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With my last three summers spent in this remote and stunning National Park, I know my way around the 485 square miles that make up the park.
I could spend one month in the Tetons (ahem, and I have before and did not get bored)! But, I know that summers are valuable time and unless you are a student, you may not have summers off to spend all the time in the world adventuring.
Table of Contents:
Information to Know About the Park
Where are the Tetons?
Why are the Tetons geologically unique?
How much does the park entrance cost?
How to stay safe?
How do I recreate responsibly?
What about wildlife?
Lodging, Transportation, and the Fun Stuff
When should I visit?
When should I make reservations?
Where should I camp?
How should I get to the park?
General tips for a smooth trip
How to Spend 3 Days in the Grand Teton National Park
Families or Experience-Driven Hikers
information to know about the park
TETONS? I DON'T KNOW HER.
Situated just an hour south of the first National Park in the United States, Yellowstone National Park established in 1872, sits Grand Teton National Park. While the assumption is that Wyoming may have little to offer in terms of scenery, you will be blown away by what the landscape actually has to offer. The Grand Teton National Park makes for a great road trip and is how I have preferred to visit the past three years. If you are on a time crunch, there are several other ways to get to the park. But, you will want a rental car while you are here to make the most of your time, as the park is large and you will want to see it all!
WHAT MAKES THE PARK SO UNIQUE?
Coined the mountains of imagination, the Teton Range are one of the youngest mountain ranges in North America. Giving erosion less time to wear down their ragged peaks, igneous granite form the highest peaks in the central Teton Range – Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and Mount Owen. While the peaks are stunning, the glacial canyons such as Cascade, Paintbrush, Death Canyon and Granite feature glacially polished bedrock as you hike up into the Range.
If you are curious about what makes the mountains so stunning, make it a point to stop into the Visitor Center in the Park.
How much does it cost to enter the park?
To enter the Grand Teton National Park, it will cost you $35. This $35 pass counts as a seven-day pass to enter the Tetons.
If you love a bargain and plan to visit more than one National Park per year, I suggest purchasing an America the Beautiful Park Pass. For the small cost of $80, the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass is your ticket to over 2000 recreation sites nationwide.
Here is a list of where this pass is honored!
More information about this pass (from Discover Your Northwest):
Honored nationwide at National Park Service, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation sites charging day-use or entrance fees.
Valid for 12 months from the month of purchase. Expires the last day of the month punched.
Includes two signature lines where two individuals may sign the pass.
Admits pass holder and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle at per vehicle fee sites.
At per person fee sites, admits pass holder and up to three persons age 16 and older. Children 15 and younger are admitted free of charge.
Photo identification may be required to verify ownership.
Passes are NON-REFUNDABLE, NON-TRANSFERABLE, and CANNOT BE REPLACED IF LOST OR STOLEN.
Physical pass must be present at time of use. Confirmation email(s) or receipt(s) are not acceptable for entry.
Fees vary widely across the thousands of Federal Recreation sites. To plan your trip and determine if this pass is the right one for you, please contact the offices of the federal recreation sites where you plan to visit.
How do I stay safe?
As someone who travels a TON, often leading outdoor excursions or venturing by myself, I ALWAYS look up these numbers. I always leave a typed itinerary for my trusted individuals and these numbers are included!
Universal Emergency Services: 911
Ranger Station: Grand Tetons Park Ranger Station: Phone #: 307-739-3300 (press 6 for emergency dispatch)
Local Medical Center: Grand Teton Medical Clinic: (307) 543-2514
Address: 100 Jackson Lake Lodge Rd, Moran, WY 83013
Hours: 9am to 5pm (7 days a week)
Hospital: St. Johns Health: (307) 733-3636
Address: 625 E Broadway Ave, Jackson, WY 83001
Hours: 24 hours/7 days a week
How do I recreate responsibly?
In order to preserve public land and sacred places for years to come, please follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles when hiking and camping. If you need a refresher on what those may be, watch this video or READ here.
What about wildlife?
Grand Teton is populated by black and brown bears, which means that while
camping, hiking, and backpacking, you need to be bear-aware. This involves storing food properly, carrying scented items properly, carrying bear spray, knowing difference between each bear, and knowing how to engage with a bear if you happen to come across one while camping or adventuring.
If you plan to go backpacking in the Grand Teton National Park, you will need to store all food in a hard-sided bear-resistant bear container (NOT A BEAR BAG)!
Lodging, Transportation, and the fun stuff
When should I VISIT?
Depending on your activity, you may adjust your time of year, but I don't think there is a bad time to travel to the park.
Backpacking and Hiking
If you are hoping to get the most out of your adventure, I recommend traveling in the summer months, specifically June through September. If you are day hiking, most trails should be cleared from snow by June, however, this depends on snowpack from year to year.
Now, if you are a winter adventurer, there are abundant winter activities to participate in. Winter is a different beast in Wyoming. Instead of lacing up your hiking boots, you are locking in your ski boots or snowshoes.
WHEN should I BOOK?
My suggestion for booking completely relies on the type of accommodations you are hoping to reserve. If you've picked out the season you are hoping to visit in based on your desired activities, book approximately 6 months ahead of time to secure your preferred accommodations.
All park campground sites are reserved by advanced reservations only. Campsites are reservable on Recreation.gov. Plan ahead and reserve your night under the stars up to six months in advance.
If you intend to dry camp or dispersed camp at a first-come, first-serve campground, you will not be able to secure reservations. I only recommend this if you can make it to the campsite early as the campsites are often full.
WHERE TO CAMP?
Below is a map of the Grand Teton National Park Camping Options.
Car camping or sleeping overnight in vehicles is NOT allowed in park pullouts, parking areas, picnic grounds, or any place other than a designated campground. Overnight parking at trailheads is only permitted with a backcountry permit.
Here is a detailed guide on Where to Camp in the Grand Teton National Park.
Not a camper?
You don't have to camp in the Grand Teton National Park to explore all it offers. To fulfill my mission of making the outdoors accessible to everyone, I wanted to share the options for a more comfortable stay at my favorite National Park to date! Some prefer to enjoy a private bathroom where they can take a hot shower in peace over having to fork over five dollars for a seven-minute shower while ensuring the curtain in the public bathroom doesn't offer everyone waiting in line a show.
Grand Teton National Park has various lodging options ranging from $122 to $1000 / night. These lodges are open from Mid-May to October, but some offer winter packages as well.
How will I get around?
Flying In & Renting a Car
Jackson Hole Airport, Jackson Hole, WY
The easiest and most efficient way to get to the Grand Teton National Park is to fly into Jackson Hole Airport, Jackson Hole, WY. This airport is serviced by Alaska, American, Delta, and United. The airport can be more expensive than others within a day's drive, but if you are pressed for time this is your best bet to get the most out of this golden location.
This is a popular location to fly into while planning out your trip, most used to cut down the costs of flying into the small boutique airport near the park. Bozeman sits about 4 and a 1/2 hours away and 222 miles away.
Salt Lake City, UT
This is another popular location to fly into, making this likely the cheapest option for budget travel. Salt Lake City is approximately 300 miles southwest of the park and just around a 5 hour drive.
It is super convenient to rent a car at the airport, which is what I recommend to avoid taking Ubers or taxi services. Renting a campervan is also a great idea if sleeping on the ground in bear country sounds terrifying (or rent an RV or campervan with Outdoorsy). If you're under 25, my advice is to download Hopper to avoid the pesky underage charges!
Packing up & Roadtripping
I am partial to this option because I LOVE a good road trip and you can avoid flying with your backpacking or hiking gear. Which is great if you need to bring larger things like a cooler or stand-up paddle board. Again, this a good option, if you are carpooling with friends because you can split the costs unlike you can with flights.
Tips for a Smooth Trip
Plan your stay as soon as you can (or as soon as reservations are live). These campsites are VERY difficult to reserve last minute. The Grand Teton National Park is a well-traveled park. (or as soon as reservations are live). The National Park Service manages all the campgrounds, so you can make reservations via Recreation.gov. Each campsite has different open dates, covered below, therefore they open for reservations at different times. Each reservation window opens approximately 180 days or 6 months prior to the season. For example, a reservation for July 1, 2024, opens on January 1, 2024, at 8 AM Mountain time.
Make sure the campsites location is proximal to the activities you want to do and parts of the park you want to explore.
Purchase an America the Beautiful pass to save money throughout the year on all of your National Park adventures. Coming in at $80, which is the cost of two entrance fees a year, this is the best purchase for any outdoor adventurer!
What the heck should I do with 3 days in the park
Here are 5 different ways I would spend 3 days in the Grand Teton National Park. I have an itinerary for varying levels of adventurers, which I will break down here.
PSA: these are archetypes that I created based on my experience of people I see hiking trails and what I would personally recommend. I fully believe that no hiker is cooler or better than another because we are all outside together!
This is the hiker who is not afraid of a challenge, is familiar with their body in the wilderness, and knows how to pack their bag, and how to fuel for a long day of hiking. This hiker can expect to hike 10-12 miles in one day. This is the most intense type of hiker there is. Now, there is a few levels above this such as ultramarathoners, trail runners, and alpinists. I am not going to hop into that range of intense, simply because I don't have much of my own experience.
This is the hiker that loves a thigh burner and heart pumper, but couples a hard hike with a slow afternoon. This hiker can expect to hike 7-9 miles in one day. Preferably with beer, food, and lounging in a hammock or some form of a lake. This is the type of hiker that can get around most of the park, just sticking to maybe one long hike or two shorter hikes in a day.
This is the hiker that will hike a good mid-afternoon hike after a morning spent sightseeing while grabbing iced coffee. Then afterward, will hit up the town for some dinner and drinks. This hiker can expect to hike 4-7 miles in one day. This type of hiker knows how to have a good time and is there for a good time, not a hard time!
This is the hiker that prefers a stroll over heart-thumping switchbacks. They would rather spot bears, moose, and birds than wake up at 5 am and put in some hard work until lunch. This hiker can expect to be seen on 2 miles of trails and at all the pullouts. They definitely have an animal spotter blog on their phone and a birding book. They also have Nocs and a cool-brimmed sun hat.
THE FAMILY or EXPERIENCE-DRIVEN HIKERS
These are the hikers that either have children that prevent them from expending too much energy on a hike or would rather drive to landmarks. This hiker only hikes short viewpoints, takes advantage of all shortcuts to save energy, and has a short and structured day.
The family or experience-driven hiker
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That's a wrap!
Lea Dawn Hart