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Grand Teton National Park Travel Guide

Huge mountains, stunning lakes, picturesque meadows, and a few of our furry friends—what’s not to love about Grand Teton National Park? This Grand Teton National Park Travel Guide has highlights and tips for you to plan a trip to this Wyoming wonderland.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is an incredible place to explore in Wyoming. The Park features the Teton Mountain Range, alpine lakes, mountain meadows, and wildlife.

This park offers hiking trails, scenic drives, camping, boating and paddling, swimming, fishing, and several outdoor activities.

Grand Teton National Park Travel Guide

After hearing so many awesome reviews about the Tetons, we decided we needed to plan a trip to Grand Teton National Park to experience for ourselves.

As wilderness guides, our plan was to explore all we could in a few days. We planned to backpack and camp in the backcountry, find alpine lakes, swim, and do a few day hikes.

We knew we only had a few days so we wanted to see a little bit of everything, which would also help plan future trips!

This is a girl hiking in grand teton national park. She is wearing a maroon shirt and standing in front of mountains.

Teton Crest Trail

Our original plan was to backpack the Teton Crest Trail, a 40-ish mile trail that loops around Grand Teton National Park. We planned to take about 5 days to backpack this loop.

Unfortunately there was too much snow when we were heading to the park (mid-June) so we made an alternative plan. 

Grand Teton National Park Plan

We wanted to spend time exploring the backcountry of the park but we waited too long to get our permits in advance. The new plan was to get permits when we arrived.

NOTE: If you want backcountry permits, you must get them in advance OR get walk-up permits for what is available within 24 hours of starting your trip.

At each National Park, there are backcountry campsites set aside for walk-up permits. It’s a little risky and you never know what you’re going to get. If you’re willing to be flexible, you’ll almost always be able to get something! The park rangers working the permit station are awesome and can help you figure out a plan. 

What is the best time of year to visit Grand Teton National Park?

The summer months offer the best access to the trails in the park! The snow melts in June and is usually gone in July and August so you'll be able to hike on more trails.

However, the summer months are BUSY. The park is the busiest from mid-June to mid-September so visit outside that time to avoid crowds.

Regardless of when you visit in the summer, it's going to be crowded. Plan in advance to get the trip you wish or be willing to show up and be flexible.

Weather in Grand Teton National Park

In June, the weather at Grand Teton National Park was awesome! It was warm during the day (70's and 80's) and cool at night (30's and 40's).  

Grand Teton National Park Backcountry

Grand Teton National Park has over 310,000 acres of incredible mountains, lakes, and valleys to explore. To really explore the beauty of the park, I love to go into the backcountry.

The backcountry is the area of the park that is remote, isolated, and more difficult to access. To get to the backcountry areas in Grand Teton National Park, you must backpack.

I love to spend time in the backcountry because there's less people, more solitude, and you can experience so much more of the park!

You must plan ahead for a backcountry trip. Obtain permits, plan campsites, pack gear, and prepare for your time in the wilderness.

Grand Teton National Park Frontcountry

If the backcountry is not where you want to spend your time, there are plenty of amazing experiences available in the frontcountry!

The frontcountry of Grand Teton National Park are the areas that have established campgrounds, bathrooms, roads, and access to water and amenities.

Grand Teton National Park has several lodging and camping options available. There are serveral campsites available in the park. Make sure to reserve in advance because they fill up fast! However, people cancel everyday so you might be able to find something the night you need it. 

(During our trip we made a reservation for a campsite in the afternoon because we checked online and someone had cancelled. Totally lucky for us!)

What do you need for the backcountry?

  • Permits
    • If you’re going into the backcountry, you need permits. You can get backcountry permits in advance or the day you arrive (walk-up permits) from the Backcountry Office. 
  • Skills
    • Going into the backcountry requires a particular set of skills. You need to know how to build shelter, use maps, cook food, uphold Leave No Trace Principles, and perform safety skills. You need to know what you’re doing so you respect the park as well as the rangers who would have to rescue you if something went wrong. 
  • Leave No Trace Knowledge
    • There are Leave No Trace Principles you need to follow to respect the land you’re exploring. Make sure you understand & follow these! 
  • Backpacking Gear

Backcountry plans

We really wanted to hike the Teton Crest Trail but there was too much snow. We also looked into backpacking over Paintbrush Divide but ran into the snow issue again.

Here's what we WERE able to do without running into big snow problems.

  • Death Canyon 
    • Start at the Death Canyon Trailhead and hike up into Death Canyon.  It’s about 6-8 miles of vertical elevation gain to get to the camping area but SO beautiful. Towards the beginning of the Death Canyon Trail you’ll pass Phelps Lake, another cool camping spot. 
    • There were a lot of people hiking to the Phelps Lake overloook & up to the Cabin at the top of Death Canyon. Once we were passed the Cabin, the crowds were gone and it was just us! 
  • Fox Creek Pass to Mount Hunt
    • Our original plan was to hike from Death Canyon over Mt Hunt Divide to Open Canyon. We knew we would hit a bit of snow but still be able to hike over the passes and camp in the Mt Hunt and in Open Canyon camping areas. 
  • Open Canyon to Death Canyon
    • After camping in the Open Canyon camping area our plan was to hike back down to Phelps lake, go around the lake, and head to the trailhead to finish the loop.
  • Leigh Lake
    • Leigh Lake has multiple campsites surrounding the lake. Some of the campsites can be hiked to by foot while others are paddle-up sites only. We backpacked to a spot and it was great! It would be really fun to paddle to a spot here in the future. 
This is a picture of a girl hiking in grand teton national park. There is a girl in a yellow jacket and black shorts in a field with trees and mountains in the back.

Future Backcountry Plans

From talking to Park Rangers, doing research, and having plans cancelled, we were able to come up with a list of plans for the future! These are all places I want to explore in a future trip:

  • Teton Crest Trail - This would be an awesome way to explore the entire backcountry!
  • Paintbrush Divide - Going through the divide looks incredible epic.  
  • Alaska Basin - Another really cool area that was too snowy this time of year but you have to go over passes to get there and looks awesome. 
  • String Lake & Leigh Lake. You can paddle to campsites all around these lakes and it would be so fun to do a paddling trip to these campsites. 

Grand Teton National Park Travel Guide: Camping

There are a couple of campgrounds in the park. In order to get a campsite, you must make a resevration online. These book super in advance so be ready to do that ahead of time. 

We didn’t have a reservation but checked online after lunchtime and were able to find a spot in one of the campgrounds for one night. People cancel all the time. 

Loding at the park

There are several lodges available in Grand Teton National Park. We did not stay at a lodge, but these would be a great option for families or those not wanting to camp.

  • American Alpine Club Grand Teton Climbers' Ranch
  • Colter Bay Cabins
  • Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch
  • Jackson Lake Lodge
  • Jenny Lake Lodge
  • Signal Mountain Lodge
  • Triangle X Ranch

Best Hikes at Grand Teton National Park

Here's a roundup of the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park! To read in more detail about day hikes and multi-day hikes in the park, read this supplemental post.

To decide hikes on our trip, we used the AllTrails App along with talking to Park Rangers in the Visitor Centers. Both are helpful resources to choose hikes that meet your needs!

This is a pinterest pin for the best hikes in grand teton national park.

Cascade Canyon Trail

This is a 9.1 mile out & back trail that has a little bit of elevation in the beginning but is generally flat. We saw a lot of wildlife! If you hike this trail to the end, keep going at the junction towards Solitude Lake! Even if you can hike an extra mile towards Solitude Lake, you will be rewarded with an incredible view. It really opens up and is absolutely beautiful!

There are several campsites along the way and this would be a great trail for a beginner backpacker.

Solitude Lake Trail

This is a really incredible 16.1 mile hike! You start the hike on the Cascade Canyon Trail and then continue on at the junction towards Solitude Lake. There are beautiful views after Cascade Canyon! The lake was still frozen over in June and there was some snow on the way up.

You can start the hike on the Visitor Center side of Jenny Lake OR shave off about 2 miles by taking the the Jenny Lake Ferry to the start of the Canyon Lake Trailhead.

Inspiration Point 

To get to the start of the Inspiration Point hike, you can hike around Jenny Lake starting at the Jenny Lake Trailhead OR take the ferry across the lake. If you take the ferry, the hike is about 1.8 miles out and back to Inspiration Point. It offers a great view of Jenny Lake!

It was fun to take the ferry BUT beware that the afternoon the wait is VERY long to get back. This is a very popular hike—no Grand Teton National Park Travel Guide would be complete without it!

Table Mountain Trail

This hike is located in the Jedidiah Wilderness Area, right outside Grand Teton National Park. It's a difficult 10.7 mile loop trail that offers incredible views! It's challenging but worth it.

String Lake Trail

This 4.4 mile loop is a heavily trafficked trail. This is a great hiking option for hikers with a wide-variety of skill levels as it is mostly flat and has several access points. I would recommend this for families, kiddos, and older folks! Be prepared for several bugs if hiking this in the summertime.

Leigh Lake Trail

This is a 7 mile out and back trail. Similar to Leigh Lake Trail, this is another great option for hikers with a wide variety of skill sets. Be prepared for bugs on this trail as well!

There are a few campsites available on this trail and they are awesome!

Taggart Lake Loop

This is an easy 3.8 mile loop trail around the lake. This hike is a great option for a wide variety of skill sets.

Phelps Lake Trail

This is a 7-mile loop trail that goes around Phelps Lake. This trail is more moderate than the Leigh Lake, Taggart Lake, and String Lake trails.

Death Canyon to Patrol Cabin

This is a 9.1 mile out and back trail up to the Patrol Cabin in Death Canyon. It's heavily trafficked and has over 2,000 feet of elevation. This is a great moderate day hike!

Phelps Lake Overlook

This is a 2-mile hike up to an overlook of Phelps Lake. This is a great option for families or for a short hike. If you want more, I highly recommend going on from here either all the way around Phelps Lake or up to the Patrol Cabin in Death Canyon.

SCENIC DRIVES

Grand Teton National Park offers several scenic drives. You can drive from the bottom to the top of the park with incredible views everywhere you look! Drive around lakes, next to mountains, through fields... it's highly worth it!

Stop at a lake, a Visitor Center, a scenic overlook, Mormon Road, or whatever else looks interesting to you. 

LAKE ACTIVITIES 

Grand Teton National Park has so many beautiful lakes! Because of all the lakes, there are paddling, boating, and fishing opportunities.

Rent a paddle board, bring your own canoe, or just swim in the lakes! String Lake has a really great swim spot I would highly recommend jumping in the water and playing for the afternoon.

There are also several campsites on the lakes that are paddle-up only so it is a unique way to explore the park.

SWIMMING 

If you're going to swim at the Park, there are several options, but here are my two favorites!

  • String Lake.
    • We swam here in the afternoon and it was awesome! You can bring a paddle board or tube to float or just go swim in the water. This is a great family spot or spot to hang out for a few hours in the afternoon. 
  • Colter Bay.
    • There’s a swim beach here that is a great spot to swim!

Grand Teton National Park Travel Guide: Wildlife

There is so much wildlife in this park! Be prepared because you're almost guaranteed to see something if you're paying attention!

During my first night in the backcountry (Death Canyon Camping Area), I saw a bear, moose, porcupine, mule deer, marmots, and more.

A few notes about wildlife:

  • Respect the animals!
    • Don't feed them, know how to identify them, and be aware of what to do if you encounter one.
  • Bears
    • A quick note about these guys: they’re out there! I was skeptical about carrying bear spray but quickly realized why it was required. There are bears. Make sure to have bear spray, use bear canisters or bear bags, and know what to do if you run into a bear. 
    • We ran into a bear at our campsite but am here to tell the tale because we’re smart! We followed the rules, were prepared, and were fine. 

Meals for camping

Here are some brief notes for the meals while camping.

  • We kept our meals easy & simple during our trip. 
  • Breakfasts - Kodiak Cakes Protein Oatmeal 
    • Love starting my day with this hot, protein-packed, and delicious breakfast.
    • Paired with a lot of coffee. 
  • Lunches - Snack lunches with tuna packets, crackers, dried fruit, nuts, Chomps (code JORDO15 for a discont), & G2GBars (code JORDO for a discount) were our go-to during day hikes and backpacking.  
    • We kept lunches easy because we usually stoped and grabbed food during breaks while hiking during the day. 
  • Dinners - Backpackers Pantry Meals  
    • These are dehydrated meals where you just have to add hot water and let it soak. They are really easy, light, and taste incredible!
This is a picture of the backpackers pantry food I ate while backpacking.

How many days do you need for Grand Teton National Park?

I would recommend 4-6 days at Grand Teton National Park. There is so much to do! You'll want to make sure to prioritize the activities you want to do most.

is Grand Teton National Park crowded?

Yes. The summer months are very busy at the park! If you hit the trails early or go into the backcountry, you can easily avoid the crowds.

Where should I stay when visiting Grand Teton National Park?

I would recommend camping or staying in a lodge! Choose your own adventure for this.

How far apart are Grand Teton and Yellowstone?

These two National Parks are only 31 miles apart!

Is Grand Teton National Park worth seeing?

100% yes. I loved my trip and I will definitely be making another trip in the future!

Planning Tips 

If you're planning a trip to Grand Teton National Park, here are some additional planning tips:

  • Go to a visitor center.
    • Get maps, learn about wildlife, ask about open trials, get maps, and learn! Plan your days using knowledge from here.
  • Talk to a park ranger.
    • Ask a ranger about snow melt, their favorite hikes, backcountry opportunities, and anything else you can think of. They are your park experts and are always very helpful! 
  • Plan ahead of time or be willing to be flexible.
    • We went to the park having an idea of what we wanted but not having a set plan. We figured out as we went and that worked for us! If you want to know exactly what you’re going to do, just plan it ahead of time. 
  • Refer to this Grand Teton National Park Travel Guide
    • Success!

Overall experience 

Loved the Tetons. We had an awesome trip to Grand Teton National Park and will definitely look forward to another trip in the future! 

This trip was a little bit of everything for us. Our visit was filled with backpacking, car camping, day hikes, swimming, and more. We used this as an opportunity to scout the whole park. We learned a lot and now know exactly what we want to do next time we visit. 

I can’t wait to visit again!