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Grand Teton National Park

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Northwest Wyoming : Grand Teton National Park
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Grand Teton National Park [1] is a United States National Park that is located in the Rocky Mountains, in Northwest Wyoming. The park is south of Yellowstone National Park and just north of the town of Jackson. Grand Teton National Park is noted for its stunning mountain vistas, its shimmering alpine lakes and its abundant wildlife.

Mormon row barn, Grand Teton National Park

Understand

History

In the late 1800s, Colonel S.B.M. Young, the acting Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, suggested the expansion of Yellowstone's park boundaries towards the south. During the following years, various officials introduced a series of proposals to include the Teton mountain range and Jackson Lake in an enlarged Yellowstone. These proposals were met with fierce opposition by local ranchers, who feared that an expanded park would lead to cuts in their grazing areas.

Around this same time, farmers in the region suggested the damming of Two Ocean, Emma Matilda and Jenny Lakes for irrigation purposes. Ranchers became concerned that if the lakes were dammed, it could lead to the destruction of natural resources by way of increased commercial development. This concern led to a key meeting in 1923, when Yellowstone Superintendent Horace Albright and some local residents decided that they could pool private funds to buy up land. This way, they could lock the land away from developers and preserve the natural character of the Jackson Hole region.

Albright was the only person at the meeting who openly supported a national park. The other attendees wanted to make sure that they could continue to use the land for hunting and ranching. As time went by, public support for a national park grew. This support wasn't unanimous, and there were still many holdouts who would not sell their land to the government. Nonetheless, on February 26, 1929, Grand Teton National Park was signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. became enamored of the Jackson Hole area and decided to help with Superintendent Albright's plan. Rockefeller created a private company as a front to buy land, using the company to hide both his personal involvement and any links to the federal government. That way, local residents would sell their land to the company, not knowing that it was in fact going to be donated to the National Park Service.

When the true nature of Rockefeller's front company became publicly known, it caused outrage in the area. After many legal battles, this controversy was put to rest with a compromise that allowed limited hunting and grazing within the park, as well as the existence of some privately run guest ranches.

Landscape

The Wyoming landscape in Grand Teton National Park is stunningly beautiful. This range often represents the entire Rocky Mountain range in countless photographs, postcards, and imaginations. This section of the Rockies is a wondrous playground for climbers, hikers, skiers, and nearly all other outdoor enthusiasts.

Unmatched beauty of the Tetons

Flora and fauna

Grand Teton National Park has abundant wildlife, but it is most famous for its populations of elk, bison (buffalo), moose and bald eagles.

Climate

Jackson Hole hardly seems the same place when one contrasts the winter and summer seasons. The southern end of the valley averages 15 feet of snow in the winter and often reaches balmy 80 degree temperatures in the summer. Temperatures in higher elevations average four degrees Fahrenheit cooler every 1,000 feet in rise. Raingear is recommended during spring, summer and fall. Sub-zero temperatures are common throughout winter and demand multi-layered clothing, hats, mittens and cold weather boots. Vehicles with four-wheel drive or all-weather tires are recommended for winter travel, roads may be closed during blizzards. Drive at or below posted speed limits at all times; moose and other wildlife are often seen crossing roads during the winter.

Winter doesn’t officially set in until December 21, but the first heavy snows may fall by November 1. Between winter storms the days are sunny and the nights are frigid. Average temperatures range from a daily maximum of 29°F to a minimum of 6°F. Ask at the Moose Visitor Center for road closures during blizzards.

During spring mild days and cool nights frequently come with rain or snow. The spring months average 11 days with measurable precipitation. Temperatures typically range from 22°F to 49° F. Valley trails remain snow-covered until late May.

Between the months of June through August the average daily temperature is 76°F, but high-elevation hiking trails don’t melt out until mid-July. Nighttime temperatures can reach the lower 40s. Most of the year’s precipitation falls during the summer months; afternoon thunderstorms are common.

Sun and occasional rain and snow fill the short fall days. The average daily maximum is 54°F while the minimum average is a cool 25°F. The fall months average 23 days that drop below freezing. For a comfortable trip, bring plenty of layered clothing.

Get in

Grand Teton overview map

By air

Jackson Hole Airport (IATA: JAC) [2] lies within the park boundaries, on the west side of the Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway, which carries three US Route designations: 26, 89, and 191. American, Delta, Frontier, and United serve the airport. Some service is seasonal.

By car

From the north, U.S. Highways 89, 191 and 287 share the same road into the park via Yellowstone National Park. This route is closed from November to April due to snow.

From the south, U.S. Highways 26, 89 and 191 share a road from Jackson.

From the east, U.S. 26 connects to Dubois.

From the west, Grassy Lake Road, a gravel road, connects Ashton, Idaho, to U.S. 89 near the north end of the park. This route is closed during the winter.

Fees/Permits

All vehicles and individuals entering the park must pay an entrance fee that is valid for seven days. The entrance fee provides entry to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Fees are $25 for non-commercial vehicles, $12 for hikers and cyclists, and $20 for motorcycles. A National Parks Pass ($80 and valid for one year) provides free entrance to all national parks and monuments. From December through mid-April a winter day use pass is also available for $5 per person (Grand Teton National Park only).

Grand Teton National Park is a bit curious in that the ranger stations where you pay the entry fees lie fairly deep within the park. This essentially means that sections of the park can be accessed for free, including Jackson Hole Airport.

Get around

Most visitors to the park drive around, because of the distances involved. Some hardy souls bike or hike.

See

There are turnouts and scenic overlooks throughout the park which offer a good view of Grand Teton's many mountains. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Oxbow Bend About a mile east of Jackson Lake Junction. Besides the view of Mt. Moran, many types of birds can be seen here.
  • Cathedral Group turnout This turnout offers a great view of the three highest peaks in the Teton range: Teewinot, the Grand Teton and Mt. Owen.
  • Teton Glacier turnout About 4 miles north of Moose Junction on Teton Park Road, this turnout highlights the largest glacier in the park.
  • Snake River Overlook This overlook is along U.S. 26/89/191. Ansel Adams took a famous photograph of the Tetons from this site.
  • Schwabacher's Landing This dirt road, off U.S. 26/89/191, forks into two branches, one labeled for cars, the other for boats. Both branches have parking, and they lead to nice views of the Tetons and their reflections in the Snake River.
  • Signal Mountain Turn off the park road south of Jackson Lake Junction. A fairly narrow paved spur road climbs to a parking area, then a very short walk to the summit gives an excellent 360 degree view of Jackson Hole.

Besides the mountains, there are other attractions worth seeing:

  • Colter Bay Indian Arts Museum Many Native American artifacts are on display here. Video presentations about the park are frequently shown. Gift store. Free admission.
  • Menor's Ferry This is a reconstruction of an 1890s ferry that crossed the Snake River.
Reconstruction of Menor's Ferry. Ranger led program
  • Chapel of the Transfiguration This Epicopalian log cabin chapel, in a meadow near Moose Junction on Teton Park Road, has a view of the mountains through an altar window. There are also stained glass windows that depict the mountainous landscape.
  • Chapel of the Sacred Heart This Catholic chapel, near Jackson Lake Junction, has a rustic feel with its log cabin construction.

Do

A worthwhile and fun activity is to see Hidden Falls by Jenny Lake. You can hike 2.5 miles to the falls and take a boat ride back ($7 one way, $10 round trip). The falls and whitewater is spectacular as it makes its mad dash down to Jenny Lake. Be sure to be on the lookout for rock climbers near the falls.

Beyond Hidden Falls the hiking trail continues with a climb up to Inspiration Point which affords a spectacular view over Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole. After another climb the trail flattens out and heads west along highly scenic Cascade Canyon. Eventually the trail reaches Lake Solitude.

Buy

  • Barker-Ewing Grand Teton Park Float Trips, PO Box 100, Moose, WY 83012, 800-3365-1800, [3]. 10-mile scenic float trips on the Snake River within Grand Teton National Park. $70 adults/$40 children.


Eat

Moose bed down in the willows, and are frequently spotted throughout the park.

Colter Bay Village

  • The John Colter Cafe Court has Mexican and American fare. It's quick and decent.
  • Chuckwagon Restaurant — nice sit down dinner type of restaurant. They have breakfast buffet (7.95 for cold 11.95 for cold and hot). Drinks ordered charge extra (e.g. orange juice $2.5, Latte $3.65ish)

Jackson Lake Lodge

  • The Pioneer Grill offers counter service with light meals, snacks and soda fountain treats for breakfast, lunch and dinner, open daily 6AM-10:30PM. Service is not very quick and the food is not great, but it's open all the time.

Drink

Sleep

Due to the political deals which made Grand Teton National Park a reality, a mix of concessioner lodging, private guest ranches and camping is available within the park. Apart from the in-park accommodations, Jackson is the closest town with many lodging options.

Lodging

  • Colter Bay Village, just off U.S. 89/287, +1 307 543-2811 or +1 800 628-9988, [4]. Open late May to late September. Facilities range from basic tent cabins to cabins with private baths. Budget to midrange prices. The tents have 4 bunk beds outfitted with decent sleeping pads, but you'll need to provide your own sleeping bag.
  • Jackson Lake Lodge, just off U.S. 89/287, +1 307 543-2811 or +1 800 628-9988, [5]. Open from late May to early October. Large hotel with on-site restaurants and heated outdoor pool. Many mountain views. Midrange to pricey for this area.
  • Jenny Lake Lodge, accessible via North Jenny Lake Junction off of Teton Park Road, +1 307 733-4647 or +1 800 628-9988, [6]. Open early June to early October. Upscale to luxurious cabins and suites with on-site restaurant. Expensive.
  • Teton Mountain Lodge, 3385 West Village Drive, PO Box 564, Teton Village, +1 800 801-6615, [7]. A slope-side mountain resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming that offers rustic lodge rooms and suites. This luxury resort features a luxury spa, extensive meeting facilities, a variety of ski services and fine dining at Cascade Grill House & Spirits.

Camping

  • Flagg Ranch Campground — Located just south of Yellowstone and 5 miles north of Grand Teton National Park on U.S. 89/191/287. +1 800 443-2311. Open May-Sept, call for exact dates. 175 sites in the spruce-fir forest. Call for reservations for both trailer sites and tent sites at this concession-operated campground.
  • Lizard Creek Campground — 32 miles north of Moose, at the north end of the park, +1 800 672-6012. Open May-Sept, call for exact dates. 60 sites, usually fills by about 2PM. Vehicle size limited to 30 feet. A less heavily developed campground with sites in the spruce and fir forest. One side of the campground is adjacent to and slightly above Jackson Lake.
  • Colter Bay Campground — 25 miles north of Moose, near Jackson Lake, +1 800 628-9988 or [8]. Open May-Sept, call for exact dates. 350 sites, 11 group sites, easier access for campers, trailers & RVs. Trailer dump station, showers, and laundry nearby. Usually fills by about noon.
  • Signal Mountain Campground — 16 miles north of Jenny Lake, +1 800 672-6012. Open May-Sept, call for exact dates. 81 sites, and a trailer dump station. Usually fills by about 10AM. Signal Mountain offers a mix of spruce and fir trees, hillsides, and lake and mountain views. Adjacent to Signal Mountain Lodge and marina with a camp store and amenities close by. Sites are generally small and intimate. Vehicles size limited to 30 feet.
  • Jenny Lake Campground — 8 miles north of Moose, +1 800 628-9988. Open May-Sept, call for exact dates. 51 sites, tents only. This is the park's most popular campground and is generally full by 8AM. Sites are in among the evergreens and glacial boulders a short distance from Jenny Lake. Only one vehicle, less than 14 feet long, is permitted per site. Trailers are prohibited.
  • Gros Ventre Campground 11.5 miles south and east of Moose. +1 800 628-9988. Open May-Sept, call for exact dates. 360 sites, 5 group sites, and a trailer dump station. Generally fills in the evening, if at all. The campground lies along the Gros Ventre River with a mix of sites in sagebrush, beneath cottonwoods and adjacent to but a short distance from the river. If you are arriving in the afternoon of a busy day, just pull in. Seek a better site the next morning.

Backcountry

All backcountry camping requires a permit. These permits are free when applied for in person, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Permits can be obtained at the Moose and Colter Bay visitor centers, and at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. People who wish to climb mountains must apply at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.

Requests for advance reservations are accepted from January 1st to May 15th. Send the request by regular mail, fax, or in person. Include your name, address, phone number, number of people, and preferred campsites and dates. Be sure to include alternatives. Requests are processed in the order received. Requests may be faxed to +1 307 739-3438 or mailed to:

Grand Teton National Park
Backcountry Permits
PO Box 170
Moose, Wyoming 83012

A non-refundable service fee of $15 will be charged for each reservation (fee is per trip, not per person). Put credit card information directly on the fax, or mail a check made payable to the National Park Service. If no payment is received with your request, you will be billed. Only one-third of the sites are reserved in advance, leaving two-thirds available for walk-in reservations.

Stay safe

The weather can change rapidly in this mountainous region. Temperatures can plummet with little advance warning. Lightning is a real danger. Watch the skies, and if you hear thunder, take shelter within a structure or lower your profile to the sky.

Get out

  • Yellowstone National Park — The world's largest concentration of geysers, hot springs and other geothermal features is a short drive to the north from Grand Teton National Park on U.S. 89/191/287. Yellowstone also has bison, elk, antelope and bears. Admission to Grand Teton also allows entry into Yellowstone, but be prepared to show your pass at the entrance gate.


Routes through Grand Teton National Park
Idaho FallsJackson  W noframe E  RivertonCasper
LivingstonYellowstone N.P.  N noframe S  JacksonLogan
BozemanYellowstone N.P.  N noframe S  JacksonRock Springs
HelenaYellowstone N.P.  N noframe S  LanderRawlins


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