Top 5 Go-To Experiences in Grand Teton National Park
If you haven’t experienced the western United States, and even if you have, there’s nothing like your first glimpse of the majestic Teton Mountains of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. The snow-topped crenulated peaks speak to mountaineers, photographers and nature enthusiasts the world over. There’s hiking, rafting, wildlife viewing, boating, kayaking - just about every outdoor pursuit you can imagine in nearly 500 square miles beneath the 13,770-foot Grand Teton and between Jenny and Jackson lakes. Come play in one of America’s favorite national parks. Here’s what not to miss.
1. Exploring Jenny Lake
Start your adventures in Grand Teton National Park exploring Jenny Lake, a beguiling 2-mile-long, 250-feet-deep body of water that many have called the prettiest in the United States. There are countless ways to play at the lake, from fishing and paddling to swimming and boating. Feel like a hike? Walk the moderately challenging, 7.5-mile, round-trip path from the Jenny Lake Trailhead for fantastic photo opps of Cascade Canyon, Storm Point, Symmetry Spire and Mount Moran. Or, join the many who opt for the 1.5-mile round-trip hike to Hidden Falls, a perennial favorite. If you still have energy, continue on to 7,200-foot-high Inspiration Point. Shave a few miles off the hike by boating over to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point via the Jenny Lake Boating shuttle service.
2. Feel the Park Area’s History
Sunrise over the Moulton Barn is a big deal for photogs visiting Grand Teton National Park, but really, a visit any time of day will do. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mormon Row Historic District was founded as a Mormon ranch settlement back in the late 19th century. Today, you can still see the preserved homestead and barns that speak to the rugged wild-west lifestyle of the past. The Teton Range backdrop makes for staggeringly beautiful photography - you might even luck out and see an antelope or other wildlife wandering into the frame of your shot.
3. Raft (or Just Float) the Snake River
Up for a little adventure? Book an adrenaline-pumping whitewater rafting trip on the Snake River. These tours typically cover about 8 miles of Class II and Class III rapids between May and October. There are several outfitters to choose from within the park and in nearby Jackson Hole. If you’d like to get on the water, but prefer a more placid experience, consider a float trip. You’ll leisurely wind your way for about 13 miles between two access points of the river, a stretch of quiet wilderness with mesmerizing vistas of the Teon and Snake River mountain ranges.
4. Take a Wildlife Tour
Sure, you’re going to come across elk, moose and bison at some point during your travels in Grand Teton National Park, but why not spend a day devoted to admiring the resident wildlife up close? Plus, when you take a wildlife-focused tour with a local park guide, you’ll get much more information than you might from a placard in the visitor center or a book. These in-depth, educational tours are perfect for those hoping to celebrate animals who make their homes here, and can range from half-day to full-day, group tour to private, bus tour to four-wheel-drive vehicle safari.
5. Drive the Scenic Route
Another good option for orienting yourself when you first arrive is to spend a day driving the park’s loop road, literally called the “42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive” (or “Teton Park Road”). There are numerous turnouts, where you can snap photos or have a picnic. And there’s even a GyPSy Guide app for your smartphone for details and commentary about what you’re seeing. Take your time admiring the Tetons, the Menors Ferry Historic District, the Snake River Overlook and Jenny Lake, and be on the lookout for elk, moose, bison and bears. Access the loop road from the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center.
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