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The Ultimate Guide to Grand Teton National Park [2023]

Are you ready to lace up your hiking boots, get outdoors and explore our nation’s beauty in Grand Teton National Park?

Join the crowd! 

Grand Teton National Park is one place you might want to consider adding to your National Park bucket list.

 

Lisa's family around the Grand Teton National Park sign
Team member Lisa and family at Grand Teton

 

Grand Teton National Park

Less crowded than its counterpart, Yellowstone National Park, blue skies, pristine mountain panoramas and crystal clear waters await you at this national gem.

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Because Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone are so close, consider doing both on the same trip!

Entrance Fees

Entering Grand Teton National Park costs $35 per vehicle for a seven-day pass.  

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. Alternatively, you could choose a $20 annual senior pass.

Are you an active military member, veteran or Gold Star family? Grab a FREE pass and thank you for your service!

And, don’t forget, if you have a fourth grader, your whole family gets into National Parks free during their school year and the following summer as part of Every Kid Outdoors.

These special passes alone are honored at more than 45 Federal Recreation sites throughout the United States!

You can also access Grand Teton National Park FREE in 2023 on the below days, but keep in mind these days will be even MORE BUSY than usual:

January 16 Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. 
April 16 First day of National Park Week
August 4 Great American Outdoors Act Anniversary
September 24 National Public Lands Day
November 11 Veterans Day

 

How to Get to Grand Teton National Park

Flying

Looking at clouds outside Southwest airplane

The closest airport to Grand Teton National Park is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Families Fly Free team member Lisa W. used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to fly her family on Delta from Atlanta to this nearby location.

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.

Thanks for using the links in this post to review and apply for any credit cards. This helps support our small business, at NO COST TO YOU! You can also always use the CREDIT CARDS links in the main menu above (shown below) to review and apply for cards. Thank you! 
 
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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: 

  • Bozeman, 4.5-hour drive
  • 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. 

 

Driving 

Side mirror in car showing reflection of the Grand Tetons
Capturing the Grand Tetons in a side-view mirror

 

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, 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 Discovery & Visitor Center, located in the town of Moose, where 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, where 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, offers geology exhibits, an information desk, a relief map of the park, activity schedules, guided walks and talks, maps, a bookstore and restrooms.

Be sure to take along your National Park Passport Book to receive a stamp at each of these places.

(Note: this is an affiliate link)

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’s a 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 entered through Jackson, Wyoming, you’ll first hit the town of Moose as your introduction to the park, which is home to the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center.

 

Where to Stay

Stone fireplace inside of lobby of lodge with walls made of logs.
Twin Pines Lodge lobby, courtesy of Twin Pines Lodge

If you do happen to be driving from the south, consider staying in the charming town of Dubois, Wyoming.

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.

Twin Pines Lodge

Families Fly Free team member Cami 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.

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!

 

Grand Teton National Park Lodging

 

Once inside the park, you have many choices for lodging that are NOT camping, including:

The range of options includes everything from co-ed bunk rooms to tent cabins to log cabins with kitchens to a full-service resort and everything 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.

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.  

Colter Bay Village

Log cabin at Colter Bay surrounded by trees.
Lodging at Colter Bay

Team members have stayed at Colter Bay Village, 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 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. 

 

Nearby Grand Teton National Park Hotels

Some Jackson Hole, WY hotel options include:

 

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 are by advanced reservations only which you can make on the recreation.gov site. 

Because the park is at a high altitude (which means there’s often snow year-round), please remember that some options may not be available until mid-June at the earliest when things begin to melt. 🙂

Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals through Vrbo can be another good option near Grand Teton National Park, as they allow you to spread out, do laundry and cook your own meals.

You’ll find everything from condos in ski resorts to cabins, to cottages and homes.

Just remember to include driving time to get into the park from your Grand Teton vacation rental.  

RV Rentals

You could also consider an RV rental through a company like RV Share, the world’s largest RV rental company.

An RV grants you both a “car” and “accommodation” in one fell swoop and is a popular way to explore America’s National Parks!

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 Families Fly Free!

 

When to Visit Grand Teton National Park

Colorful image of Grand Teton mountains and their reflection in a nearby lake.

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 just long pants and jackets to even 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. 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 at Grand Teton National Park

 

 

Half-eaten pizza on a round silver tray at Leek's Marina
Indulge in the pizza at Leek’s Marina while sitting outside. They even have gluten-free options!

 

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’ll be renting a car, you can stop by a grocery store 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 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!

Nachos surrounded by salsa, sour cream and guacamole at Signal Mountain Trapper Grill
Try this giant portion of nachos at Signal Mountain Trapper Grill along with a margarita

 

Grand Teton National Park restaurant recommendations 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

The Grand Tetons with evergreen trees in the foreground

While the list of things to do in Grand Teton National Park is extensive, we’ve included a few highlights below…

Driving Tours

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 fantastic scenery and wildlife. 

Here are our recommended key stops:

Mormon Row Barn with the Grand Tetons in the background.
Mormon Row Barn

Ranger Programs

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!

 

Water Activities at Grand Teton National Park

Guide on Twilight Float on the Snake River wearing sunglasses and rowing.
Twilight Float on the Snake River with a guide to do all the work!

 

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, beavers, sand cranes and merganser duck babies speeding through the water while on your float. Super cool!

If you want to try Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), rent one in a nearby town and bring it with you to String Lake, which is THE perfect place to try this. You can port over to Leigh Lake as well. 

They’re both hidden among a lot of trees, and the water is pristine, clear, very still and not deep.

View of clear water in String Lake with evergreens and mountains in background.
The calm, pristine waters of String Lake make it an excellent place to try SUP

 

Wildlife Spotting

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, slow down and take a look.

If you see a park ranger’s car, you’ll know you’ve hit the jackpot. Get your camera ready!

Grand Teton National Park bear and cubs in the grass.
Spotted these three right outside Grand Teton National Park

 

Inside the park, the list of possible sightings includes grouse, deer, moose, birds, black bears and grizzly bears, snakes, bald eagles, sand cranes, beavers, 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 behind Jackson Lake Lodge with binoculars.  

Moose in woods of Grand Teton National Park
Moose in Grand Teton National Park

 

Grand Teton National Park Hikes

We recommend bringing a hiking guide like Best Easy Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park with your planned hikes circled to tuck into your day pack. 

(Note: this is also an affiliate link)

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!

People on dock waiting for boat ride on Jenny Lake
Waiting in line for the boat ride on Jenny 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 in the day 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

Phelps Lake with mountains in the background.
Phelps Lake

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 it’s 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 3-mile jaunt, it climbs a mere 350 feet, making this a doable trek for most visitors.

 

Outside Grand Teton National 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 and then take a hike or grab something to eat.

 

What to Bring

We recommend bringing the following with you:

  • Water (bring about 3X what you think you’ll need!)
  • Snacks
  • Rain ponchos
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Bear spray/whistle
  • Maps/trail guides
  • Camping gear
  • Tissues
  • First-aid kit with band-aids and Neosporin
  • Hat

Want more National Park tips?

Check out our post on 7 Top Tips for Visiting America’s National Parks.

Have you visited Grand Teton? What are your best tips?

 

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2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Grand Teton National Park [2023]”

  1. General National Park question… We are planning a trip in early October for 2 weeks in the Grand Canyon area. Any info you can provide would be helpful. Would it be best to land in Vegas, Salt Lake or Phoenix? We will be in Sedona for a week, but the rest of the trip is pretty open. Just not sure if we should attempt to land in SLC and work our way to the Page AZ area of pass on UT.

    How does the Senior Pass work? Does it work for just that person, the person and spouse, the carload?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Hey Bill,

    Thanks for reading. The closest airport if you want to visit both Sedona and the Grand Canyon, would be Phoenix, but I would always recommend the one that is cheapest for the airfare and the rental car combined since you will need both of those. Check into those two things and make your decision based on that.

    The Senior Pass is good for everyone in your car. You just show the pass and your ID as you enter the park and you are good to go. It’s a great deal if you are able to take advantage of it.

    Safe travels,
    Cami

    Reply

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