#findyourpark | GRAND TETON

Where to begin?? Grand Teton National Park is one of the most magnificent 310,000 acres in all of North America. If there were ever a “bucket list” National Park… this is it.

I first laid eyes on the Teton Range, for which the park is named, nearly 15 years ago. It was sincerely love at first sight. But even more than that, there is a feeling of wildness I have never experienced anywhere else. I’ve spent years exploring the Colorado and New Mexico section of the Rockies, but there’s something quite different when you enter a land where the ultimate spirits of the West still resides; the grizzly bear and wolf.

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I have literally thousands of images from this awe-inspiring park, but I’m going to show only new images from my most recent trip in February. You can view every season in the park in this blog’s archive search bar to the right… just type “Tetons”.

When To Go

So which season is the best to visit, you might be thinking? Well, each is unique and beautiful and they have their own benefits: winter is haunting and quiet. Now, yes, it’s freaking cold too. Like, you could die if you’re not prepared kind of cold. It can reach temps of -50 degrees F in this part of Wyoming, so be prepared with layer after layer. But you will never see such amazing sunsets and sunrises as you will in the winter. And the crowds are few and far between. It’s my second favorite time of year.

My first is fall…. swoon. Fall is absolutely magnificent. The summer crowds begin to dissipate, the animals get energized for mating season, the leaves catch fire with color, the air gets a biting chill and the first snowfall hits. It’s just amazing. And… the mosquitos are mostly gone. Which brings me to summer :)

Summer is beautiful. Warmer temps, animals abounding… but so are the mosquitos and crowds. Don’t get me wrong, summer is fantastic. I just tend toward avoiding crowds in my special places of mountain goodness.

Now spring is a bit tricky. Locals call it “the muddy season,” and for very good reason. After the massive amounts of snow melt, the ground is super muddy for at least 1-2 months. Usually May and June are like this. And if you’re wanting to get up the high country, there’s way too much snow still until July. But even this time of year is pretty… deep greens and blues abound and wildflowers begin to bloom. And the masses have not yet begun to descend on the area for the summer season.

Each season has it’s benefits and pitfalls, so carefully look at the pros and cons and choose the right time for your trip that fits your expectations.

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Where To Stay

Grand Teton National Park is right outside of the town of Jackson, Wyoming. So if camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of hotels, motels, hostels, and even dude ranches in the area at which to stay. If you’re a camper like me, you’ll be overjoyed to find that most of the park borders National Forest, so cheap and/ or free camping is everywhere. There are just a few developed campsites in the park, and to be honest, I’ve never stayed at any of them… because… honestly… if you’re camping, why would you want to be right next to other people AND have to pay too much ($22/ night) for it? I dunno… call me crazy. But if you like that sort of thing, here’s the info you need.

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How To Get There

Luckily, even though small, Jackson, Wyoming has a decent sized airport (JAC) with many flights coming in and out daily. It can be pricey though, depending on what time of year you’re flying and where you’re flying from. Salt Lake City, Utah (SLC) is probably the closest, cheapest international airport and is about a 4.5-5 hour drive. But you may save a ton of $ flying and driving from SLC, so check it out if your a budget traveler like me. Keep in mind though when renting a car, if you’re planning to travel here in anything but summer, you may want an SUV or even better, 4 wheel drive. The mud in the spring and snow in the winter and fall can be treacherous. It is not uncommon, even among locals, to get stuck in the ditch. Just be prepared. It’s even nice to have in the summer too.

SLC has a ton of Subarus for rent, which I would recommend for the price and abilities. AWD but decent gas mileage. Not too shabby.

If you’re driving the whole way, be prepared for immense beauty and abundant wildlife as you get within 250 miles on any side of the park. You may want to spend some time working your way to GTNP to see all of the beauty the surrounding land has to offer. Be very careful and alert if driving in the area at night. It is common to see (very large) animals crossing roadways, and it could ruin your day (or life) to hit one.

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What To Do

Oh my, I could go on and on here, but I’ll try to keep it brief…

First thing’s first; bordering to the North of Grand Teton Park is of course America’s first and most famous National Park, Yellowstone. So you’re going to want to devote a few days to this amazing landscape. But we’re not here to talk Yellowstone just yet… that’s for another post.

Hiking, backpacking, climbing, fishing, rafting, skiing, photography, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, camping, exploring, and so much more are all fantastic activities to see/ do in this park. But bring your A game. This park is rugged and wild.

Wildlife

Since wolves, mountain lion, and grizzlies have made a comeback, there is more to think about when you’re out there than just what’s for lunch. The chances of any kind of attack are so slim, however, for your safety and the animals, there are a few things you’ll want to know. Check out the GTNP website here for great safety tips.

It is pretty common to see bison, elk, deer, moose, coyote, eagle, hawk, fox, and more. Then, if you’re lucky, you may see wolf, bear (black and grizzly), mountain lion, mountain goat, big horn sheep, etc. Keep a very safe distance with all of these animals… they are wild. And as scary as bears, lions, and wolves sound, more people are killed by bison every year! Please treat the animals with respect.

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And if you’re out hiking or backpacking, please respect this beautiful park and practice Leave No Trace Ethics. If you are not familiar, please click the link and read more about it… but the gist is, leave a place as good or better than you found it. It’s a rule that I wholeheartedly use and endorse.

But don’t worry, LNT doesn’t apply to making snow angels :)

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And that brings me to my next important “to do”… have fun and make memories! This place is one of the most special places in the world, much less the U.S. It is meant to be cherished, respected, AND enjoyed. So please, go with your family and friends, teach them about how to protect it, and then make some killer memories in Grand Teton National Park.

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What to See

Just like most, if not all, of our Parks, there are several very famous spots, and for good reason. These places are amazingly gorgeous and oh so special.

Since like the rest of my #FindYourPark posts, this is simply an introduction, and by no means a comprehensive guide, I will only mention a few of my favorite spots. I’ll leave the rest up to you… And if you’re really interested in a guided experience, and you’d like to see all of my favorite secret spots, come with me this summer or fall!

The main ones, that are easy to get to and I have to visit every single time I’m there are; Snake River Overlook, Oxbow Bend, Schwabachers Landing, String Lake, Jackson Lake Dam, Colter Bay, plus a few others. Each are accessible by car or a very short hike, and most likely you won’t be the only person there. But these places are popular for a reason, so they make my list of ‘must see’.

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If you’ve read my Big Bend post, this part may sound a little like deja vu… The River Road is a most exciting (but very dangerous) 4×4 road that gives you access to the most remote, drivable areas of the park. Also some of my favorite views. Be warned however, that this is a remote, oft void of any human activity, 4 wheel drive/ high clearance vehicle road. Many people have gotten themselves stuck out here. It is not nearly as remote as the road of the same name in Big Bend, but be careful none-the-less. FYI, you are also NOT supposed to camp out there.

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In the winter, there is only one place to camp, and that’s at Colter Bay. Trust me when I tell you, if you don’t have the right gear (and even sometimes when you do) it can be pretty miserable to camp in the winter here.

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It is hard to sum up this park. The Tetons are supremely majestic. Too often, people see GTNP on their way to of from Yellowstone, but in my opinion, it is in the top 5 best National Parks in the U.S. And my personal favorite, except maybe for Big Bend.

This park offers the sights, the wildlife, and the wildness that many Parks in other places just lack. It is this western wildness that makes it so special to me. You may feel this too when you visit. And it is something that very few places in the Lower 48 possess anymore. So please join with me in enjoying, but also conserving and respecting this magnificent place!

— andrew


Ellen and I are hitting the road full-time in June! Help support our journey by gifting yourself {or a loved ARS_RMNP_141023_1606one} one (or ten) of my National Park prints for only $59. THURSDAY, APRIL 14 from 6-10PM CST ONLY! The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure, AND I’ll be donating 10% of the profits to the National Park Foundation! Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our beautiful Parks for generations to come! But be quick, these prints are limited and normally $250, so they may go fast… LEARN MORE HERE >>


 
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