone in your car for $80. Alternately, you could choose a $20 annual senior pass.
Don’t forget if you have a 4th grader, your whole family gets into National Parks free during their school year and the following summer as part of the Every Kid in a Park Program.
You can also access Grand Teton National Park FREE in 2020 on the below days, but keep in mind these days will be even MORE BUSY than usual:
|January 20||Martin Luther King, Jr. Day|
|April 18||First day of National Park Week / National Junior Ranger Day|
|August 25||National Park Service Anniversary|
|September 26||National Public Lands Day|
|November 11||Veterans Day|
How to Get to Grand Teton National Park
The closest airport to Grand Teton National Park is Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Go to Travel Gal team member Lisa W. used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to fly her family on Delta from Atlanta to this nearby location. Note: Southwest does NOT fly to Wyoming.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card (Lyn’s FAVORITE travel credit card; read her full review of the card here) is a great way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to Delta, United or Southwest.
Be aware that flights into Jackson Hole are pretty pricey during peak season, so be sure to book early!
If you want to use Southwest points or your Southwest Companion Pass, consider instead flying into the following airports, which Southwest services:
- Salt Lake City, 5-hour drive
- Boise, 6-hour drive
- Denver, 8-hour drive
You’ll have to rent a car and drive to the park, but the savings could be worth it since you’ll be flying for nearly free. Plus, you’ll need a car anyway to navigate the park!
Up for a one- to two-week road trip? I know some of my readers have made this trek from the Midwest.
Driving to Grand Teton National Park can be the ultimate money-saving move, as it allows you to pack lots of food, and, for the more adventurous, even camping gear to save even more!
TIP: Did you know that Grand Teton National Park has its own app? Search for NPS Grand Teton to download it to get maps, general park information, tours and more. You’ll be thoroughly prepared for your upcoming adventure!
You can access Grand Teton National Park maps here.
There are three designated visitor’s centers in the park which are, in order of recommendation:
- Moose Visitor Center/Craig Thomas Discover & Visitor Center, located in the town of Moose, open 8am – 7pm during the summer. There you’ll find a Discovery Center, featuring natural history exhibits, a relief map and an introductory video to the park. There’s also an information desk, an extensive bookstore, activity schedules, guided walks and talks, backcountry camping permits, boat permits, restrooms, telephones and WiFi.
- Colter Bay Visitor Center, adjacent to Jackson Lake, is open 8am – 7pm during the summer. Here, you’ll find a museum, interpretive programs and a large bookstore, information desk, auditorium, telephones, restrooms and backcountry permits.
- Jenny Lake Visitor Center, adjacent to Jenny Lake, is open 8am – 7pm during the summer. It offers geology exhibits, an information desk, relief map of the park, activity schedules, guided walks and talks, maps, bookstore and restrooms.
Be sure to take along your National Park Passport Book to receive a stamp at each of these places.
If you’re coming from north of the park, you’ll be following the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway from Yellowstone and will enter via the Colter Bay Visitor’s Center. Stay the course, as it is 30-minute drive.
From the east, after you hit Moran, you’ll follow the Snake River, passing Oxbow Bend and then choose to go either north or south, depending on your itinerary.
And if you’ve come in through Jackson, Wyoming, you’ll first hit the town of Moose as your introduction to the park, which is the Craig Thomas Discover & Visitor Center.
Where to Stay
If you do happen to be driving from the south, consider staying in the charming town of Dubois, Wyoming. Another option is Jackson Lake, Wyoming.
Grand Teton National Park Lodging
Once inside the park, you have many choices for lodging that are NOT camping, which can be found here. The range of options include everything from co-ed bunk rooms to tent cabins to log cabins with kitchens to a full-service resort and anything in between. Staying inside the park is not a cheap endeavor, however, so be prepared.
Your best bet is to book EARLY, EARLY, EARLY at one of the national park locations inside the park, even up to two years in advance. Keep in mind their cancellation policy which reads:
“A two-night deposit is required per room with the balance of your stay due upon arrival. Cancellations made more than seven (7) days prior to arrival will result in a $30 administration fee per room. Cancellations or reductions in length of stay made within seven (7) days of arrival will result in a forfeiture of deposit. All changes or cancellations due to inclement weather or changes in flight schedules are subject to the penalties stated above. A no-show on confirmed date of arrival will be considered a cancellation of entire stay and a forfeiture of deposit.”
Most accommodations only take reservations from the second week in May to the second week in October each year, because winter usually begins around that time, closing down many roads and facilities.
Twin Pines Lodge
Outside the park in Dubois, WY, Go to Travel Gal team member Cami S. has stayed at the Twin Pines Lodge several times. In true lodge fashion, the hand-hewn logs in both the lodge and cabins are only part of the charm when accompanied by immaculately-clean rooms, free WiFi and free breakfast.
This location puts you only one hour from the entrance to the park, so it’s a good place to get refreshed the night before. You can also walk to the nearby Cowboy Cafe, voted the No. 1 area restaurant on TripAdvisor, and enjoy their generous portions, leaving room for their delicious homemade pie!
Colter Bay Village
Go to Travel Gal team members have also stayed at Colter Bay Village within the park, which is set right on Jackson Lake. The village has tent cabins with four bunks, RV pull-throughs and one- to -two-room cabins.
The village has its own service station, restaurants, gift shop, laundry services and even a complimentary guest shuttle available to take you to popular park locations and even to the town of Jackson.
Since it’s right on the lake, you can practically fish and hike right outside your back door.
Grand Teton National Park Hotels
Some hotel options include:
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Jackson
- Spring Creek Ranch
- Snake River Lodge & Spa
- Jackson Lake Lodge
- Hotel Terra Jackson Hole
- Alpenhof Lodge
Grand Teton National Park Camping
If you like to camp, there are many options at Grand Teton, which you can find here. Note that the campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and advance reservations are not accepted other than for group camping, the Colter Bay RV Park and the Headwaters Campground & RV Sites at Flagg Ranch.
Because the park is at a high altitude (which means there’s often snow up high year round), please remember that some options may not be available until mid-June at the earliest when things begin to melt a bit more :).
Vacational rentals can be another good option near Grand Teton National Park, as they allow you to spread out, do laundry and cook your own meals. Just remember to factor in driving time to get into the park from your Grand Teton vacation rental.
Near Grand Teton, you’ll find everything from condos in ski resorts to cabins to cottage and homes.
Please note this and some other links are affiliate links, through which the blog may earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking through, though there is no increase in price. Thanks for supporting Go to Travel Gal!
You could also consider an RV rental through a company like RV Share, the world’s largest RV rental company. That grants you both “car” and “accommodation” in one fell swoop and is a popular way to explore America’s National Parks!
When to Visit Grand Teton National Park
The optimal time to visit Grand Teton National Park is from mid-May to late September when all the visitor centers, hiking trails and other activities, including kayaking and fishing, are open and accessible.
As with other northern national parks, the peak season is short and is largely the summer months when lots of people are off of work and out of school, so be prepared for crowds.
However, Grand Teton is not nearly as crowded as parks like Yellowstone or Glacier. You won’t have as much difficulty finding parking and are less likely to experience bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Grand Teton National Park Weather
As is true in any mountain setting, count on rapidly-changing weather, especially as you change elevation. The temperature can go from needing a hat, coat and gloves to long pants and jackets to shorts and a T-shirt or a heavy duty rain poncho in the span of just a few hours.
Snow and frost are possible any month; however, the snow depth is recorded to be ZERO May-October.
To be fully prepared, take a look at these predictions from the Grand Teton National Park website:
Mid-April, May, June
Mild days and cool nights alternate with rain and snow. Valley trails are usually snow covered until late May.
July and August
Warm days and cool nights prevail, with afternoon thundershowers common. (Note: Bring ponchos in case you get caught in one of these while hiking!).
September, October, November
Sunny days and cold nights alternate with rain and occasional snow storms.
Where to Eat
Eating is a biggie on the list whenever traveling, because of cost and because you’ll need lots of fuel if you’ll be hiking through the park.
If you fly Southwest Airlines, you can bring two free checked bags per person, giving you loads of room to pack food. Or if you’ll be renting a car, you can stop by a grocery store at some point and stock up when you arrive. There are even several “stores” in the park where you can buy food versus dining out for every meal.
Our money-saving Go to Travel Gal team members find that having groceries for breakfast and lunch packed in a cooler allow them to splurge on dinner at a restaurant without guilt. Enjoying the local food is also fun and delicious!
Grand Teton National Park restaurant recommendations from the team include:
- Leek’s Pizzeria with outside seating at the marina (Lisa’s kids wanted to eat there for every meal!)
- Signal Mountain Lodge for the nachos (for two to three people to share) with a well-deserved blackberry margarita, also with outside seating
- Jackson Lake Lodge’s oh-so-yummy huckleberry shake from the retro 50’s Pioneer Grill take-out window while looking for moose from the back patio
What to Do at Grand Teton National Park
While the list of things to do in Grand Teton National Park is extensive, we’ve included a few highlights below.
You’ll be doing a lot of driving, as the park is 485 square miles!
There are many overlooks and stops for you to get out to stretch your legs and see some amazing scenery and wildlife.
Here are our recommended key stops:
- Oxbow Bend Turnout
- Ansel Adam’s famous Snake River Overlook
- Schwabacher Overlook (from the second parking lot)
- Antelope Flats
- Mormon Row
As with every National Park, there are ranger-led programs galore that include activities like birding, hikes, bear and wildlife safety, campfire talks, coffee with a ranger and astronomy nights. These programs are all free and part of your park admission.
While planning your trip, check out the previous year’s guide, which is available online for ideas and pick up the current one at a visitor’s center so you don’t miss out. This multiple-page guide includes many tips and all the ranger programs.
DON’T FORGET about the wonderful Junior Ranger program that allows children to do activities in the park and earn prizes! Your kids and grandkids will love being a part of this program :).
And actually ALL AGES can participate in the Junior Ranger program, just so you don’t feel left out!
A great water activity at Grand Teton National Park is to take a twilight float on the Snake River in Moose. Park at the “float trip parking lot” on the west bank at Moose Village and get ready to see TONS of wildlife all while having someone else do all the work. You might get lucky and see moose, bald eagles, beaver, sand cranes and merganser duck babies speeding through the water while on your float. Super cool!
You can rent inflatable paddle boats at String Lake, which is THE perfect place to try this for the first time, or at Leigh Lake. It’s hidden amongst a lot of trees and the water is pristine, clear, very still and not deep.
Before even entering the park on her drive, Cami was treated to a mama grizzly and her two cubs feeding on the side of the road. Whenever you see lots of cars pulled aside, take a look. If you see a park ranger’s car, you’ll know you’ve hit the jackpot. Get your camera ready!
Inside the park, the list of possible sightings includes grouse, deer, moose, birds, black bear and grizzly bear, snakes, bald eagles, sand cranes, beaver, ducks, etc. If you’re hoping to spot moose on your trip, look for water and willows or ask a park ranger for the best spots. One place to try is the field at Jackson Lake Lodge with binoculars.
Grand Teton National Park Hikes
We recommend bringing a hiking guide like Best Easy Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park (Note: this is also an affiliate link) with your planned hikes circled to tuck into your daypack.
Inspiration Point & Hidden Falls Hikes
Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls are considered two of the park’s best hikes. Take a shuttle boat across Jenny Lake to the trailhead, getting there early before the lines start forming. Be sure to check the park website for closures, construction and the time of the last boat back across the lake!
When Lisa visited, the short trail from Inspiration Point to Hidden Falls was closed, so she had to hike back down from Inspiration Point to Hidden Falls. Luckily, she had checked the park website so was prepared.
Cami started her hike too late to catch the last boat back across the lake, so had to turn around, as it was starting to get dark. Don’t make the same mistake!
Phelps Lake, starting from Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, is also an amazing hike to a beautiful crystal blue lake. Take a look at the map before starting. You can hike in one way and hike out another, getting a beautiful view of the river as you go. We like hikes with views!
The hike to the lake can be longer than anticipated, but you’ll be glad when you finally reach it!
After Phelps Lake, make sure to stop at Moose Overlook where you are guaranteed to see a moose — NOT! Lisa’s family stopped there three times, as her youngest was desperate to see a moose and … nothing. Maybe you’ll be luckier ;-)!
Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail
Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail is a popular trail for all ages and for bears! The trail makes its way onto an “island” and is reported to have a lot of bear activity, so is closed frequently. You don’t want to get stuck over there with a bear, so heed any closures and be sure to bring bear spray and whistles!
Taggart Lake Trail
A relatively easy hike good to do with young kids and grandkids is Taggart Lake Trail. Only a three-mile jaunt, it climbs a mere 350 feet, making this a doable trek for most visitors.
Outside the Park
In nearby Teton Village in Jackson Hole, you can splurge and take a 12-minute aerial tram to a 10,045-foot summit, climbing more than 4,000 feet in the process.
Enjoy the breathtaking views of the Tetons and the Jackson Hole valley. While at the summit, you can hike, climb and eat. It’s not cheap, though; prices range from $66 to $80 for two adults.
What to Bring
We recommend bringing the following on your drive and hike through the park:
- Water (bring about 3X what you think you’ll need!)
- Rain ponchos
- Camera for photos
- Bear spray/whistle
- Maps/trail guides
- Camping gear
- First-aid kit with band-aids and neosporin
Want more National Park tips? Check out our post on 7 Top Tips for Visiting Our National Parks.
Interested in visiting Rocky Mountain National Park? We’ve got you covered!
Have you visited Grand Teton? What are your best tips?
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