Rising more than 7000 feet above Jackson Hole, the high peaks of Grand Teton National Park provide one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Although many people seem to treat it as an afterthought, only visiting the park as a side trip while visiting its more famous neighbor to the north, more time and focus should be given to this stunning landscape. Within its 310,000 acres the majestic mountains of the Teton Range are home to a wide variety of wildlife, eight peaks that top out above 12,000 feet, more than 100 alpine and backcountry lakes, and more than 240 miles of trails that provide intimate access to all of this incredibly beautiful scenery. The following are among some of the top reasons why you should pay a visit to this amazing park:
1) Cascade Canyon
The Cascade Canyon Trail is widely touted as one of the best hikes in the entire National Park System. In addition to the stunning views of 12,928-foot Mt. Owen, the trail visits Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The route is also known for the wide variety of wildlife that is frequently seen, especially bears and moose.
2) Lake Views
Lying along the eastern base of the Teton Range is a series of glacially-carved lakes. Rising sharply above their western shores, the views of the rugged mountains are stunning and dramatic. From the shores of Jackson, Leigh, Jenny, Phelps, Bradley and Taggart Lakes, hikers will enjoy some of the most striking views in the park.
Although Yellowstone rightfully receives a lot of attention for its wildlife viewing opportunities, the Grand Tetons are also known for its diversity of wildlife. The rugged mountains provide habitat to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, grizzly bears, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose, pronghorn, wolves, fox, lynx, bobcats and mountain lions. There are also more than 300 species of birds, including trumpeter swans, ospreys and bald eagles. A drive along Moose-Wilson Road is a popular way of spotting mega fauna such as bears and moose. However, hikes such as Amphitheater Lake, Hermitage Point, Moose Ponds and the Emma Matilda Lake Loop are all great choices for possibly seeing wildlife in the backcountry.
The abrupt rise of the Tetons from the valley floor arguably makes them one of the most photogenic mountain ranges in the world. As a result, professional and amateur photographers alike will enjoy a multitude of photo opportunities around the park. Some of the best spots for getting that perfect shot include Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher’s Landing, as well as the Snake River Overlook, which was made famous by Ansel Adams’ 1942 photograph. Of course all of the backcountry locations mentioned above will also provide outstanding photo opportunities.
5) Snake River Float Trip
The Snake River meanders along the sage brush flats below the Teton Range, and provides park visitors with the unique opportunity of enjoying the majestic mountain scenery from a raft. Although outfitters offer trips throughout the day, I highly recommend the morning trips, as the mountains typically look their finest when bathed in the glow of early morning sunshine. Morning is also the best time to view wildlife along the river banks, including bald eagles.
With more than 240 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. In addition to the hikes listed above, the park offers a variety of other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit Grand Teton this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings as well as other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.
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Exploring Grand Teton National Park The Smoky Mountain Hiker is the author of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog and the online trail guide, HikingintheSmokys.com
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