When I first visited Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, I did so as an afterthought. It was my big cross-country summer road trip, and I couldn’t wait to spend three days in Yellowstone. Visiting Grand Teton was one of those “we might as well go, since it’s so close” kind of decisions.
As a result, I only spent half a day in Grand Teton and came away underwhelmed and unimpressed. That’s a shame, because Teton has some of the grandest views anywhere within the national parks system, especially at Jenny Lake.
Grand Teton is located in western Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone. The parks are so close they’re almost connected, so it makes sense to visit both. While Yellowstone is known for its plentiful wildlife, bustling campgrounds, bubbling mud pits and Old Faithful geyser, Teton is more about the scenery, like the handful of approximately 13,000-foot peaks.
After three days in Yellowstone, where I saw bears and wolves for the first time ever and had one of the most spectacular national parks visits of my life, it would’ve been hard for Teton to match that.
In retrospect, though, Teton’s peaks were some of the most impressive I have ever seen, especially when viewed across a lake, their reflection shimmering in the water.
In the years since that visit, I’ve watched documentaries and read photography books that show just how beautiful Grand Teton National Park really is. So if you visit, make sure to give it a real chance.
Visiting Grand Teton and Hiking Jenny Lake
My short stay at Grand Teton consisted mostly of a hike around Jenny Lake, one of the most popular hiking spots in the park. I packed a lunch and had a solo afternoon picnic at the lake.
The trail crossed over several streams along the way, which I would have appreciated under normal circumstances, had I not still been on a Yellowstone hangover.
Since moose were the one big wildlife sighting I failed to have in Yellowstone, I had high hopes that Grand Teton would come through, but trips to a couple of the park’s typical moose hotspots resulted in no sightings.
I didn’t see anything bigger than a squirrel, which wasn’t surprising since there were dozens of other hikers on the same path. Busy trails with lots of humans usually means no wildlife.
Jenny Lake is one of the most popular parts of Grand Teton National Park. The NPS has a page dedicated to the lake that will help you plan your visit. It’s a great place to eat and hang out, surrounded by all of the nature. All of it!
Native American culture is one of my favorite subjects, and Teton scored points for its display at the Colter Bay Visitor Center. Exhibits included beads, artwork, pottery, and footwear of the local tribes that inhabited the region.
Grand Teton is located just north of the popular ski town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Check out this list of things to do in Jackson Hole in case you’d like to stop there before your park visit.
So remember: If you’re heading to Wyoming for some national park action, visit Grand Teton with an open mind and a desire to fully experience the park. It’s not a lesser cousin of Yellowstone – it’s more of a hidden gem!