Grand Teton National Park may not be the first national park people think of to visit, but at the very least, it’s often a supplementary day trip from Yellowstone. Even without Yellowstone neighboring it to the north, the grandeur of Teton’s towering jagged peaks can compete with any mountain range in the west. A short drive north of Jackson, WY, known as a historic fur trading town and a popular wild west getaway destination, it doesn’t take long to be immersed in the great wilderness of the Teton Range.
One of the best times to visit the park is in the fall when the temperatures cool off and the leaves start to turn. The park transforms into a stunning backdrop as light shines through the crisp golden leaves ready to drift to the ground. There are also generally fewer crowds before the first snow. With the snow comes higher resort prices and crowds of skiers and snowboarders looking for stellar ski conditions at the neighboring Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. It’s really all about timing. If you time it just right, you’ll virtually have the entire park to yourself. Although it’s not quite fall yet, it’s still fun to imagine the days when the air gets a little crisper and the leaves start to blaze into a yellowish tint.
When visiting the park, first stop off at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor’s Center to understand the park’s layout and plan your day. You can then drive north on Teton Park Road, which will take you along the base of the Tetons, past mountain lakes and eventually loop back around to Highway 26/89/191 to several scenic overlooks. (Why a three numbered highway system is needed, I will never know.)
Although Grand Teton National Park can be explored from inside a car, don’t forget to step outside! There is a ton of hiking throughout the park to waterfalls, lakes and lookouts that should not be missed if at all possible.
As you drive back towards Jackson, WY along Highway 26/89/191, there are many pull offs to stop at and enjoy the views. It’s not uncommon to see a herd of buffalo migrating from the Snake River basin to higher land or birds soaring over the valley. You may also recognize a famous view memorialized by Ansel Adams if you stop off at the Snake River Overlook.
Along the way, check out one or all of the rustic lodges; Jenny Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain Lodge or Jackson Lake Lodge. However, depending on how late in the season you visit, some of the lodges may be closed.
Also consider driving down Antelope Flats road to the gravel road Mormon Row to see some of the earliest settlement plots in the area. Additionally, you can explore the gravel but well-maintained Moose Wilson road between the national park and Teton Village to catch a glimpse of wildlife including bears and beavers in the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve.
As it’s probably easy to tell from the pictures, during the fall, the weather is unpredictable. One day it will be cloudy and overcast and the next day the clouds will break and the sun will shine. But at the end of the day, no matter what the weather may bring, Grand Teton National Park is a serene and lovely place to be in the fall.
- Are there separate admission fees to enter both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park? No! One admission fee of $25 will get you into both parks for seven consecutive days.
- What type of wildlife can you see in Grand Teton National Park? Moose, Black and Grizzly Bears, Pronghorn, Elk, Bald Eagles, Gray Wolves, Coyotes, and Bison.
- If you have some extra time, is it worth driving to the Idaho side of the Teton Mountains? Yes! Consider driving along the Teton Pass Highway to Victor and Driggs, Idaho to view the mountains from a different angle. The Idaho side is just as scenic and even more low key than the area surrounding Jackson, WY.
- Is the park open year round? Yes! It’s open year round but many of the roads and lodges within the park are closed seasonally.