Grand Teton National Park is one of our favorites! I had been there prior to this last trip, but Scott, my husband, had never been, and I remember LOVING it the last time I was there. But…. I was a little worried right before we went, that I had hyped it up too much and maybe it wasn’t as wonderful as I had remembered. I can now confirm it is still one of my favorite places on the planet and now the rest of my crew definitely feels the same. Between the majestic Teton Mountain Range still dusted in snow even in June, over 100 lakes so clear you will want to jump right in even on the chilliest of days, and hundreds of different species of plants and wildlife, you will never want to leave. By the end of the first day, we were already making plans to come back! Located in northwestern Wyoming, the park offers over 200 miles of hiking trails, mountain climbing, boating, horseback riding, rafting, biking, skiing, and snowshoeing (just to name a few!). You could spend an endless amount of time here, but if you do not live close you will probably want to visit Yellowstone National Park just 8 miles north of the northern border of Grand Teton National Park. I feel like you need at least 4 days at Yellowstone, so I made the Grand Tetons itinerary 3 days to give you a full week between the two.
Entrance Fee: $35 for 7 consecutive days
Lodging: There are 6 campgrounds (reservations can be made at Recreation.gov), 4 lodges with cabin and hotel room options (Grand Teton Lodges), and if you are looking to stay just outside the park- Teton Village and the city of Jackson are both wonderful places to stay.
Dining: There are many dining options inside the park. All four lodges have food options as does Colter Bay Village and Dornan’s (lunch here was excellent). You can find all lodge restaurants and menus here-Grand Teton Food Options. In Teton Village, Continuum has great food in their restaurant (recommend the pizza) and in Jackson, Snake River Brewery, Calico, and the Mangy Moose were all excellent and very kid friendly. I would recommend making a reservation at most of the above restaurants.
Must Know Before You Go:
*Hiking in the Grand Tetons, as always, at any park, is at your own risk. To hike safely, I strongly suggest having bear spray and knowing how to safely use it. I would also watch all wildlife and bear safety videos on the National Park Services website (Bear Safety). We even had our kiddos watch them before going.
Cell Service: The best service is near most Visitor Centers. Limited service on the main roads. No service on most trails and near lakes.
3 Day Itinerary
Jenny Lake Visitor Center- Park your car at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center parking lot. Your car can stay there for the majority of today. And, like any parking lot at this park, the earlier in the day you get there the better. There is street parking, but by mid-morning it will be quite a ways down Teton Park Road. This will be your one and only opportunity for bathrooms, food options, maps, and questions for rangers. The Park rangers at the Grand Tetons were great resources and so helpful. We spoke with quite a few of them over our days there and every single one of them was so lovely. There is also a small gift shop on this side of Jenny Lake. When your crew is ready, the first step to start your day will be walking down the Discovery Trail.
Discovery Trail- This trail is a paved 0.35 miles and will land you at stunning views of Jenny Lake as well as the boat shuttle line. To get to the rest of your hikes for the day you can either walk past the boat shuttle to the Jenny Lake Loop Trail and hike the 2 miles or take a boat shuttle over to the other side of the lake. We took the boat shuttle- mostly because it looked and sounded fun😊 Also, the driver on the boat was another great source of information for the rest of your hiking day. Adult roundtrip: $18, One way: $10. Child (2-11) Roundtrip: $10, One way: $8. Senior Roundtrip: $15, no one way price. Children under 2 are free. Do not let the boat shuttle line scare you away. It does move fast and who knows, waiting might even allow you to see some wildlife! We had a mama bear, and her two cubs practically join us right in line! Also, another huge shoutout to the rangers here, they were awesome in this situation both with the animals and people (this unfortunately has not been the case at other parks we have visited). We all gave the bears their room and they moved on, as did we😊 Once on the boat shuttle, it will take you across the lake and drop you right off at the trail to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and Cascades Canyon in minutes.
Hidden Falls- Once you are on the other side of Jenny Lake you will turn left off the boat shuttle dock. It is a 0.6-mile hike to Hidden Falls. When the main trail splits you will head left to get to the impressive almost 100ft waterfall. Signage is not great on this trail but the Hidden Falls viewing area is small and often very full, so you will not be able to miss it. Also, when you cross over the first bridge on this trail, stop in the middle and look up and to your right. You will see people who look very tiny, very high up- that’s where you are headed if you are continuing on to Inspiration Point, so it was fun to show the kids where we were going😊 This trail is moderate in difficulty and does have some elevation changes, but we were hiking with all ages, and everyone completed it with ease.
Inspiration Point- To continue to Inspiration Point, go back out to the main trail and cross over the next bridge. Inspiration Point is another 0.5 miles from Hidden Falls. Of the three hikes you will do on this side of the lake, the hike to Inspiration Point is the shortest but also the most difficult because of the elevation changes and rocky terrain. Also, as you get closer to the top, the trail will be very narrow as you hike next to drop offs but the view at the top is amazing and there are plenty of places to stop and rest along the way. We ate a quick lunch we brought with us at Inspiration Point before heading into the canyon.
Cascades Canyon- Continue on the trail from Inspiration Point and it will lead you right into the mouth of Cascade Canyon. Surprisingly, this trail is much easier to hike, with the elevation changes being much more gradual. This trail makes you feel like you are “in” the mountain and is one of my favorite hikes we have ever done. This trail is 4 miles to the “Forks” where the trail splits. If you continue right, it will eventually lead you to Lake Solitude. However, please check with the Park Rangers before heading out, because we went in June and were told it was not passable that day because of snow and ice. Cascade Canyon is beautiful and is worth hiking as much as you and your crew can. We chose to just hike 2 miles in and then turn around and hike back out the 3 miles to the boat shuttle. The Cascade Canyon Trail is a popular spot for wildlife- both grizzly and black bears frequent the area so having bear spray with you is a must.
Jenny Lake Scenic Drive/Jenny Lake Loop- Next I would suggest one of two things, either jumping in your car and completing the Jenny Lake scenic drive a short way up Teton Park Road or leaving your car where it is and walking the west side of the Jenny Lake Loop Trail. It will take you past the Jenny Lake Overlook which is a stunning view and great photo opportunity. From the boat shuttle to the Jenny Lake Overlook is 3.2 miles roundtrip. We continued on a little ways past the overlook, making it an even 4 miles roundtrip but the overlook is a great turn around point.
Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center- This building itself is beautiful but it also has a lot of other things to offer. It has a bookstore, a 24-minute movie about the park and many exhibits to explore. Our favorite was the raised relief map of the entire park. It was very cool to see where we had already been and where we were going!
Moose-Wilson Road- We stayed in Teton Village, so for 5 days we drove this road at least twice a day. Out of those 10+ times we saw a bear or moose 7 of those drives. If you love spotting wildlife this is a must do. This road is two-way but very narrow, so the road is closed to RVs and trailers. Also, please remember to go slow. Many times, we had a bear in the morning, walk right out in front of our van, so always be prepared to stop. And keep your eyes on the tall grass near the water. That is where we often spotted a moose eating a snack.
*Before heading home for the night, I highly recommend stopping at Dornan’s (It is right across the street from the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center) and picking up your canoe. I would recommend the 24-hour rental. Dornan’s does not open until 10am so if you pick it up the next day it will be extra driving and parking time and less time canoeing. Also, putting a canoe on top of our van (with no roof rack) made me nervous, but the guys at Dornan’s had all the supplies to safely put it on any vehicle. They were awesome and I could not recommend them enough.
* To not feel rushed today, I would recommend getting to String Lake by 8-8:30.
String Lake/Leigh Lake Trails- We wanted to get some hiking in, so we did the String and Leigh Lakes trails first and then canoed and swam the rest of the morning and afternoon. I also liked hiking these lakes first because it gave us an idea of where we wanted to canoe. We parked near the String Lake Trailhead since that is also where you will launch the canoe. The trailhead is at the very south end of String Lake. We hiked all of the String Lake Trail and a portion of the Leigh Lake Trail. After you cross the bridge, where String Lake and Leigh connect, take the split to the left to continue to Leigh Lake. Leigh Lake Trail is an out and back, so you can go as far as you want and then turn around and head back on the west side of String Lake to complete the String Lake Trail loop. Our hike was 6 miles (we walked about 2 miles on the Leigh Lake Trail once we actually reached Leigh Lake) and took about 2.5 hours to complete.
Canoe and Swim at String Lake and Leigh Lake– There are several parking lots at String Lake but only one where the canoe launch is, and it is the smallest. Therefore, you do not want to have to leave to go pick up the canoe once Dornan’s opens at 10. It could involve a lot of wait time for another space. It is a short walk down to the lake where you can start your canoeing adventure! String Lake is very shallow, and crystal clear. You will want to watch out for boulders in the water, there are several right in the middle that are just under the surface. Luckily because the water is so clear, the person at the front of the canoe should be able to easily spot them. It did not take us long to canoe all the way to the end of String Lake (even with letting our 7- and 8-year-old row for us😊). Once at the end, we pulled our canoe out at the little beach area at the very end (it should look familiar from your hike as it is the split off of the hiking trail to Leigh Lake). The kids loved swimming in this area. We then took our very heavy canoe over to Leigh Lake. The trail will take you straight to the Leigh Lake Portage where you can drop in your canoe. Carrying your canoe is the only way to get over to Leigh Lake but trust me, it is worth it! Once in Leigh Lake, we canoed to a little beach area to let the kids swim and we all had the lunch we packed. Leigh Lake is much larger and deeper than String Lake but still open and easy to navigate. To have time to return the canoe and complete everything else on this itinerary for the day, I would start getting the canoe on the car by 3pm. And Dornan’s is right on the way to the rest of your stops for the day, making the canoe drop off a breeze.
Antelope Flats Road and Mormon Row- From Dornan’s, take a left out of the parking lot and then another left at Moose Junction to head north on 89/191. Antelope Flats Road will be about 2 miles down the road on your right. Keep your eyes on the grassy fields for bison and pronghorn antelope! They were everywhere when we were there. Mormon Row will be easy to spot from here, as the land is very flat, making the last of the historic structures easy to find. There is a small parking lot at the corner, where you then can get out and explore the structures on both sides of the road and learn about the history of the buildings and people who built them.
Schwabacher Landing Trail- After Mormon Road, head north on 89/191. The road down to Schwabacher Landing was unmarked when we went in June, so we missed it the first time. It is the only road on the left-hand side almost immediately AFTER Glacier View Turnout. The road leads down to a large parking lot and the Schwabacher Landing Trail. This easy trail is 1.5 miles round trip and has gorgeous views, a chance to spot lots of wildlife (moose, elk, pronghorns, mule deer, beaver and maybe even a bald eagle!) and you can even see a large beaver dam which my kiddos loved!
Snake River Overlook- Head farther north on 89/191 to the Snake River Overlook for a stunning view of the Teton Range and Snake River. This is one of the famous sights at the Tetons because of an iconic, black and white photograph by Ansel Adams at this very spot😊
Oxbow Bend- To get to Oxbow Bend, head farther north on 89/191. It will be about 3 miles north of Moran Junction (if you’ve made it to the Jackson Lake Junction, you’ve gone too far). This is a great place to spot wildlife, especially moose in the evening and gives you a stunning view of Mount Moran. If you are there late enough, this is a wonderful place to catch the sunset.
Taggart Lake- I know Jenny Lake is everyone’s favorite (and do not get me wrong- Jenny Lake is spectacular) but I prefer Taggart Lake. This lake requires a 3-mile roundtrip hike that has some small elevation changes and rocky terrain but is still easy and doable for all age groups. And the view on this entire hike is absolutely gorgeous. I would suggest making this your first stop of the day and the earlier the better. The parking lot is small and fills up fast, so it is likely you will have to park farther down on the main road, but the mountain, lake, and forest views make this trail completely worth it!
Signal Mountain- After Taggart Lake, head north on Teton Park Road. About 13 miles north is the turn off for Signal Mountain Summit Road. It will be on your right side and is easy to miss (there is a turn out right after the road if you miss it the first time like us and many others). This road is very narrow, winding and has you on drops offs most of the time, so for obvious reasons, no large RVs or trailers are allowed to travel the road. There is a large parking lot at the top, so you can get out and enjoy the views. The views at the top are wonderful but do not forget to stop and walk out to the Jackson Point overlook before heading back down the mountain. It’s a short stroll through beautiful wildflowers to an unbelievable view of the Tetons and Jackson Lake. Do not miss it😊
Willow Flats Overlook- Once you head down from Signal Mountain, continue to head north on Teton Park Road until you hit the Jackson Lake Junction where you will turn left to continue north. This overlook will be almost immediately on your left after you turn onto 89/191. This beautiful overlook is often a great place to see wildlife.
Jackson Lake Lodge- Jackson Lake Lodge has 60 ft. floor to ceiling windows and an outside deck with phenomenal views. It is also a great place to sit and wait for wildlife. The views alone are worth a stop but the dining options and souvenir shops are excellent as well. The Mural Room is more upscale, and does require reservations currently. The Pioneer Grill does not and is much more casual. Both serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Lakeshore Trail- From Jackson Lake Lodge, you continue north on 89/191 for 4 miles. Then turn left on Colter Bay Village Road and take that all the way back until you spot the visitor center. If you are looking at the marina, the trailhead is to your right of the visitor center off Bathing Beach Rd. You can park either at the visitor center or at a smaller lot just past the trailhead. If you complete both loops, it is about 2 miles round trip and is an easy walk for all ages. It has stunning views and lots of opportunities for seeing wildlife and rock skipping (which our kiddos would love to do all day). This trail is a great way to end your trip😊
Hope you have a wonderful adventure!