Favorite things to do in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is a breathtaking marvel that is hard to put into words! The park is famous for its impressive jagged peaks, standing tall above the valley floor. Though the park is small, it is worth spending a night or two in the vicinity to truly appreciate it. Don't forget to browse our rental inventory of camping gear for your Grand Teton trip.
Below is a list of our favorite things to do and see in Grand Teton National Park. For more detail, download our free DetourOn Roadbook (coming soon).
Wondering where to stay? Skip to the last section below for places to camp in or near Grand Teton National Park.
Things to know before visiting Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is very popular in summer! That's because it's under snow the rest of the year. Therefore, the majority of visitors drive through this park from mid-June to mid-September.
Park entrances. You can approach Grand Teton National Park only from the south (Jackson, WY), east (Moran Junction), and north (Yellowstone National Park). To the west is the roadless Teton Range wilderness, the mythical jagged mountain peaks that you're coming here to see.
Jackson, WY. The Grand Teton National Park south entrance is by far the most popular, since it is located just a few minutes away from the town of Jackson, which has all the amenities one could dream of.
Moran Junction. I'm not sure who's traveling on this road. There are a few camping options just outside of the east entrance that may be useful to you. Other than that, the nearest town is Dubois, WY, about an hour away!
Rockefeller Parkway. This is a 9-mile stretch of highway that connects Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. If you're traveling on this road, then it means you're also going to Yellowstone on this visit.
Weather and seasons. This park is under snow for the majority of the year. Passing here in winter is beautiful! But unless you come here to crosscountry ski or snowshoe, you should probably wait until summertime to truly see this place. July-August are the most popular months to visit, and the best months weather-wise. If you arrive at mid-day, expect to circle around in the parking lots of some of the more popular areas. In winter, check road conditions before entering the park.
Visitor centers. The main visitor center is near Moose Junction, but you can get information at Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake.
Hiking. Study the elevation changes and distances of the trails you plan to hike. Many trails in this park gain considerable altitude in very short distances. During most summer and fall months trailhead parking areas fill early in the day.
Best day hikes in Grand Teton National Park
There are only two kinds of hikes in this park: too easy and too hard. The valley floor is fairly flat, making for nice leisurely walks. But hiking trails toward the mountains rise quickly and steeply into high elevation. Below is a short list of my favorite hikes, from easiest to most difficult. Even though I call some of these hikes "moderate" you should know that they are just slightly more moderate than the easy trails, but very easy compared to the difficult hikes.
String Lake Loop
3.7 mi (5.6 km) easy loop around String Lake with 540 ft (160 m) of elevation gain that takes about 2 hours to complete. Because it's easy to reach and hike, this trail is very popular and the parking lot is always crowded. It is, however, a really cool trail super early in the morning.
Taggart Lake - Bradley Lake Loop
This is a 5.6 mile (9 km) loop hike with 890 ft (262 m) of elevation gain. Plan for about 3 hours. Taggart Lake and Bradley Lake are nice alpine lakes with spectacular views of the Teton Range behind each. Start with an easy walk through an aspen-covered moraine before the trail opens up to views of the Tetons behind Taggart Lake. Then continue along the lakeshore to a slightly more moderate hike through the forest to Bradley Lake.
Two Ocean Lake - Emma Matilda Lake Loop
Hikers hoping to view both Two Ocean and Emma Matilda Lakes can make a moderate 13.2 mile loop around them both. Starting from the Two Ocean Lake Trailhead, the trail leads hikers around the north shore of Two Ocean Lake. The trail then crests at Grand View Point, which offers panoramic views of both lakes and Jackson Hole. The trail then goes downhill to Emma Matilda Lake to complete the loop. In early to mid-summer, wildflowers populate the area, brightening up the landscape and making for stunning views. Don’t forget the bug spray! Due to the wet, marshy nature of the landscape, this is a popular area for mosquitos. 1,960 ft (600 m) of elevation gain and at least 7 hours of hiking.
Paintbrush Canyon - Cascasde Canyon Loop
This is my favorite hike for a number of reasons. First, I always see interesting wildlife in the canyons. Second, the views are spectacular. And third, you can shuttle a second car to String Lake and take a ferry across Jenny Lake to cut a few miles off the total distance. Without cutting corners, you're looking at a very strenuous 20 mile loop! The trails takes you up Paintbrush Canyon, over Paintbrush Divide to Lake Solitude, and down Cascade Canyon. 4,480 ft (1,365 m) elevation gain and at least 10 hours of hiking! Check trail conditions before attempting the loop - you do NOT want to cross the Paintbrush Divide in snow and ice!
Other things to do near Grand Teton National Park
There are SO MANY outdoor things to do in the vicinity of Grand Teton National Park. From mountain biking and rock climbing to rafting, fishing, mountaineering, wildlife viewing, jeep tours, skiing, and so much more. The Jackson, WY area will keep you entertained for weeks, if not months!
Guided outdoor tours
Tons of companies in Jackson offer the aforementioned and other adventure tours. They are all great. Here's a list of approved companies that operate inside Grand Teton National Park.
Scenic drives and wildlife viewing
Can one really get tired of the views here? I don't think so! It's the same view from everywhere and it's always equally as spectacular as the first time you see it. If you're staying in Jackson, my recommendation is to get up very early one morning and drive the Moose-Wilson Rd to Teton Park Rd at dawn. It's the best time of day to spot wildlife at the most scenic places of the park.
Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center
The grand expanse of the Teton Range rises above the visitor center near Moose Junction. Inside, interwoven themes of place, people, preservation, mountaineering and Native American Indians encourage visitors to contemplate the past, present and future of this place.
Today, two picturesque barns highlight Mormon Row. Settlers John and Thomas Alma (T.A.) Moulton build these barns on adjacent homesteads. After nearly 30 years of working the land, John replaced his log home and barn with a new carpenter-constructed, pink stucco frame house and impressive, two-story gambrel barn north of Antelope Flats Road. South of John's homestead, T.A. took over 30 years to build his gable-with-shed style barn. Photographers from around the world stop by the Moulton barns to capture this iconic historic structure with the Teton Range in the background.
Menor’s Ferry Historic District
Join a ranger for a guided walk through this district. Check program schedule at the visitor center. Don't forget to shop at the historic general store.
Camping in or around Grand Teton National Park
The main reasons to camp inside the park is proximity to hiking trails and superb views. There are a handful of campgrounds inside of Grand Teton National Park, but they are all very competitive and expensive! Apparenly price does not deter visitors to the park because reservations to these campgrounds sell out within minute, and you must have a reservation to stay here. This actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it because these campgrounds only open in summertime, usually from late May to early September. Don't try to camp here any other month unless you specifically prepare for winter camping.
Campgrounds inside Grand Teton National Park
Here's a list of campgrounds managed by the national park service within the park boundaries. I don't think it's necessary to list the campgrounds here and tell you my thoughts about them because they all have the same pros and cons. Campsites are nice and spacious, they all have fantastic views, and they are equipped with bear boxes. If you're willing to spend the nightly fee for a campsite, take what you can get before someone else beats you to it.
First come first serve camping inside Grand Teton National Park
As mentioned earlier, You must make a reservation to camp in any of the park campgrounds. Log into recreation.gov often to check for any cancellations and immediately snag the spot if anything becomes available. If you do not make a reservation, you can opt for a last-minute backcountry permit, but you must prepare to hike your gear into the wilderness for at least a mile. Sleeping in your car is NOT allowed anywhere in the park aside from a designated campsite.
Camping outside of Grand Teton National Park boundaries
Proximity to destinations in the park is a major drawback for staying outside of the Grand Teton National Park boundaries. But if you can't find a spot in the park, or if you don't want to pay the egrigious camping fee, this is your only option.
National Forest Campgrounds and Dispersed Camping
There is a lot of National Forest land surrounding Grand Teton National Park, and you could easily find beautiful campsites here. However, you will have to check road conditions diligently and have good navigation skills. Some roads are rarely maintained dirt paths that require high clearance. Much of the area will not have cell phone reception, so think about downloading maps for offline use before losing service.
The closest and most accessible road to look for a campsite is off Rockefeller Parkway, the road that connects Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Look for Grassy Lake Road, which has 14 designated campsites in eight areas along the road. They are free, first-come-first-served sites that are accessible when the road is open, usually June-September. These sites are primitive with no water but do include vault toilets and bear boxes.
The next best option is National Forest campgrounds or dispersed camping east of Moran Junction (east entrance to Grand Teton). Dispersed camping is a term used to describe free roadside camping. These are unofficial yet legal camping spots with no amenities whatsoever. Practice Leave-No-Trace principles and keep our public lands wild and clean. Good examples of National Forest campgrounds include Pacific Creek or Hatchet Campgrounds. Both are very small first-come first-serve campgrounds that have picnic tables and vault toilets. No water. Very reasonably priced.
The closer you try to stay near Jackson, WY, at the south entrance, the more popular campgrounds get. Curtis Canyon and Atherton Creek Campgrounds, for instance, are first-come first-serve National Forest campgrounds where you will be lucky to find a spot.
Private Campgrounds near Grand Teton National Park
All of your options are basically expensive RV parks that also have a few patches for tent camping. If you're traveling in a campervan and need electric hookups, this might be worth it for you. You have nice options in Jackson and east of Moran Junction. Keep in mind that even though the GPS address may say Jackson, these campgrounds are in the outskirts of town and will add a bit of driving distance to the park.
Grand Teton National Park is a year-round destination with breathtaking views of lakes and mountains. It's under snow in winter, so you won't see too many people in the park during this season, and even less people camping. But if you're going there in summer, prepare for crowds.