For hikers, climbers and mountain-lovers, life doesn't get much better than a visit to Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. The iconic, saw-toothed Teton range towers over a chain of jewel-like glacial lakes that dot the valley of Jackson Hole, offering some of the most dramatic landscapes in the West.
If you like to hike, paddle, scramble or simply camp beside stunning lakeshore views, you will love the Tetons. As an added bonus, combine your visit with neighboring Yellowstone National Park for the biggest park doubleheader in the nation.
Get the best out of your trip with our top picks for things to do in Grand Teton.
Snap a selfie worthy of Ansel Adams at one of the park's iconic viewpoints
You'll get incredible views of the Tetons from almost any trail in the park, but a few prize roadside viewpoints offer some particularly perfect vistas. Ansel Adams immortalized the view from the Snake River Overlook in the center of the park, portraying the river as liquid light, but today you'll get better views at nearby Schwabacher's Landing, where the jagged Tetons reflect sublimely in the meandering Snake River.
For the biggest panoramic views of the entire Teton Range, drive three-quarters of the way up Signal Mountain Road to Jackson Point, named after the seminal early photographer William Jackson, who took one of his most famous photographs here in 1878. Arrive at dawn, and you'll often see the Tetons bathed in pink light high above a sea of morning fog.
Lastly, head to Mormon Row for iconic shots of a Teton backdrop framed by sagebrush, bison and the famously picturesque Moulton Barn, built by the early 19th-century settlers that first called the valley home.
Take a scenic trail hike
Grand Teton ranks as one of the nation's best parks for alpine hiking (it's certainly much better than next-door Yellowstone – there, we said it!), so be sure to pack your best hiking shoes. The full-day hikes take you up one of the range's half-dozen canyons (notably Cascade, Garnet and Paintbrush), past meadows of wildflowers to reach some stunning high alpine lakes (Solitude, Iceflow and Holly lakes, respectively).
But there are also plenty of less intense, shorter hikes. Consider the six-mile return trail to Taggart and Bradley Lakes, or the similar-length Leigh and Bearpaw Lakes hike, both of which take you past sublime lakeshore and Teton views. The Hermitage Point Loop offers fabulous views of Jackson Lake and plenty of flexibility, with various trail combinations that allow loops between two and nine miles long.
For a backpacking trip, the four-or five-day Teton Crest Trail ranks as one of America's classic trails.
Paddle the park's crystal-clear lakes
Grand Teton is the perfect place to bring a canoe or standup paddleboard (SUP). For a memorable family adventure, drive to String Lake – its warm, shallow waters are perfect for a summer splash. From here, you can paddle along String Lake, portage (carry) your canoe for 120ft along the connecting channel, and then continue paddling beautiful Leigh Lake for some incredible views. Best of all, reserve one of Leigh Lake's three beachfront, backcountry campsites, and wake up to sublime dawn views of Mt Moran reflected in the utterly silent, mirror-still water. Your kids will never ask for their smartphones again.
Bring your own canoe, or rent one at Adventure Sports in Moose.
Challenge yourself on a guided climb of Grand Teton
The Tetons have played a pivotal role in the history of American climbing, and the coveted 13,775ft Grand Teton peak remains a magnet to climbers, who regard the range as sacred ground. Climbers should base themselves at the American Alpine Club's Climber's Ranch and then head to Jenny Lake Ranger Station for climbing information, conditions and permits.
Beginners ready for the bragworthy adventure of a lifetime can sign up for a four-day trip with expert local outfitters, Exum Guides. You'll spend the first two days learning how to rappel and belay before attempting the two-day guided climb. Reaching the summit will be an achievement you'll never forget.
Contemplate nature at the Laurance S Rockefeller Preserve
The Rockefeller family was instrumental in establishing today's Grand Teton National Park; John D alone donated tens of thousands of acres in the 1940s. Sixty-odd years later, his grandson, Laurance, formally donated the private family retreat, turning the charming former JY Ranch into the park's most recent addition. Today the zen-like visitor center aims to be a meditative space through which to find solace in the natural world, and it's an often-overlooked gem. Browse the library of conservation titles, and then make the delightful six-mile loop hike to Phelps Lake.
Due to road construction in 2022 on Moose-Wilson Road, on weekdays you can only access the center from the north. Parking spaces are limited, so arrive early to nab a spot.
Explore Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake is one of the park's busiest draws, for its combination of close-up mountain views, good (but popular) hiking options and a family-friendly boat excursion. Those short on time can take the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive and stop at Jenny Lake Overlook for fine views of Cascade Canyon and the Cathedral Group of the central Tetons.
Most hikers head for Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, either on a seven-mile loop hike around Jenny Lake (our favorite, via String Lake) or short-cutting the hike to just two miles by taking the Jenny Lake ferry boat both ways. You can also access the stunning Cascade Canyon from here. Either way, make an early start to avoid the crowds, which can be heavy in summer.
Float on the Snake River at dusk
The Snake River flows out of Jackson Lake to meander through Grand Teton National Park for some 30 miles, flowing past sand bars and lush meadows to offer some of the best views in the park, as well as some of its best wildlife-watching spots. Several companies offer daily 10-mile-long scenic raft floats down the river from Deadmans Bar, including sunrise and sunset options that offer the best wildlife watching.
Outside the park, south of the Town of Jackson, the Snake River turns from Jekyll into Hyde, as it rages and thrashes through the narrow Snake River Canyon. This is the location for whitewater trips through the Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter rapids – a more adrenaline-inducing experience than the scenic floats, but one which lacks the wildlife watching and serene Teton views.
Lose the crowds on the back side of the Tetons
Grand Teton National Park can get busy in July and August, so to escape the crowds, head to the secret western approach, which sees only a tiny fraction of the park's total traffic. Drive west from Jackson to Driggs, Idaho, on the far western side of the Tetons, and then swing back east towards Grand Targhee Ski Resort to reach Teton Campground. From here, a full-day hike leads up to Table Mountain to reveal incredible views of the little-seen western side of Grand Teton and its stunning Alaska Basin. The perspective here is so different, you'll feel like you're not even in the same park. Expect fewer facilities, worse roads and zero crowds on this side of the range.
Spot moose, marmots and bald eagles
Grand Teton can't quite compete with Yellowstone in the wildlife-watching stakes, but there is still plenty to see here. As always, you'll see the most at sunrise and sunset. Willow Flats is the best place to spot iconic gangly-legged moose and elk, while Antelope Flats is the place for grazing bison, wily coyotes and fast-moving pronghorn antelope. Bring your binoculars to Oxbow Bend, two miles east of Jackson Lake, and you'll likely see cranes, ospreys, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, white pelicans and more.
If you are hiking into the remoter mountain valleys, be aware that the park has healthy populations of both black and grizzly bears (bring bear spray, and also a bear-proof canister if camping), though you are far more likely to encounter fat, furry marmots and super-cute pika.
End the day at Jackson Lake Lodge
At the end of a tough day's hiking or sightseeing, nothing beats watching the sun slide behind Jackson Lake and the Teton range from the patio of Jackson Lake Lodge, preferably while sipping on a refreshing Teton Amber Ale or huckleberry margarita. With luck, you might even spot moose nibbling on the willow bushes below.
After the sunset show has ended, you can grab bar snacks at the lodge's Blue Heron Lounge, a burger at the old-school diner or something more gourmet at the classy Mural Room restaurant. It's the perfect end to a perfect Teton day.