In a park system filled with awe-inspiring places, Grand Teton National Park stands alone. Rocky peaks rise suddenly from the flat grasslands, towering over cold, clean lakes and pristine forests. This majestic landscape was the stomping grounds first of nomadic Native American tribes, then trappers and dude ranchers — today, it's a protected wilderness that's popular with adventurers and grizzly bears alike.
Whether you're a history buff or a hiker, this 310,000-acre park is packed with things to do. From backcountry fishing and wild rock climbing to comfortable camping and boat tours, there's an activity for every traveler.
Delight your Instagram followers with a beautiful photo from one of the park's most recognizable locations. Start with the rustic wooden John Moulton barn on Mormon Row — the rugged peaks rising in the background create the perfect wild-West scene. Join the professional photographers at sunrise or sunset, or come mid-afternoon to capture the clear, blue sky.
Oxbow Bend is another popular photo spot. Located on Highway 89/191, this overlook provides a gorgeous view of Mount Moran and the Snake River. Come in the morning, and you'll be able to capture the reflection of the mountains in the water.
Jenny Lake is one of the most beautiful places in Grand Teton, but the shoreline can get crowded. Rent a canoe or kayak from Jenny Lake Boating, and you can enjoy the mountain views in comparative solitude.
Rentals are available during the summer; the rest of the year, feel free to bring your own boat or stand-up paddleboard. Plan to launch in the morning, when the water is calm and the skies are clear. If you're craving a longer paddling trip, check out the 15-mile Jackson Lake.
Lace up your boots, brush up on bear safety, and hit the trail — Grand Teton National Park has more than 200 miles of hiking trails, so there's an option for every skill level. The flat, beginner-friendly Lake Creek Trail delivers fantastic mountain views. For some of the best high-elevation views in the park, it's hard to beat a hike through Paintbrush Canyon.
If you're in good shape, take on the difficult 10-mile loop past the gorgeous Amphitheater and Surprise Lakes. Start at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, and come prepared for the altitude — you'll climb more than 3,000 feet.
Moose, grizzly bears, wolves, and bison are just a few of the critters that live within the park boundaries. To see moose and elk, visit Blacktail Pond; if you want to watch bison, walk along the Snake River south of the Jackson Lake Dam. Black bears and grizzly bears tend to avoid people, but you'll have the best chance of spotting them at Willow Flats and Oxbow Bend.
If you're lucky enough to see wildlife, make sure to keep your distance. Rangers recommend that you stay at least 100 yards away from bears and 25 yards from other animals.
Worship might be the last thing on your mind on vacation, but the Chapel of the Transfiguration is worth a visit just for its history. Built in the traditional log cabin style, this humble church blends into its wilderness setting. Inside, it's easy to see the appeal — each of the log pews has a view of the mountains. Come for one of the Sunday church services, or take a self-guided tour the rest of the week.
Find out what life was like on the frontier at the Murie Ranch. Explore historic buildings, including the homestead cabin, an art studio, and the main ranch house. On summer weekdays, join a ranger-led tour to learn about ranch life and go inside some of the buildings. The rest of the year, feel free to explore the property on your own; a series of educational signs explains the history of the region.
Fill up your gas tank and hit the road to get a sense of the grand scale of Grand Teton National Park. If you're in search of panoramic views, take Signal Mountain Summit Road. Get up close and personal with the peaks on the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive, which runs along the shoreline.
The Teton Park Road parallels the mountain range, providing a beautiful introduction to the park — allow plenty of time to pull off at the observation points along the way.
The rocky, jagged Grand Tetons are a rock climber's paradise. Blacktail Butte is one of the most accessible spots for sport climbing; park at the trailhead, and climb more than 20 bolted routes on the limestone cliffs.
If you're visiting before the snow melts in July, take the ferry across Jenny Lake, and hike two miles to Guide's Wall. This towering face is lined with long routes, solid crack climbs, and rewarding rappels. In the summer, hike into the rocky peaks for challenging, technical backcountry climbing.
Discover the cultural and natural history of the park in the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Watch a movie, explore the exhibits, and attend one of the daily ranger-led programs. If you're interested in hiking, chat with the rangers about the weather forecast and trail conditions.
The visitor center building itself is worth a visit — the glass walls provide panoramic views of the Tetons. It's open from early May through the end of October.
See the mountains from a cowboy's perspective during a trail ride through the Grand Tetons. Book a guided excursion leaving from Jackson Lake Lodge, Colter Bay Village, or the Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch. During these one- or two-hour trips, you'll take gentle trails through rolling hills and meadows filled with wildflowers.
Don't worry if you're new to horseback riding; horses and basic instruction are included. Most group rides operate from the end of May through September.