Grand Teton National Park Visitor Guide

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The jagged mountains of the Teton Range soar above the surrounding valley, with eight summits topping more than 12,000 feet. Below the snow-capped peaks are glacial cirques with jewel-like lakes, as well as alpine meadows that come alive with summer wildflowers.

The park also boasts thick forests of lodgepole pines, Douglas fir, blue spruce and quaking aspen. Famous for its diversity of wildlife, Grand Teton is home to moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and grizzly bears.

For generations, Grand Teton has drawn hikers and climbers looking for the ideal alpine experience in America. The park has more than two hundred miles of trails accessible during warmer months. The long, snowy winters are the perfect time to enjoy Grand Teton in solitude by exploring the backcountry on snowshoes or cross-country skis.

If you’re planning a visit, check our suggestions for getting the most out of your trip. The National Park Service (NPS) is also a good resource for information on camping, day hikingbackpackingclimbing and birding in Grand Teton.

Camping in Grand Teton

Grand Teton has a total of six NPS campgrounds. All campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Because all of the park is above 6,000 feet, campgrounds don’t open until late spring, and they close early in the fall.

The campgrounds are in bear country, so be sure to store all your food and scented items outside of your tent. If you’re visiting in winter, primitive camping is allowed in the plowed parking lot next to the Colter Bay Visitor Center from December through April 15.

Here are a few of our favorites campgrounds in Grand Teton. All have restrooms, but none have showers:

Gros Ventre (300 sites; non-reservable): Don’t be scared away by the size of this campground. The sites are roomier than sites at other camping areas in the park, and Gros Ventre is the most peaceful campground in the park. It’s on the east side of Grand Teton in a tranquil setting near the shores of the Gros Ventre River and adjacent to The National Elk Refuge.

The odds are decent that you’ll see moose or bison here during your stay. Visit nearby String Lake if you’re looking for a good swimming hole. Gros Ventre is rarely full, so it’s a good choice if you’re arriving late in the day. Open early May to mid-October.

Lizard Creek (60 sites; non-reservable): In the more remote north end of Grand Teton, Lizard Creek is a quiet, less-developed campground set in a fir and spruce forest. It tends to not fill up until late in the day if at all. Choose one of the bluff sites with a view and you’ll see all of north Jackson Lake. Open mid-June to early September.

Jenny Lake (59 sites, 10 designated for hikers and cyclists; non-reservable): The upside: This campground offers tent-only camping, so it lets you escape the RV crowd. It’s also located along the Grand Teton bike path and has 10 sites designated for cyclists and hikers. The downside: Jenny Lake is a popular place to pitch a tent, so in summer months you need to arrive before 8 am to bag a spot. You’ll enjoy a beautiful alpine setting and a view of the Tetons from some sites. Open late May to late September.

Backpacking and Hiking in Grand Teton

More than forty miles long, the Teton Range’s remote, jagged peaks offer a classic alpine experience to hikers, backpackers and mountaineers. Because the base elevation is around 6,800 feet, breathing is more difficult than at sea level and you should expect a slower hiking pace. If you plan on going over any passes, no more than one pass per day is recommended. Check out the Grand Teton backcountry trip planner to learn the essentials about backpacking in the park.

Permits: They’re required for all backcountry camping and cost $25. The fee is per trip, not per person. Permits are limited in order to minimize impact on the ecosystem. If you don’t reserve a permit ahead of time, you can apply for one at the Colter Bay and Craig Thomas Discovery and visitor centers, and at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.

Reservations: Two thirds of available permits for each camping zone in the park are issued on a first-come, first-served basis up to a day before your trip. The park service sets aside up to one third of sites in each zone for advanced reservations. All the group sites (7–12 people) in the backcountry are reservable.

During July and August, the peak season, there’s a lot of competition for available permits so reserving your site ahead of time is a good idea. Requests for advance reservations are only accepted from the first Wednesday in January through May 15. To reserve a site, visit Recreation.gov. There’s a non-refundable fee of $35.

Bear Canisters: When you visit Grand Teton, you’re entering bear country. Thus you need to review the park’s important safety information and food storage tips. All backcountry trips require the use of park-approved bear canisters, which the park service will loan to you free of charge during your visit.

Recommended Hikes

String Lake Hike (easy; 3.4-mile loop): This short, level hike takes you around a beautiful lake and offers great views of the mountains. String Lake is at a lower elevation, so this is one of the first trails to become snow-free in spring. For the best scenery, hike counterclockwise around the lake early in the morning when the rising sun lights up the mountains and reflects them onto the still water.

Leigh Lake Day Hike or Backpack (easy; 5.6 miles round-trip): An ideal trip for a beginning backpacker, this relatively flat hike gives you wonderful views of the surrounding peaks, as well as Leigh and Paintbrush Canyons. It ends at a large glacially carved lake that’s more than 250 feet deep. Because the trail is at a lower elevation where the snowpack melts sooner, it can usually be hiked May or June through September.

Spacious campsites on Leigh Lake’s east shore offer great views of the Teton Range and Mount Moran. The trail continues past Leigh Lake for a couple of miles to Bearpaw and Trapper Lakes, which also have good camping spots.

Holly Lake Day Hike or Backpack (moderate–strenuous; 13 miles round-trip): From the beginning of this hike, you enjoy beautiful mountain scenery along the shore of String Lake. After passing through a lodgepole pine forest, the trail climbs steadily up Paintbrush Canyon. If you go during wildflower season, you’ll see Indian paintbrush, blue columbine and more.

Around six miles in, you’ll reach a side trail to Holly Lake. It’s situated between two towering backdrops: Mount Woodring to the north and Rockchuck Peak to the east. Holly Lake is within the Lower Paintbrush Canyon Camping Zone, which has nine campsites within a quarter mile of the lake. The total elevation gain on this hike is 2,500 ft.

Two Ocean Lake Day Hike (moderate; 6.5-mile loop): If you’re looking for a day hike that takes you away from the crowds, consider the Two Ocean Lake trail on the east side of Jackson Lake. Not only will you be less likely to see people, you’re also more likely to see wildlife like osprey, loons, moose, coyotes, bears and elk.

The trail is relatively flat and passes through fields, meadows and patches of huckleberries, where you need to be especially mindful of bears. If you have the time, it’s worth taking the one-mile side trail to Grand View Point. After you climb around 600 feet, you’re rewarded with amazing views.

Lake Solitude Day Hike or Backpack (strenuous; 15.2 miles round trip): You can experience a lot of the magic Grand Teton has to offer on this hike, including wildlife, wildflowers and amazing alpine scenery. The lake itself can be frozen into July. If you’d like to see it ice-free, plan to visit in August. You can start the trip by hiking 2.5 miles around Jenny Lake, or you can take a shuttle boat across it. Either way takes you first to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. Both are popular destinations, but once you start on the Cascade Canyon Trail you leave the crowd behind.

After some steep climbing, you begin to get great views. When you reach the junction with the Teton Crest Trail, turn right onto the Lake Solitude Trail. If you’re camping overnight, you can choose one of the eleven sites within the North Fork Cascade Camping Zone. They all have nice views. Select a spot that’s at least 200 feet away from the trail and water sources.

Teton Crest Trail Backpack (strenuous; 35–39 miles one way): This iconic route belongs on every backpacker’s top ten list. It takes you into the heart of Grand Teton to see countless towering peaks, along with glaciers, alpine meadows and crystalline lakes. Most people do this trail from south to north so that the overall hike is downhill, but there are still plenty of ups-and-downs to make it a real workout. As described here, it’s a one-way hike ending at String Lake, so you’ll need to arrange a shuttle.

You can begin at the Phillip’s Pass trailhead (39-mile total), although most people start at Teton Village (35-mile total) by riding the tramway to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain at 10,450 feet. The tramway saves you 2,500 feet of climbing. Marion Lake, Sunset Lake and the South Fork of Cascade Creek are prime camping spots along the way. If your time is limited, Marion Lake is a great one-night backpacking destination.

Climbing and Mountaineering in Grand Teton

Grand Teton offers some of the most accessible and diverse climbing in the country. You’ll find a wide array of rock, snow and ice here. Mixed routes range from easy to difficult, and almost all the peaks can be climbed in a day. Higher and more remote peaks, and longer and more difficult routes, typically take two or three days, and require a high camp or bivouac.

Climbing options in the park include trad, alpine, sport and bouldering. The solid granite of Mount Moran’s South Buttress is a classic multi-pitch route that’s considered one of the best climbs in the park. Death Canyon has some good crag climbing. Sport climbers will want to have Blacktail Butte on their list.

Then there’s the ultimate summit in the park—Grand Teton itself. You can choose from 80 routes and encounter everything from glaciers and snowfields to steep ice chutes. If you’re feeling especially strong and adventurous, consider The Grand Traverse. Find details on this route and others in the park by searching for “Grand Teton” on the pages of The Mountain Project.

Climbing permits aren’t required, but you need a permit for overnight camping or bivouacking. Read the backcountry camping page for more information. For general climbing information, check out the park’s mountaineering page.

High-country weather conditions are best mid-July through August. Afternoon thundershowers are common, though, so don’t linger on peaks. After mid-August, major storms with snowfall can move in anytime. From November to May you’ll encounter heavy snowfall, high winds, severe cold and a high risk of avalanches. May and June days are likely to be rainy, with some snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

The center for climbing information is Jenny Lake Ranger Station. Open from late May to late September, its climbing rangers can provide the latest info on routes, equipment and experience needed, as well as time considerations. The station also has guidebooks, maps and photographs of peaks and routes. The station’s blogspot provides current backcountry conditions, and the Jackson Hole Avalanche Report shows weather and avalanche forecasts for the Grand Teton area.

Looking for an alternative to camping on your climbing trip? Consider the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch. This concession operated by the American Alpine Club provides low-cost accommodations, a fun atmosphere and a chance to meet other climbers.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in Grand Teton

Grand Teton is a spectacular destination for skiing and snowshoeing during the long winter months. Check out the Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing brochure for lists of popular routes and safety info. Because the park doesn’t mark ski and snowshoe trails, people heading into the backcountry are responsible for their own route finding. Also, winter storms can reduce visibility and obscure your tracks, so it’s important to be aware of changing conditions.

You can also sign up for a ranger-led snowshoe hike. These snowshoe hikes happen from late December through mid-March, and you can make reservations and get more details by calling (307) 739-3399.

The following businesses are also licensed by the park service to guide tours in Grand Teton:

Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing
The Hole Hiking Experience (866) 733-4453; holehike.com
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Nordic Center (307) 733-2629; jacksonhole.com
Teton Backcountry Guides (307) 353-2900; skithetetons.com

Backcountry Skiing and Climbing
Exum Mountain Guides (307) 733-2297; exumguides.com
Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (307) 733-4979; jhmg.com

Some park roads are plowed during the winter. The main roads in Grand Teton, Highway US 89/191 and Highway US 26/287, are open for winter travel from the town of Jackson to Flagg Ranch just south of Yellowstone. However, much of the Teton Park Road (also called the inner park road) is closed to vehicles during winter. For more details, visit the park’s Winter Trip Planner page.

Tips for Visiting Grand Teton

Getting to Grand Teton National Park: Grand Teton is situated in northwestern Wyoming, south of Yellowstone National Park and north of the town of Jackson, Wyoming. See the park’s Directions & Transportation page for information on traveling to Grand Teton. The park’s Road Closure page lets you know about roads that are closed because of winter weather or for other reasons.

Park Fees and Passes: Fees for entering the park depend on the type of pass you choose and your vehicle. You can opt for a single-use park pass ($30 for 7 days), an annual parks pass or the America the Beautiful Interagency Annual Pass that covers all national parks and federal fee areas. See all fee details at the fees and passes page.

Grand Teton Weather: The park is open year-round, although snow closes some roads from November 1 through April 30. Winters in the park are long and cold. You can count on the first heavy snows to fall by early November and continue into April, although it’s possible for snow to fall in Grand Teton any day of the year. It lingers on valley trails into late May. High-elevation trails can keep their snow well into July.

June tends to be a rainy month, while days in July and August are sunny and warm. Thundershowers typically roll through on summer afternoons, leading to cool, clear evenings.

Because of Grand Teton’s elevation, the average daily high temperature during summer months is 75°–80°F, while the average daily low is 35°–42°F. At higher elevations, both of those averages will be lower. Plan accordingly if you’ll be camping in the backcountry.

Bring your raingear if you visit during spring, summer and fall. Winter temps are often sub-zero, which calls for multi-layered clothing, hats, mittens and cold-weather boots.

View the local weather and forecast at mountainweather.com or the National Weather Service.

Guidebooks and Maps: The Grand Teton Association, official non-profit partner of Grand Teton National Park, has an excellent selection of books and maps for the area. You can also find guidebooks and maps on REI.com.

Animal Safety: Depending on the season, you can see all kinds of wildlife in Grand Teton. Mammals include moose, elk, mule deer, bison, pronghorn antelope, grizzly and black bears, wolves, mountain lions, badgers, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, beavers and river otters. To learn how to view wildlife safely, the park service has put together a collection of tips and videos.

If you plan on doing any hiking or backpacking, it’s a good idea to check in with the nearest visitor center or backcountry office for information on recent animal activity. To learn what you should do if you encounter a bear, visit the park’s bear safety page.

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