Grand Teton National Park: 7 Best Things To Do, Itinerary & Photography

by Mark & Kristen Morgan
Incredibly beautiful mountain reflection in Jenny Lake between pine trees at Grand Teton National Park best things to do itinerary and photography locations

Grand Teton National Park is staggeringly picturesque and often draws comparisons to a typical Alpine landscape: Jagged snow capped mountains bursting out of gorgeous valleys and surrounded by pristine glacial lakes.

The Tetons are a spectacular slice of Swiss Alps beauty in Wyoming, USA.

Despite welcoming over 3 million visitors each year, Grand Teton offers relative solitude in stark contrast to the ‘theme park’ feel at nearby Yellowstone. In fact, many people prefer the laid back vibe in Teton to the chaos at Yellowstone.

For us, both parks are unmissable.

We couldn’t quite believe the Polar opposite visitor experience at each park, considering it’s only a 1 hour drive between the two. If you’re planning to visit both, read our ultimate guide to Yellowstone next – it includes a detailed 4 day itinerary.

Grand Teton is a photographers National Park. You can expect dramatic and extremely photogenic scenery at every turn. Teton has a North-South topography and all of the best things to do are on its Eastern side – which means sunrise is the most impressive time of day to be in the park.

But what should you prioritize? And how many days do you need to plan for your Yellowstone and Grand Teton itinerary?

We’re going to show you the 7 best things to do at Grand Teton National Park and condense them into 2 relaxing days filled with unique photography opportunities.

This guide will make planning a vacation to Grand Teton is a piece of cake.

Let’s dive in!

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Address: 103 Headquarters Loop, Moose, WY 83012
Website: nps.gov/grte/
Phone: (307) 739-3300

Park Hours: All day, every day
Entrance Fee: US$ 35 Vehicle (free with America the Beautiful Pass)

Backcountry camping: Permitted, you will need a backcountry permit
Accommodation: Hotels, Lodges, Cabins and Campgrounds

Annual Visitors: 3.4 million
Peak Season: July-August

Size: 310,000 acres

Where is Grand Teton National Park?

Grand Teton mountain range from a lookout on loop 2 day road road trip itinerary

Grand Teton National Park is located 1 hour drive South of Yellowstone in the ragged wilderness of Northwest Wyoming, close to the border with Idaho. It is a difficult place to access if driving your own vehicle due to its remote location.

Many people choose to fly into a nearby regional airport and hire a car to visit both Teton and Yellowstone in one itinerary. Personally, we drove West from Mount Rushmore and South Dakota to Yellowstone as part of our incredible 3 month Western US road trip.

The major benefit to visiting Grand Teton is having Jackson – otherwise known as Jackson Hole – right on your doorstep as the perfect place to set up base for the duration of your trip.

Jackson is a fantastic town in which you’ll find plenty of places to eat, sleep and shop.

Let’s take a look at driving distances from nearby cities to reach Grand Teton National Park:

  • Jackson WY – 12 miles (16m)
  • Idaho Falls ID – 102 miles (2h 05m)
  • Bozeman MT – 246 miles (4h 45m)
  • Salt Lake City UT – 290 miles (4h 55m)
  • Denver CO – 480 miles (7h 30m)

A more likely scenario for most visitors to the Tetons is to fly in and hire a car.

Our best travel recommendations for value and flexibility are Skyscanner for booking flights and Rental Cars for hiring a vehicle for your visit.

Let’s look at your airport options:

  • Jackson Hole, WY – In the park!
  • Idaho Falls, ID – 104 (2h 05m)
  • Salt Lake City, UT – 292 (4h 50m)

Jackson Hole airport (JAC) is the only airport inside a National Park in the US. It is very small but because it’s the Tetons, more major airports than you imagine fly directly into JAC.

This flight schedule shows which airports fly inbound to JAC – be careful to read which days of the week flights occur.

Grand Teton National Park Map

The interactive map of Grand Teton National Park displays our list of best things to do, where to visit on day 1 and day 2, plus recommended hotel locations.

Click around the map to orientate yourself with the park!

The 7 Best Things to do in Grand Teton National Park

Admittedly, when planning our own visit to Wyoming, Yellowstone took precedence for us and we saw Teton as a bonus. However, Grand Teton turned out to be one of our favorite US National Parks.

Why?

Because we were blown away by endless photography opportunities.

Grand Teton National Park is a place to take things slowly and appreciate nature. This list of the 7 best things to do is aimed at the general traveler who enjoys a bit of everything.

1. Explore Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake edge with logs reflecting underneath green water and mountains

Consider Jenny Lake as the heartbeat of Grand Teton National Park. It is the central and focal point of all things inside Teton NP, a relentless gravitational force pulling visitors to its shores.

To the South, you will find Jenny Lake visitor center, Jenny Lake campground, motor boat / kayak rental and a huge parking lot. The lot fills early in peak season, so bear that in mind if visiting in June, July or August.

You will also find Jenny Lake shuttle – which is like a scenic tour / taxi hybrid – to access the base of Cascade Mountains on the far side of Jenny Lake. Roundtrip tickets are US$18 or singles for US$10.

If you’re feeling fit and energetic, you can walk around Jenny Lake trail – a 7.6 mile full loop hike. Access to the popular hiking trails are on the opposite side of Jenny Lake (West), where the shuttle drops off and picks up.

One of the best things to do at Jenny Lake is head down the one-way scenic road to Jenny Lake Overlook (also known as Cascade Canyon overlook) for picture perfect views. This is the place to get your camera out!

Pro-tip: To the North of Jenny Lake, don’t miss String Lake – a much smaller and shallower lake where you can see logs and debris through crystal clear waters. CPL filters are ideal for your camera here.

2. Hike to Inspiration Point via Hidden Falls

Mark jumping on a log in a clear lake in Wyoming
Kristen walking across a log in a lake in Wyoming

The most popular trail at Grand Teton National Park is Inspiration Point. Your prize will be a stunning view looking back over Jenny Lake and Jackson valley.

To reach Cascade Canyon trailhead, you can either cross Jenny Lake on the ferry service to West dock or walk 2.4 miles around Jenny Lake trail. The same applies on your return leg. See how much you have left in the tank!

Once you reach Cascade Canyon trail, hike through gorgeous hillside forest and follow signs to stay on the trail. Watch for bears up here, particularly in Spring. Do not miss the left turn for a very short offshoot leading to Hidden Falls.

Hidden Falls cascades 100 feet over multiple terraces and is definitely worth the extra few minutes walking. Continue back to the trail and hike carefully along some fairly unnerving rock formations for another mile to reach inspiration point.

Pro-tip: Morning light from the East will do photographers no favors for shooting long exposures. Wait until afternoon when the sun disappears behind mountains to the Southwest.

3. Drive Up Signal Mountain

Mark and Kristen where are those morgans at the top of signal mountain in grand teton national park wyoming

Signal mountain summit provides sweeping vistas of the Teton range and some of the best views in the entire park. All you have to do is drive 5 miles to the top!

Be aware that the road gains 1,000 feet in elevation and features a series of narrow lane switchbacks. Also, RV’s and trailers are prohibited, so you can only go up in a car or on a bike.

Entrance to Signal mountain scenic highway is off Teton Park Road between Jackson Lake Dam and Jenny Lake. The road is closed in Winter so check ahead if you’re visiting in late Fall or early Spring to see if it is open.

Panoramic views from the summit are more than worth the 20 minute drive up. You can see wildflowers blooming in late Spring and Summer across miles and miles of valleys.

Pro-tip: The best place to be is not the summit. Instead it is a viewpoint close to the summit – Jackson Lake Overlook – and offers incredible Teton mountain photography compositions.

4. Take the Iconic ‘Mountains Through Church Window’ Photograph

Iconic photograph through window chapel of transfiguration grand teton national park best things to do

You can’t visit Grand Teton National Park without getting the iconic (and epic!) photograph of Teton range through the Chapel of the Transfiguration window.

Right next to Moose entrance (South), take the turn to Chapel of the Transfiguration, park up and just look at the views – wow!

Explore the historic log cabin grounds, head inside and walk to the back. A window perfectly frames the dramatic mountains for a unique and unforgettable photograph.

Pro-tip: Your images won’t be impacted by the Sun at any time of day because the church faces Northwest.

5. Don’t Miss the 2 Most Photographed Barns in the US at Mormon Row

John Moulton barn mormon row photography grand teton national park best things to do

Grand Teton National Park is a photographers playground and Mormon Row is like the biggest and best slide in the playground.

Two barns belonging to John Moulton and T.A. Moulton built between 1890’s and 1920’s are arguably the most photogenic barns in the US. The fact photographers from around the world visit the Tetons for these barns would back that argument up substantially.

The barns are built on adjacent homesteads, around a 5 minute walk from one another. Each is a solitary structure surrounded entirely by a serene and flat valley leading as far as the eye can see toward the towering Teton range.

Sunrise is the most sought after time to visit because the Teton mountain summits illuminate pink directly behind the barn entrances. However, sunset is also popular for starbursts behind the barns.

Even if you’re not madly passionate about photography, the barns must be visited and ideally at either sunrise or sunset.

Expect to see professional photographers lining the ditches, standing behind trees and kneeling among brush in fields as the first rays of sunlight kiss the old wooden structures.

Pro-tip: If you arrive early enough at the right time of year, you will catch the Moon setting behind Teton range before sunrise.

6. Find Snow Capped Mountains Reflecting in the Snake River at Schwabacher Landing

Schwabacher Landing stunning photography location for sunrise at Grand Teton national park inwyoming mountains and trees reflecting

Schwabacher Landing is the other place you simply can’t miss at sunrise in the Tetons.

If you only have one morning – you should plan to be at both Mormon Row and Schwabacher Landing. Thankfully, you can drive between them in around 10 minutes.

As far as mesmerizing views go, this has to be up there with some of the best in America. Grand Teton mountains and deep green pine trees reflecting perfectly in a still deep blue river makes for unforgettable photographs. 

Wildlife spotting opportunities around this area are common, so if you arrive at sunrise when animals are more active, you stand a good chance of seeing a Moose.

We visited in October on a freezing cold morning (below zero), got some amazing photos, saw a Moose and even an Otter playing on ice in the Snake river. There wasn’t a single other person in sight.

However, if you visit in peak season, expect a dozen or so people to be here before the sun rises. Later in the day you have less chance seeing animals, the water won’t be as still and the sun casts shadows.

Pro-tip: Walk 1-2 miles along the river bank to find your preferred location depending on river bends, volume of water and reflections.

7. Do the Same at Oxbow Bend

Oxbow bend reflection photography in the tetons

Oxbow Bend is further around the loop (anti-clockwise direction) so it’s unlikely you can make all three at sunrise. If you time it right and with a bit of luck you will have a calm river in front of you and mountains reflecting idyllically.

We arrived mid morning and couldn’t get a perfectly still water reflection shot due to the slightest of breezes and ducks paddling.

You will find a maze made up of dirt paths around here to walk amongst, find different types of view over the mountains and walk along the gravelly shores of the Snake river.

Pro-tip: This is a fantastic place for sunset (there aren’t many at Tetons) because the sun will reflect in Oxbow Bend as it falls low in the sky.

Photography at Grand Teton National Park

Nature and landscape photography are awesome at Grand Teton, no matter which season you visit.

The best part is that you can access all of the most amazing photography locations easily and in a short time frame, unlike Yellowstone or Yosemite for example.

Often a hike can be required to reach an epic overlook – but at the Tetons, anyone and everyone can roll out of bed, grab a coffee and drive right to each location. The key is getting up early.

Here are the places avid landscape and nature photographers simply can’t miss at Grand Teton National Park (in our preferred order):

Photography gear: Take a look through our detailed photography gift guide, which covers all the equipment we use and recommend, plus everything on our photography wishlist.

Joint 1st – Mormon Row

TA Moulton barn mormon row photography best things to do in grand teton national park and itinerary

Sunrise is iconic but sunset is also stunning. Be creative to find your preferred angle but remember there will be other professionals around so don’t forget etiquette!

Both barns are equally as attractive but offer slightly different compositions. It is difficult to choose a favorite but if we were forced we’d say T.A. Moulton just edges it.

Joint 1st – Schwabacher Landing

Moose at schwabacher landing in grand teton national park wildlife photography

This place is awesome and we will spend much more time here next time we visit the Tetons. Arrive early to beat the crowds and take a variety of lenses if you have them available.

You could be shooting a beautiful wide reflection shot on the river and see a Moose – quickly but quietly and carefully switch to a telephoto lens. Use Peak Design’s capture clip and lens kit for maximum efficiency.

3rd – Jenny Lake

Grand Teton mountains reflection in jenny lake stunning scene

Inspiration point is a great view but the best photo location around Jenny Lake is at Cascade Mountain overlook on the one way road.

Get a reflection on Jenny Lake between the pine trees for the ultimate composition. Don’t forget about String Lake, which also offers fantastic photography opportunities.

4th – Snake River Overlook

Snake river overlook one of best photography locations inside grand teton national park

Snake River overlook is the emblematic viewpoint Ansel Adams gave to the world when shooting his Southwest National Parks series in the 1940’s.

It looked different back then – arguably more beautiful – but it is still certainly a worthwhile stop off on the side of the main loop road. Even if just to imagine standing in the same spot 80 years ago with a vintage film camera!

5th – Chapel of the Transfiguration

church of the transfiguration wooden boardwalk leading to church and surrounding mountains in grand teton national park wyoming

Church with a view!

Be sure to take a photograph of the boardwalk with chapel and mountains backdrop before you head inside for the window image. Both are unique and can’t be missed.

6th – Oxbow Bend

Photography at oxbow bend in grand teton national park one of best things to do

Water on the bend accounts for foreground and middle ground at Oxbow (Schwabacher only foreground is water) so you have more room for composing a reflection.

A good lens here would be a 24-70 or 24-105 so you can use compression for a closer-looking mountain.

7th – Signal Mountain

Awesome mountain and lake views from signal mountain summit at grand teton national park in wyoming

Stunning elevated views of Teton range and Jackson Lake. Wide angle and / or telephoto lenses work best depending on your preference here.

You could even try a series of vertical images and stitch them for a 180 degree pano?!

Are you planning your Grand Teton itinerary entirely around photography? This excellent and in depth guide to Grand Teton photography will help you prepare for your visit.

Best Time to Visit Grand Teton National Park

Best time to visit grand teton national park spring and fall when weather is perfect and fewer crowds sunburst over ta moulton barn

The Tetons are spectacular year round but there are some things you should know when deciding on which season to visit:

Winter – Teton range is magnificent and white over but the main loop road to Jenny Lake closes. Skiing is popular around Jackson and Teton village but for the average sightseeing tourist, leave it for another time of year!

Spring – Highest animal activity, comfortable temperatures for hiking but cold morning and night and wildflowers in bloom. Rivers, waterfalls and lakes full.

Summer – Peak season, packed full of cars, buses and people. Best sunrise / sunset photography temperatures, hot in middle of day, campgrounds fill quickly and hotels charge more. All facilities and boating open.

Fall – Amazing colors but cold mornings and nights. Wildlife abundant as preparing for Winter and fewer crowds means arguably best season.

US Road Trips: Where will your next road trip take you? Check our ultimate road trip guides to Utah and California Pacific Coast Highway!

Where To Stay Near Grand Teton National Park

Kristen stood underneath an arch made of antlers in Jackson Hole

The best place for you to stay will depend on the time of year you visit and your travel itinerary. Jackson is the ideal base for exploring Grand Teton National Park if you plan to spend at least 2 days in the park.

Although it’s a 15 minute drive away, Jackson offers hotels suited to all budgets and plenty of great restaurants.

If your budget stretches higher or you’re visiting in Winter for skiing, the best place for you to look is Teton Village ski resort. Hotels are significantly more expensive than Jackson but you get the idyllic mountain resort in return.

However, if you plan to visit Teton for a full day and sleep somewhere North of the park, so you can get an early start to Yellowstone the next morning, there is one place for you to consider.

After researching all hotels in the area, here’s a list of best value vs guest ratings for you to book your stay.

Jackson Lake Lodge (Between Teton & Yellowstone)

Situated perfectly on the banks of Jackson Lake to the North of Grand Teton loop road is Jackson Lake lodge. Stellar views over the Teton range, 3 restaurants and each room is a detached cottage with parking. Location rating 9.2.

Check price below.

The Alpenhof or Teton Mountain Lodge – Teton Village

Both excellent options at similar price ranges offering a European ski resort feel, swimming pools, dining options and more.

Check prices for both top rated hotels in Teton Village below.

Wyoming Inn or The Lexington – Jackson (South of Teton NP)

Jackson is home to dozens of hotel options but none are rated as highly as the 2 here within an affordable budget range. Both are very centrally located in town with easy access to shops and restaurants.

Check prices below.

Grand Teton National Park 2 Day Itinerary

Beautiful starburst at sunset over hills and mountains in Fall

Every traveler we’ve met and spoken to about Grand Teton has said 2 things:

1 – They loved it and can’t wait to go back again.

2 – They regret only spending 1 day at the park.

If you can spare a second day we strongly recommend you do allow 2 days for the Tetons.

Almost all first time visitors will combine Yellowstone with Grand Teton, so there’s always a half day missing from either a morning or afternoon depending on if you’re coming from or going to Yellowstone.

For most efficiency, we will begin this example 2 day itinerary at Jackson, WY and leave in the afternoon of Day 2 to leave enough time for the evening at Yellowstone.

Day 1 – Grand Teton Sunrise & Photography

  • Get an early start in Jackson, plan to arrive at Mormon Row right at civil twilight – check sunrise times here.
  • Spend the first 30 minutes to 1 hour photographing both John Moulton and T.A. Moulton barns at first light.
  • Drive 10 minutes to Schwabacher Landing and hike a short way to find some amazing nature scenery.
  • Be on the lookout for wildlife and hopefully you’ll spot a Moose.
  • Drive to Snake River overlook and take in the scenery.
  • Continue round to Oxbow Bend where you can get more reflections and walk along the pebbled beach.
  • Turn down Teton Park road and drive over the Dam to Signal Mountain road.
  • Summit to the overlook and spend some time admiring the views.
  • Stop at all the pullovers like Mountain View and Cathedral Group.
  • Turn down Jenny Lake road and stop at String Lake, then Cascade Mountain overlook.
  • Continue South to Chapel of the Transfiguration and grab that iconic photograph.
  • Circle back to Mormon Row for sunset.
  • Spend the evening in Jackson, eat at Hand Fire Pizza.

Day 2 – Grand Teton Hikes & Jenny Lake

  • Another early start – sunrise is the most sought after time of day at Grand Teton National Park.
  • Start at whichever place you preferred from Day 1 between Mormon Row and Schwabacher Landing.
  • This time head up Teton Park road the opposite way (clockwise today) and park at Jenny Lake visitor center.
  • Take the shuttle or hike around Jenny Lake to Inspiration point trailhead.
  • Hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point before returning to Jenny Lake.
  • If you have time, hire a kayak or take more photographs around the lake area, including String Lake.
  • Mid afternoon begin your drive North to Yellowstone National Park – read our Yellowstone Itinerary here.

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Grand Teton National Park 2 Day Itinerary, 7 Best things to do and photography locations
Best things to do, itinerary and photography locations at grand teton national park wyoming
Grand Teton Unforgettable 2 Day Itinerary

We hope this helped you plan your visit to Grand Teton National Park!

Have you been to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park? Which is your favorite?

Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help planning your visit. Don’t forget to look through our guides to plan your National Park itineraries at Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Badlands, Arches & Canyonlands, Zion & Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef!

-Happy Travels-

Valuable Resources For Your Next Trip

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  • Travel Insurance: Never leave home without insurance, it’s not worth the risk. World Nomads is our preferred travel insurance provider | World Nomads
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  • Packing & Gear: Need help packing for your next trip? Don’t leave home with these essential items | Travel Packing List
  • Planning a Trip: Planning a trip can be daunting, take the stress out of planning by breaking things down into manageable steps | Plan a Trip
  • Wellness: It is more important than ever to take care of your mind, body and soul when traveling short or long term | Travel Wellness

Leave a Comment

2 comments

Graham Bedford November 19, 2020 - 2:40 pm

Grand Teton National park looks great the scenery looks like you could film lord of the rings there. Fantastic photography once again you’ve really done it justice.

Reply
Mark & Kristen Morgan November 20, 2020 - 7:24 am

Thanks Graham! Teton is amazingly photogenic, we can’t wait to go back and spend more time at the park. Hope you are able to visit one day!

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