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Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming was the last experience on our one year USA road trip.
I wish it wasn’t, because by this stage of our long trip I was really at the I couldn’t be bothered stage, and the Grand Tetons is a place that requires a whole lot of bother.
But don’t worry majestic mountains rising sharply out of the valley floor, we will be back for a longer visit because even though I couldn’t be bothered, I was totally and completely mesmerized by your beauty.
To be fair, we also had weather issues and road closures due to bear activity which took away a day of scenic driving and small hikes.
So, is Grand Teton worth visiting? Absolutely!
If you don’t yet know what to do in Grand Teton National Park, keep reading, and no matter how long you stay or how deep you explore, you’ll instantly acknowledge that this national park deserves the words ‘jaw dropping’.
It’s not just the jagged snow peaks of the Teton Range, but the Jackson Hole Valley it stands guard over, with the Snake River winding through the yellow grasslands and cottontails that line its bank.
We were fortunate enough to see the beginnings of fall and boy was it beautiful. It lit up the cloudy and gloomy skies.
But we couldn’t see too much on our drive down from Yellowstone (meant to be beautiful and worth a meander) the colors definitely grabbed our attention.
Where is Grand Teton National Park?
It encircles the Teton mountain range, the 4,000-meter Grand Teton peak, and the valley known as Jackson Hole.
Jackson Hole Airport is served by most major U.S. networks, although flights here can be pricy. Salt Lake City (about 5 hours drive) is the closest major international airport.
We highly recommend incorporating Grand Teton, Jackson and Yellowstone on a Wyoming road trip. Also consider including the hidden gem of a state Idaho, which sits at the opposite side of the Teton range.
What are the Grand Tetons?
This park is named for Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the 40-mile Teton Range, which runs through the park.
The naming of the mountains is said to be from early 19th Century French-speaking trappers, who called them Les Trois Tetons (the Tree Teats) which was later shortened to Tetons.
Grand Teton rises over 7,000 feet above Jackson Hole. Mount Owen is the second highest summit in the range.
The 310,000 acres includes lush valley floors, mountain meadows, hiking trails, wildlife, alpine lakes and the rising peaks of the Teton Range.
There is something for everyone to experience, not matter the season (although limited in winter).
While Fall is the most scenic, summer is the most popular with the opportunity to see an abundance of wildlife, including bison, elk, moose, bears and bighorn sheep.
We didn’t see too much wildlife in the Grand Teton, but did check off the one animal we most wanted to see.
So what can you do at Grand Teton National Park if you only one day? Read on for our Grand Teton itinerary.
1 Day Itinerary: What to Do in Grand Teton National Park
We only had time to spend one day at Grand Teton National Park. We focused on the area most people told us not to miss: Jenny Lake and Mormon Row.
We visited with Craig’s sister, her daughter, and our niece and they flew home from Salt Lake City after a fun few weeks together.
We were going to stay longer to explore more things to do in Jackson Hole but the snow storm due to arrive sent us headed straight back home to Raleigh, North Carolina.
Cold weather be gone. We had you too much for our year on the road.
Grand Teton NP can be easily explored in a day and many do this in order to have more time at Yellowstone NP.
But the Tetons are just as wild and beautiful and offer so much for you to enjoy.
Jenny Lake: Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point Hike
Exploring Jenny Lake is one of the best things to do in Grand Teton National Park and a highlight of any day trip to Grand Tetons, and it could easily take up your entire day.
But you can also choose to spend less time. It all depends on what you want to experience at Jenny Lake.
We’ll share what we did with children (7, 8 and 12), two of them experienced hikers, and one not. No matter your age, it’s a Grand Teton day trip that anyone can do.
Jenny Lake sits at the base of the Cascade Canyon and is two square miles of pristine water and beautiful views of the Tetons.
Motorboats are allowed here and the Jenny Lake ferry shuttle service runs across the lake. You can also rent Kayaks and canoes from Jenny Lake Boating for either $20 per hour or $80 per day. Rentals are first-come, first-served.
For those seeking serenity, head to North Jenny Lake where fewer people visit. South Jenny Lake is where we explored and has more amenities.
Also, go early in the morning to find easier parking, avoid crowds and ferry waits (if you are catching it). In the summer they start running at 7am.
Photography may be better in the afternoon from Inspiration Point however. But, really it’s so beautiful that any time is great.
Jenny Lake Hiking and Boat Shuttle
If you want to spend most of your day at Grand Teton National Park, then the 7.6 mile Jenny Lake Trail loop is for you. The Jenny Lake Trailhead starts near the visitor center.
You can hike from the visitor center to Inspiration Point and back along the trail, which is 2.5 miles one way.
To save time and little legs, we decided to catch the Jenny Lake boat over to the other side of the lake from the visitor center.
Jenny Lake Boat Details
The Jenny Lake ferry departs from South Jenny Lake around every 15-minutes and carries you across the water to the Cascade Canyon trailhead at the West Shore boat dock.
The boat takes about 15-minutes and offers spectacular views and guided commentary along the way. It’s a great way to learn more about the lake and Grand Tetons.
For more learning, be sure to stop in at the visitor center to grab a Junior Ranger booklet for the kids, so they can earn their Junior Ranger badges.
At the time of our visit, the ferry cost:
- $18 round trip adult
- $10 round trip child ( 2-11)
- $10 one way adult
- $8 one way child
- May to Sept: 10am – 4pm
- June 8 to Sept 3: 7am – 7pm:
One of the most popular things to do in Grand Teton National Park is the hike to Hidden Falls. It’s very easy to incorporate into your visit to Jenny Lake.
Hidden Falls is a serene family-friendly activity at Grand Teton NP, especially if you combine it with the boat ride.
It will be busy here so join the fun as you walk through the forest, over a beautiful gushing river and then turn left into a pocket of forest which opens up to Hidden Falls.
Hidden Falls is a thundering cascade dropping 200-ft. down a series of rocky ledges.
Shuffle your way through the crowds for a photo. This is a good spot for family photos.
The hike from the dock is 1.3 miles return.
From Hidden Falls, the trail continues left up to Inspiration Point, one of the other popular Grand Teton National Park hikes.
It is a little more strenuous than the Hidden Falls trail, and a small section of it is rocky, steep and narrow.
Along this trail, you’ll have views of the Cathedral Group, which is Teewinot Moutnain, Grand Teton and Mount Owen and spectacular views out over Jenny Lake across to the Gros Ventre Mountains.
From the boat dock to Inspiration Point it is 2.2 miles return.
We’re experienced hikers, but I think its quite manageable for anyone with plenty of stopping points along the way to catch your breath.
Our girls would have handled it no problem, but they wanted to stay at the viewing rest spot with their cousin.
Those with more time and energy, can continue hiking up into Cascade Canyon. We’ve put that on our Grand Teton National Park things to do list for our next visit!
Hike back to Jenny Lake Visitor Center
After a bit of math calculation at Inspiration Point, and a bit of glorious sunshine for inspiration, we decided it would be easier, quicker and less mileage to walk back the 2.5 miles via a short detour to Moose Pond from Inspiration Point, rather than take the boat back.
We were going to take the boat back and then walk the 1 mile one way to Moose Pond from the visitor center.
Since it would only be an extra mile at the most of walking, it made better sense to stretch the legs, soak up the warmth and enjoy the views.
The ferry gets busy which means wait times. I’d rather use my time better by walking with the earth and all its beauty.
The walk all the way to Moose Pond was relatively easy and beautiful, offering stunning views of Jenny Lake the entire way.
I think I enjoyed this part of hike more than any other during our day here.
Look out for the sign coming back from Inspiration Point that points you to turn right to walk back to the visitor center rather than go back to the edge of the lake for the ferry.
We’re so glad we did not skip Moose Pond, because as the name suggests, and from the many tips we received as it being one of the best things to do in Grand Teton National Park, we did see moose!
A family of moose – Mom, dad and baby moose.
We first saw them from high above on the trail and watched them eating from the pond and running around.
Then we walked down to the bottom trail to get closer to the pond. They were on the other side of the pond so not close to us.
You can walk around Moose Pond so we set off on the trail keeping an eye on the moose who took off in a sprint. We think they heard hikers coming from the other side as we saw them in the distance.
We kept walking until just ahead hikers came towards us walking right past the moose in the bushes. They are more than a little on edge. We stood with them for just a minute watching Mom from a safe distance in the bushes munching on the grass.
It was incredible to be so close to the moose. She then stepped onto the path and turned her head to look at us.
Without a word to each other, all of us turned at the exact same time and backed slowly away.
Mum was clear in her eyes: “If you don’t go now, you’re going to feel my antlers.”
Needless to say we did not complete the Moose pond loop. #ordersfromthemoose
If you wanted to just walk to Moose Pond from the visitor center the trail is also easy.
Other Things to Do in Grand Teton National Park
Mormon Row and Antelope Flats Scenic Drive
Mormon Row is where you’ll find that classic Grand Teton photo.
In fact, Mormon Row and the Moulton Barns may be the most photographed destinations in the park. It is at the south entrance to the park.
In the 1890s a group of Mormon homesteaders arrived from Idaho to establish a community with the intention of clustering their farms to share labor and develop community bonds.
That area is now known as Mormon Row, within the Grand Teton National Park, and has been historically preserved for all those budding photographers wanting the perfect shot of those infamous Moulton Barns with the Teton Range in the background.
The clouds weren’t cooperating too well with us on our visit!
Whilst here, drive down Antelope Flats to the Gros Ventre River, an open grassland and prairielands that is meant to be popular with bison. We did not see any.
The views along here of the Teton Ranges are spectacular. The Gros Ventre Campground here looked amazing alongside the Gros Ventre River amidst the tall cottonwood trees and sagebrush.
The river here is also a popular place to spot moose.
There were some moose hiding in the bushes and had been spotted only moments before we arrived. But they were good at camouflaging themselves.
Anglers will love throwing in a rod here. There were several enjoying themselves in the sun.
This is a loop road that links up to the Gros Ventre-Kelly Rd and takes you back to Jackson.
Biking through this section of the Jackson Hole Valley is also popular.
Tours of Grand Teton National Park
If you don’t want to self drive in Yellowstone or the Grant Tetons, G Adventures is a highly respected tour company offering small group tours such as:
- Yellowstone and Grand Teton: National Parks Family Journey
- National Parks of the Northwest US
- USA road trip: Epic West Coast
Other best selling day tours of Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone are available through the Get Your Guide company like:
- 4 hour wildlife safari adventure
- 4 day / 3 night Grand Teton & Yellowstone wildlife tour
- Full day Yellowstone Lower loop tour from Jackson
Places to Stay in Grand Teton National Park
If you want to camp, there is Grand Teton National park camping within the park, or stay at one of their lodges, including Jackson Lake Lodge – a full-service, eco-hotel that serves as the main hub of activity.
While this would enhance your trip and bring you closer to the majestic beauty of this park, for hotels near Grand Teton National Park we thoroughly enjoyed staying in nearby Jackson.
Accommodation near Grand Teton National Park
- Airbnb: plenty of options in Jackson. See what is available and current prices here.
- Snow King Resort: 0.8 miles from downtown Jackson. Has an outdoor pool, a hot tub, a restaurant and rooms with mountain views. See rates and reviews
- The Lexington at Jackson Hole: apartments and studio style rooms blocks from downtown Jackson. See rates and reviews.
- White Buffalo Club: for the luxury travelers. Offers a spa and wellness center located close to downtown. See rates and reviews.
Visiting Jackson, Wyoming
What a cute cowboy town!
Jackson is a very unique USA town and offers much in the way of restaurants, cafes, breweries and shops.
To clear up any confusion, Jackson Hole is the valley, Jackson is the town that is in Jackson Hole Valley. There is so much to do in this area, we really want to explore more in depth on another trip. Here are just a few tips.
Stop in at the Cowboy Bar is a must.
The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar was establied in 1937 and is a landmark watering hole famous for its Western Swing Dance lessons, and live music. The decor will intrigue you.
Jump on one of the saddles at the bar and be sure to visit with the stuffed grizzly bear to learn how he was killed by man during an attack who bit his jugular! Crazy story.
- We also enjoyed the Snake River Brewery which had fantastic pizzas and industrial feel. Busy place but worth it.
- Roadhouse Brewery in the middle of downtown serves food and craft beer.
- The Stillwest Brewery & Grill had a lovely outdoor deck right at the bottom of Snow King Mountain. Best for views!
I hope you found this post useful?
Have you taken a trip to Grand Teton National Park? As we only experienced a day, we’d love you to share your tips and suggestions on things to do in Grand Teton National Park below. Or ask any questions?