Exploring Grand Teton
The real attractions are the mountains and the incomparable views one gets of them from Jackson Hole. This is one backdrop you will never tire of seeing.
Grand Teton National Park (307/739-3600, www.nps.gov/grte) has two entrance stations. One is just north of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center on Teton Park Road, and the second is on U.S. Highway 89/191/287 at Moran Junction.
Entrance to the park is $25 per vehicle or $12 for individuals entering by bicycle, foot, or as a bus passenger. Motorcycles and snowmobiles are $20. The pass covers entrance to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and is good for seven days.
If you’re planning to be here longer or to make additional visits, get an annual pass covering both parks for $50, or the Interagency Annual Pass—good for all national parks—for $80 per year. An Interagency Senior Pass for all national parks is available to anyone older than 62 for a one-time fee of $10, and people with disabilities can get a free Interagency Access Pass. The latter two passes also provide 50 percent reductions in most camping fees.
At the entrance stations, park visitors receive a copy of Teewinot, the park newspaper. It lists park facilities and services, along with interpretive programs, nature walks, and other activities. Family favorites for generations are the evening campfire programs held at campground amphitheaters throughout the summer. The park also produces a helpful accessibility handout with details on wheelchair-accessible visitor centers, trails, sights, picnic areas, activities, campsites, and accommodations.
During the summer, Grand Teton Lodge Company (307/543-3100 or 800/628-9988, www.gtlc.com) has three-hour bus tours of Grand Teton National Park ($38 adults, $18 kids under 12) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tours depart Jackson Lake Lodge (307/543-3100 or 800/628-9988, www.gtlc.com, late May-early Oct.) at 8:30 a.m.
Summertime bus tours of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are available several times a week from Gray Line of Jackson Hole/Alltrans (307/733-3135 or 800/443-6133, www.graylinejh.com). Grand Teton tours last eight hours ($100 adults, kids $50, plus $12 entrance fee).
In winter, Gray Line has daily bus runs to Flagg Ranch Resort ($106 round-trip) that arrive in time to meet snowcoach departures for Yellowstone. Reservations are required. Taxi companies in Jackson can also provide shuttles to Flagg Ranch in the winter, including Buckboard Transportation (307/733-1112 or 877/791-0211, www.buckboardtrans.com, $100 for up to four people one-way).
Operated by Teton Science School, Wildlife Expeditions (307/733-2623 or 888/945-3567, www.wildlifeexpeditions.org) leads an array of wildlife-viewing safaris throughout the region, from four-hour sunset trips for $125 to four-day tours through Yellowstone and Grand Teton for $1,995. Their trips change seasonally—depending upon which animals are visible—and are offered in customized vehicles with multiple roof hatches for better wildlife-viewing.
Other companies offering guided van tours of the park include:
- Ana’s Grand Excursions
- Brushbuck Guide Services
- Callowishus Park Touring Company
- EcoTour Adventures
- Upstream Anglers and Outdoor Adventures
307/739-9443 or 800/642-8979
- Grand Teton Adventure Company
307/734-4454 or 800/700-1558
- The Hole Hiking Experience
307/690-4453 or 866/733-4453
- VIP Adventure Travel
Grand Teton National Park is an excellent place to look for wildlife, especially in the early morning or at dusk. Moose are often seen at Willow Flats along Jackson Lake just north of the dam, at Oxbow Bend, south of the settlement of Moose, and along the Snake River. Herds of pronghorn antelope are common on the sagebrush flats near Kelly.
Elk are frequent sights in fall as they migrate down from the high country to the elk refuge near Jackson, but smaller numbers are in the park during summer; look for them at dawn and dusk. (Grand Teton is the only national park outside of Alaska that allows hunting. The rules are pretty strange, however, requiring elk hunters to become temporarily deputized park rangers before they head out!)
Grizzlies are becoming more common in Grand Teton, especially in northern portions of the park and around Signal Mountain. The Willow Flats area is closed in spring due to heavy grizzly use of the area (they prey on elk calves). Black bears are present in wooded canyons and riverbeds throughout the park.
Other animals to look for are bald eagles and ospreys along the Snake River and trumpeter swans and Canada geese in ponds and lakes. Watch for mule deer in meadows and at forest edges, such as those near Colter Bay. Beavers can be seen at Schwabacher’s Landing along the Snake River.
Herds of bison (buffalo) are commonly seen in the Moran Junction area, in the Mormon Row area (Antelope Flats Road), and along Teton Park Road. Bison were present historically (hence the name Buffalo River) but had been extinct for perhaps a century when eight bison were released into Grand Teton National Park in 1969. The population grew slowly for the first decade until they discovered the free alfalfa handout at the elk refuge north of link Jackson. Partly because of this winter feeding, the population has grown to almost 600 animals—much to the chagrin of the elk-refuge managers. A few bison are hunted outside the park to control their numbers.
Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park starting in 1995 and have continued to expand into surrounding areas, including Grand Teton National Park. They’re most easily seen in winter, particularly on the adjacent National Elk Refuge where they prey on elk, but they may sometimes be seen during summer inside the park.
Grand Teton National Park headquarters is in the settlement of Moose near the southern end of the park. The striking Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center (307/739-3399, daily year-round) in Moose provides an outstanding introduction to the park. Also noteworthy is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center (307/739-3654, daily late May-Sept.), halfway between Moose and Teton Village on the Moose-Wilson Road.
Jenny Lake Visitor Center (307/739-3392) is open daily mid-May-September and closed the rest of the year.
On the east side of Jackson Lake, Colter Bay Visitor Center (307/739-3594) is open daily early May-mid-October.
Just north of Grand Teton, inside John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, is Flagg Ranch Information Station (307/543-2372), open daily early June-early September.
Grand Teton National Park is bisected by the main north-south highway (U.S. Hwy. 26/89/191) and by the highway heading east over Togwotee Pass (U.S. Hwy. 26/287), providing easy access to many of the most dramatic vistas and finest places to see wildlife. Both routes are kept open year-round through Grand Teton, although wintertime plowing ends at Flagg Ranch Resort, just south of the Yellowstone boundary.
In addition, a paved park road cuts south from Jackson Lake Dam to Jenny Lake and Moose. Only the southern end of this road is plowed in winter; the remainder becomes a cross-country ski or snowshoe route. South of Moose, a narrow, winding road (the Moose-Wilson Road) connects the park with Teton Village, nine miles away. It is rough dirt in places—no trailers or RVs—and is closed in winter. Get the latest on park road conditions by calling 307/739-3614.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton, 5th Edition