One Day in Grand Teton National Park: The Ideal Itinerary

grand teton peak

So you have only one day in Grand Teton National Park. Where should you go to see the park’s highlights in such a short time?

Though a single day isn’t enough to see everything this famous Wyoming park has to offer, you can see many of its best attractions, from Jenny Lake to Signal Mountain to Mormon Row.

This guide will give you the scoop on the can’t-miss hikes, viewpoints, and historic places of interest. Read on to learn how to best plan an itinerary for one day in Grand Teton!

How to Plan One Day in Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming is known for its wildlife, majestic mountain peaks, and large scenic lakes. It sits just south of Yellowstone.

Grand Teton doesn’t have quite as much wildlife as Yellowstone, but it still has lots of bears (including the most famous grizzly in the world!), moose, bison, coyotes, elk, pronghorn, marmots, golden eagles, and more.

In a perfect world, you’d have a minimum of two full days to explore Grand Teton. But many Yellowstone visitors just toss in a day at Grand Teton as an afterthought. 

If that’s your situation, no worries. While Teton does have some incredible sights, you can see the main highlights in a single day.

This itinerary assumes that you’re spending the previous night in Jackson, Wyoming, the ski town just to the south of the park. If you’re coming into Grand Teton from the north, this itinerary still works — just reverse the schedule and do everything in opposite order.

grand teton stream jenny lake

Single-Day Grand Teton Itinerary: Hour by Hour

We’re going through this hour-by-hour. Feel free to make adjustments based on your own personal interests. If you’re not a hiker, skip the trails and spend more time at the scenic viewpoints.

This itinerary starts very early! During the summer, sunrise in Grand Teton is around 6 am, and sunset isn’t until 9 pm. That leaves a whopping 15 hours of daylight to explore the park.

I suggest taking advantage of all that time. If you’re only going to spend one day in Grand Teton National Park in your lifetime, why not make the most of it?

For any hikes, make sure to bring bear spray, and know how to use it! Bear sightings are common throughout the park, including on popular trails. 

Also, note that the elevation in Grand Teton is quite high. The tallest mountain peaks reach 13,000 feet, and some of the short hiking trails are above 7,000 feet in elevation. Drink plenty of water and take your time, in order to avoid getting light-headed or experiencing elevation sickness.

tetonstreampic

7 am: Mormon Row Historic District

In the 1890s, Mormons from Salt Lake City branched out to find new places to settle. One place was a section of what is now Grand Teton, near the Gros Ventre River.

The settlements were abandoned decades ago, but some of the buildings remain, as part of the Mormon Row Historic District.

Mormon Row is a cool place to view sunrise and the early-morning light, as the mountain peaks look impressive behind the historic Moulton Barns. Be sure to read the informational boards to learn more about this interesting piece of history.

Coyotes, bison, and pronghorn frequent this area, so drive slowly and scan the fields in this region.

Another awesome place to view sunrise is Schwabacher Landing, located just a bit further north from Mormon Row. You should have time to see both spots.

8 am: Phelps Lake Overlook Trail

Phelps Lake is one of the first big lakes in the southern part of the park. Multiple trails lead to the lake itself, but if you’re short on time, do the Phelps Lake Overlook Trail.

This trail (one mile each way) goes to a viewpoint above the lake, where you can look down at the water.

Black bears are very frequently seen on this trail, so have your bear spray handy and talk loudly as you walk. Moose are often spotted as well.

10 am: Jenny Lake Visitor Center and Trailhead

After Phelps Lake, drive north on Teton Park Road, the main artery in the park. You’ll mostly be on this road for the rest of the day.

Jenny Lake is one of the must-see spots in Grand Teton. Pop into the visitor center and chat with rangers if you have any questions about the park. 

You can leave your vehicle in the trailhead parking lot, and proceed to the shuttle pickup point. We’re about to head out on the water!

10:30 am: Jenny Lake Shuttle

Many of the park’s best hikes begin on the other side of Jenny Lake. You can either hike two miles along the shore to get there, or hop on the Jenny Lake shuttle boat, which takes 12 minutes to ferry visitors to the other side.

The cost is $12 one way, or $20 for the roundtrip, and shuttles leave every 15 minutes. No reservations are taken — just show up and get in line.

I like the shuttle because seeing the park from the water provides another unique vantage point. 

grand teton reflection jenny lake hike
Look at these Grand Teton views!

11 am: Hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point

Once across the lake, you’ll be right at the start of the short hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. These are two of the most popular spots in Grand Teton, and with good reason.

One hundred feet high, Hidden Falls is a cascading waterfall that makes for some of the coolest photos in the area. 

Another half-mile up the hill from Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point provides some of the best views of Jenny Lake and the rest of the park.

The trail to Inspiration Point is short, but steep. Anyone in average physical condition can do it if they take their time.

Enjoy (but don’t feed) the golden-mantled ground squirrels that will approach you here. Their striped bodies resemble chipmunks. 

12 pm: Partial Hike into Cascade Canyon

Many hikers consider the Cascade Canyon Trail the best hike in the entire park. It’s an out-and-back trail featuring about 1100 feet of elevation gain. 

Starting from Inspiration Point, the moderately difficult trail to Cascade Canyon is about 7.5 miles round trip and takes close to 3.5 hours to complete.

The trail passes through a canyon between mountain peaks, so the scenery is stunning, with views of the Teton range in a lush valley full of wildlife. You’ll be surrounded by all of the nature. All of it!

Caution: Snow can linger on this trail well into July, especially near the end. So you may not be able to complete the entire trail. Be prepared to turn around if necessary. 

I suggest bringing lunch with you and eating it while in Cascade Canyon. When you’re ready, return to Jenny Lake and take the shuttle back across. 

4 pm: Drive Signal Mountain Road

Here’s another fun viewpoint. Signal Mountain ascends to 7727 feet in elevation. You can hike up there from the park road below… or you can just drive to the top!

Signal Mountain has a paved road that goes to the top of the hill. From there, you scan the horizon in every direction for some of the park’s best views.

5 pm: Oxbow Bend

As evening approaches, it’s time to start searching for wildlife. Oxbow Bend is a great place to look for animals of all kinds.

The water here is home to lots of large fish, which in turn feed eagles, ospreys, pelicans, and otters. Moose and beavers are frequently seen in the water. 

Elk enjoy the aspen groves nearby. Hang out for a bit, because you never know what you might see.

5:30 pm: Willow Flats Overlook

Willow Flats Overlook is a pullout just south of Jackson Lake Lodge. You can peer way out into the field to scan for wildlife. Many visitors have moose sightings at this spot.

teton peaks

6 pm: Pilgrim Creek Road

The most famous grizzly bear in the world is known as Grizzly 399, and she’s lived in Grand Teton for 28 years. She’s still raising cubs to this day. 

Bear-watchers come to catch a glimpse of her, whiel keeping their distance to avoid bothering her.

Grizzly 399 and her latest cub are frequently spotted in the Pilgrim Creek and Colter Bay area. If you haven’t seen any bears yet today, take the short drive down the gravel Pilgrim Creek Road, which only goes a couple of miles. Maybe you’ll get lucky and have a grizzly sighting!

6:30 pm: Colter Bay Village

Spend the last few hours of your day in Colter Bay Village, which has a restaurant, campground, gas station, lodge, and convenience store.

Colter Bay is right on the shore of Jackson Lake, the biggest lake in the park. 

Here, you have many options. If the vendor is still open, rent a kayak or canoe and spend a couple hours enjoying the lake.

Grab dinner at the Ranch House restaurant, open from 5:30 to 9 pm (no reservations required.)

native american footwear
Native American art at the Colter Bay Visitor Center.

Finally, walk a portion of the path to Hermitage Point, a peninsula that juts out into Jackson Lake. The full hike is 9 miles, but you don’t have to go all the way to the end. Walking a mile or two can be a chill way to spend the evening.

Although this part of the park is busy with tourists, it’s still heavy grizzly territory, and there is a very good chance you may see one while hiking here. Once again, follow best practices for hiking in bear country.

If you’re spending the night here in the lodge at Colter Bay Village, you’ll have more time to explore the area before settling in for the night. 

If you’re driving up to Yellowstone National Park for the night, then leave Colter Bay and proceed north, out of Grand Teton. Stop at all the pullouts, such as the Jackson Lake Overlook. Your single day in Grand Teton is complete!

Other Park Highlights to Consider

Want some more suggestions? Here are a few more spots you may want to squeeze into your day.

String Lake: Right next to Jenny Lake, String Lake has its own hiking trail, and smaller crowds than Jenny Lake.

Snake River Overlook: The Snake River Overlook is another great spot for elk, bison, bald eagles, and moose.

Surprise Lake and Amphitheater Lake Hike: Most hikes in Grand Teton don’t actually go up the mountains, but this one does. If you’re up for it, drive to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, and enjoy the 10-mile, 3000-foot elevation gain trek to two scenic alpine lakes. The trail is often snow-covered until July.

Do you have any other suggestions for a one day in Grand Teton National Park itinerary?