Do you have something in your life that reminds you of your childhood? Mine is national park signs… especially the sign that says Colter Bay Campground in Grand Teton National Park ☺️. My family moved from Las Vegas, Nevada to Idaho Falls, Idaho in 1979 when I was 9 years old which is a two hour drive to Grand Teton National Park (if ya wanna know more about my story – you can read it here!).
So of course, for the eight years we lived in Idaho, we spent most of our summer weekends camping in Grand Teton National Park. While I am no park ranger (or really even an expert of the park for that matter) – I can give you my recommendations for what to do and where to stay on a visit to this incredible park based on the amount of times I have actually visited the park!
Did I mention – we have been back to the park seven times since we stopped living in Idaho?
And let me start by saying- every single time I make the drive from Jackson Hole, Wyoming into the park – my breath is taken away from the immense beauty this park has to offer.
My mom would always say – the reason why the mountains look so insanely large is because of the elevation from the valley when you are looking at the mountains… in case you are wondering what the elevation is – I looked it up: Moose, WY elevation is 6460 feet and the top of Grand Teton is 13,775! So that’s over 7000 of straight up mountain you are looking at in that valley!!
Pin the image below to keep this post handy for your trip to Grand Teton NP:
My Best Tips to Have a Memorable Visit in Grand Teton National Park:
- Where to Fly Into
- How Long to Stay
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
- What to Do
- Best Photography Spots in the Tetons
- Things to Do Outside of the Park
Where to Fly Into
The closest airport to Grand Teton National Park is Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the view is probably on the top ten list of prettiest views while flying in to a mountain town. It’s a very small airport and baggage claim is rather slow – but it just gives you time to take in the scenery while you are waiting!
You can also fly into Idaho Falls, Idaho or even Salt Lake City (which is a five hour drive from the park).
FYI – I have only flown to Jackson a handful of times (once in the fall and once for a ski trip). The rest of my GTNP visits were part of a good old fashioned road trip. Yup – I know Interstate 15 quite well…
How Long to Stay
This is all up to your pace of travel however I would certainly suggest making sure you have at least three full days to get a feel for the park. Honestly though 5-6 days would be most ideal and would give you time to explore Jackson and Yellowstone as well.
Where to Stay
If you read my post suggesting other national parks to visit, you know I am all about staying in the park when you visit US national parks. Whether it be camping, rv’ing, or staying at the lodges. Besides maximizing your time to explore a park , it is always an experience in and of itself.
Colter Bay Campground, RV Park, and Cabins
As a kid growing up, we would tent camp at Colter Bay Campground in the mid to northern end of the park. Seriously some of my best memories with my sisters! They did not have a reservation system back in the early 80’s so we would have to get up really early to stake our claim on our campsite every weekend. Too bad we didn’t keep tabs on our favorite spots to inform you of … COVID has made it so that all the campgrounds in the park are now on reservation systems (you can make your reservation six months in advance).
I have stayed at Colter Bay Cabins many times as well – they are rather rustic but quite roomy and very well located. If you aren’t into camping, this would be my next best suggestion on where to stay in the park.
Jackson Lake Lodge
Jackson Lake Lodge is perfectly located with some of the best lodging views in any US national park. In fact, my little sister even got married at Jackson Lake Lodge. And I just want to say – the backdrop for her wedding photos are kinda insane (i.e. the Tetons!).
This is my whole family at the shindig back in 2008!
Biggest piece of advice for staying in the park – RESERVE EARLY! Like the second you know you are going! They book up fast. Lodging can be reserved up to a year in advance.
Jenny Lake Lodge
I have personally never stayed at Jenny Lake Lodge in one of their cabins but have seen them (and my parents have stayed here and can attest to its luxuriousness). I have a stay in one of these cozy cabins on my bucket list…
Downtown Jackson Hole
If you end up not staying in the park – your next best bet is to stay in downtown Jackson Hole. I have ALWAYS wanted to stay at the Wort Hotel (I am not even kidding – like since my first visit to Jackson when I was 9 years old!). So if you have stayed or are going to stay here – make sure you tell me!!! Also – the Silver Dollar Bar and Grill is in this hotel and I have always loved that name ;).
I would only suggest staying at Teton Village if you are on a return visit or a ski trip. Other than that, Teton Village is really off on it’s own. This is where all the super luxurious and fancy resorts and spas in town are so if that is what you are looking for – you have found your place! Honestly though – the Amangani has held my interest since it opened…
Where to Eat
Since I suggested staying in the park, you are likely going to be eating in the park too!
Ranch House at Colter Bay is decent food however if you are a foodie, don’t be walking in thinking it is going to be the best meal of your life…
The Mural Room at Jackson Lake Lodge will pretty much be the best dinner views you will likely experience in all of the western United States. MAKE A RESERVATION EARLY TO EAT HERE!
Jenny Lake Lodge Dining Room is the crown jewel of dining in the park. We ate breakfast here one visit and I had the BEST huckleberry pancakes of my life… and I am a pancake snob fyi. AGAIN – EARLY RESERVATIONS!
A couple of suggestions for meals in Jackson Hole are:
- Rendezvous Bistro (ate here and loved it!)
- Local Steakhouse – I am a steak and potatoes girl so you will ALWAYS see a steakhouse on my recommendation list and this restaurant did not disappoint!
- Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – also a steakhouse but you can find quite a bit more at this landmark JH must see. Also a good place for live music and drinks… (and since 2018 has been owned by the Wort Hotel!)
What to Do
Where to start is the better question!
My family’s favorite hikes are:
- Inspiration Point Hike is one of the most popular hikes but also offers insane views of the Teton Valley
- Hidden Falls Trail is another very popular and worth it hike and can easily be combined with the Inspiration Point Hike
- Swan Lake and Heron Pond Trail – starts in Colter Bay and has no elevation gain
Hikes I hope to explore in future trips to this incredible part of Wyoming:
- Jenny Lake Trail – to be perfectly honest, I have never done this hike but know it is one that I really should have done – I promise it is on my list for my next GTNP trip!!!
- Cascade Canyon Trail – I need to try to get closer to the mountains one of these days and this is the perfect hike to do so!
- Taggart Lake Loop – seen lots of photos of this hike but again – still on my to do list 🤪
Horseback Riding, Boating, Fishing
Besides hiking and camping, you can also spend a leisurely afternoon on a horseback riding adventure or fishing. My dad had plenty of secret spots on the Snake River that he loved catching trout on. I am not a fish eater HOWEVER my mom somehow made that trout dipped in butter and flour on the campfire quite tasty!
You can also rent a boat at Colter Bay and spend the day away from the crowds.
And as with any national park visit – do not forget the visitors centers!! GTNP has a beautiful one named the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center on the road to Teton Village that is a must see. If you haven’t heard of the US National Parks Junior Ranger program – any visitor’s center will inform you of this awesome and fun interactive experience for your kids (or you!). My kids are junior rangers at probably around 25 parks – trust me – we have the badges to prove it…
Best Photography Spots in the Tetons
- Jackson Lake from Colter Bay Village – the view of the mountains reflecting in the lake will stay with you forever ☺️
- Moose, Wyoming – this is almost always my family’s first stop as we enter the park – whether it’s just to stretch our legs or get some food. It’s just the custom… and the views as you sit on the patio drinking a beer and eating pizza or a burger are pretty dang awesome
- Mormon Row – besides the mountain range itself, Moulton Barn on Mormon Row may actually be the most photographed place in the valley. It is located off of Antelope Flats Road.
- Oxbow Bend – DO NOT miss this spot. I’m just saying…
- The top of Signal Mountain
- Chapel of the Transfiguration near Moose, WY
- Snake River Overlook – where Ansel Adams took his famous photo
Things to Do Outside of the Park
Okay – if you have made it this far in reading and planning – then you pretty likely know that Grand Teton National Park is sandwiched in between Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park.
Do you know most people drive right on past GTNP on their way straight to Yellowstone too? Kinda crazy to me. And funny thing about my parents… most of our GTNP weekends did not include Yellowstone! Guess it was a good place to avoid the crowds 😂.
Jackson Hole is a very cute western (cowboy) town. Do not forget to spend at least an afternoon strolling the streets of this fun mountain town!
Yellowstone deserves it’s own post but until that happens – check out the Yellowstone National Park website for things to do there!
On my sister’s wedding weekend, she coordinated a white water rafting trip for guests interested in doing so. This is by no means my cup of tea however I have many friends that are addicted to this adrenaline rush activity.
Instead of white water rafting, you can also do a scenic float down the river (still not my cup of tea – guess I should mention here that I AM NOT A WATER PERSON!). That also means you won’t find many recommendations from me on what to do on or in water… but I obviously know I am kinda odd in that manner and need to mention it when it is an obvious activity in a destination 😎.
Well this pretty much sums up my recommendations on how to visit Grand Teton National Park and have an adventure you won’t forget.
I am guessing my mom will be reading this post and thinking of things to add so don’t be surprised if you see an edit soon to this post! Thanks mom in advance for any helpful feedback you have for me on helping others enjoy our favorite park in the US!!
Grand Teton National Park also has a new app that you can download before your visit. Check it out here!
As always- any comments or questions you have about anything in this post – feel free to leave below for me! I seriously love hearing from you!