Grand Teton 101
Meet the park. Now that Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a preferred retreat for Hollywood, Washington D.C. and Wall Street elites, some of the richest and most powerful people on the planet can look out their front door and see Grand Teton National Park.
But they shouldn’t have all the fun. Grand Teton is for you, too.
The park centers on the Grand Teton range―whose tallest peak is 13,770-foot Grand Teton itself―and the Jackson Hole valley below it. Yellowstone lies immediately to the north, and the two parks can be easily combined in one vacation. They are different from each other, though. Grand Teton doesn’t have Yellowstone’s geothermal spectacles―no geysers, no mudpots. But Yellowstone doesn’t have the views―made famous by photographer Ansel Adams and others―of the Grand Teton mountains with the Snake River curling in front of them. Both parks have good wildlife watching, but Grand Teton is tops for activities like mountain climbing (it’s a great place to learn) and river running (floating the Snake River through the park is one of the best things you can do on a summer day.)
And Grand Teton has Jackson and Jackson Hole―the first is the name of the town, the second the name of the whole valley that runs north of it. They are special. Once home to fur trappers and cowboys, they’re now an entertaining mix of the rustic Old West and the affluent new. With the Jackson Hole Community Center for the Arts, the National Museum of Wildlife Art, and dozens of art galleries, Jackson has become a major center for Western painting and sculpture. Food and drink possiblities range from the new and upscale to the classic joints like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. And once you have your fill of town life, Grand Teton trails are waiting for you.
Getting there. Grand Teton National Park is about 5 miles north of Jackson, Wyoming, and spans across most of the valley known as Jackson Hole. Direct flights into Jackson are available from Salt Lake City and Denver. Yellowstone National Park adjoins the park on the north.
When to go. Most of Grand Teton’s 4 million annual visitors come in summer; expect warm days and afternoon thunderstorms. Fall is less crowded and very beautiful, although scheduled park activities are fewer. Winters are cold and snowy, but some activities (like guided snow shoe walks) are available and you’ll likely have the park to yourself. May generally marks the start of the visitor season here.