Grand Teton National Park is 484 square miles rich in extraordinary wildlife, pristine lakes, hiking trails, a multi-use pathway system, the Snake River, and, oh yes, serenity. And did we mention the majestic, awe-inspiring Teton Range that runs the length of the 93-year-old park?
The world-famous Tetons are “what mountains are supposed to look like,” Theodore Roosevelt once remarked of the spectacular range. And it's actually a young mountain range—a spry 10 million years old. It was formed when multiple earthquakes along the Teton fault line pushed the peaks upward, in what is known as a “fault block.” Huge glaciers then sculpted the range into the jaw-dropping, rugged rock spines you see today.
Equal parts "see" and "do," a day spent adventuring in Grand Teton National Park is the stuff that memories —and dreams—are made of.
Traveler Tip: Download the premier audio tour app for the park from gaperguide.com. This amazing app will tell you everything you need to know about the park in real time as you drive. Don’t miss a thing! Kudos to Gaper Guide owner Will Ferguson for curating the following itinerary.
Ready, Set, Go!
Starting in the Town of Jackson, travel north on Hwy. 89/191 toward Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. There will be food, bathrooms and fuel along the way, but snacks and drinks for the drive are always a good idea. We suggest a stop at Creekside Market and Deli, located at 545 N Cache, across from the National Elk Refuge and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.
13 miles to STOP 1: Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose
• You will only need 30 minutes to gather all the useful information you will want for exploring the park.
• There are interpretive exhibits on local flora and fauna, a helpful team of park rangers and one of the most complete bookstores of any national park in the nation. This is the place to pick up official park maps and brochures and to learn about park activities.
8 miles to STOP 2: Jenny Lake
• Give yourself at least a couple of hours for the Jenny Lake area. This is a great place to start any of the many activities available in GTNP. During the summer you can hike, walk, view wildlife, take photographs, backpack, camp, climb, fish, swim, boat, float, canoe, and bike.
• As one of the most visited areas in the park, parking can be limited at the lake and you may need to park on the road and walk in. We suggest you visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the midday crowds.
- Recommended hike: The relatively flat 7.1 mile Jenny Lake trail loops all the way around its namesake. Most folks take the short detours to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point along the way, but if you don’t want to hike around the lake, there is a ferry boat (for a fee) from the South Jenny Lake boat dock to the Hidden Falls/Inspiration Point dock. Not interested in the hike? Then just take the boat for a beautiful and relaxing tour.
• Optional detours: After leaving you will see the North Jenny Lake turnoff. You can access String Lake from here, and it is the best place to dip your feet in the refreshing lake water and have a picnic. Great for kids. If you prefer a view from up high, take the turnoff to Signal Mountain Summit Road (10 miles from Jenny Lake). It’s narrow and winding, but the panorama of Jackson Hole is worth it. The road is also a good place to glimpse a bear; take it slow.
10 miles to STOP 3: Signal Mountain Lodge
• Time for a snack? The lodge overlooks Jackson Lake and while enjoying the relaxed outdoor dining you’ll soak up sweeping views of the Teton Range. The nachos are huge and the blackberry margarita is legendary.
• Another possibility: If you are looking for a more sophisticated venue for a meal, the Jackson Lake Lodge (located 5 miles from Signal) is a historic eco-hotel with 60-foot windows and dining options for every taste. See below for info.
3 miles to Jackson Lake Junction: Decision Time
• Did Jackson Lake Lodge sound good to you? Keep driving toward Yellowstone (turn left at the junction), and keep an eye out on the left after the Christian Creek Bridge. Go to the Mural Room (pictured) for fine dining, or to the Pioneer Grill, a 1950’s style diner serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The old-school lunch counter snakes through the room. The eatery is famous for its milkshakes.
• If you would like to get out on the water, Colter Bay Village is another several miles north past Jackson Lake Junction toward Yellowstone and has cruises, as well as boat, kayak and paddleboard rentals. There are also restaurants and a grocery store if you would prefer to create a picnic. The visitor center has Ranger-led programs and an American Indian artifacts collection that celebrates Indian artwork and teaches the long history of humans in Jackson Hole.
• Turn back south after you have gotten your fill.
Mere minutes south of Jackson Lake Junction, this is one of the most photographed locations in the park! If you stop and watch you might see water-loving wildlife cross the shallow waters in front of you. Moose, river otters, ospreys, bald eagles, American white pelicans, and beavers and muskrats ply the area looking for their favorite meals. And if you're really lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the famous Jackson Hole grizzly, 399, lumbering about.
Moran Junction Entrance Station
Located 2.6 miles from Oxbow and confusingly placed in the middle of the park, drive slowly past the entrance station and then turn right at the stop sign to head back toward Jackson on Hwy. 89/191.
6 miles to Cunningham Cabin
If you would like to see firsthand what it was really like to homestead Jackson Hole in 1888, stop and take the easy walk to the J.P. Cunningham Cabin and read the history. Watch out for bison!
12 miles to Antelope Flats Road or Moose Junction: Decision Time
• Turning left onto Antelope Flats Road will take you toward the extremely photogenic Moulton Barn on Mormon Row. There are often pronghorn (antelope), bison and moose to see on this route. If you decide to go this way, you will continue south and end up back at the Gros Ventre roundabout to get back to Jackson.
• If you continue south to the Moose Junction and drive past the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose and take the left onto the Moose-Wilson Road, you will be in a fresh part of the park with good hikes and stops for getting close to the Tetons themselves. You will exit the park at Teton Village.
On the way to the Moose-Wilson Road: Turn right to Dornans for food, drinks, views and history. Pizza, snacks, drinks, gifts and supplies are available at Dornan’s, with rooftop seating and local beers on tap (if the line is too long, there will be many food options at Teton Village as well).
• Menors Ferry Historic District: Take a self-guided or ranger-led tour of an area that affords a look at homesteading and pioneer life in Jackson Hole. Check out an early 1920s-era cabin, a general store, the Chapel of the Transfiguration and a replica of a ferry that shuttled people across the Snake River to Moose. Enjoy a ride on the ferry during the late summer months.
9 miles on the Moose-Wilson Road to Teton Village
• Creep along this road with your eyes peeled! There are often moose, bears and distracted visitors along the sides of the asphalt. Make sure to stop at the first parking area and look for moose down in the Sawmill Ponds. It will be an informal dirt parking area on the left.
- Recommended hike: From the Rockefeller Preserve (see info below), take the rolling terrain to Phelps Lake. Short and longer hikes are possible, so just check the map at the Preserve and talk to a Ranger for the best one for you. Plenty of daring folks swim in the lake, but it can be chilly!
• Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and Visitor Center: This eco-conscious 1,106-acre preserve includes 8 miles of trails. The interpretive visitor center features unique sensory exhibits and various ranger-led hikes and programs.
*SPECIAL NOTE FOR 2023: The southern portion of Moose-Wilson Road will be under construction between the Granite Canyon Entrance and the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. It will open to weekend traffic only starting at 7 p.m. on Fridays to 7 a.m. Mondays from May 26th through June 30th. After that, the road will open to through traffic, seven days a week, beginning at 7 p.m., with possible 20-minute delays. During construction, the public will still be able to access the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and the surrounding area, from the north via Moose. The Granite Canyon trailhead and parking lot, however, will be closed throughout summer construction.
• Teton Village is a mile from the exit of the Moose-Wilson Road and home to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski area and has some of the best restaurants, shopping and activities in the whole valley in the summer; taking a ride on the big red aerial tram is a must-do. Pull in and walk around if you need gear, grub or good times. After you've gotten your fill — and your lodging is located in or near the town of Jackson — head back there for the complete end of the figure 8!