Known for stunning mountain scenery, Grand Teton National Park has one of the most recognizable landscapes in the U.S. If you’re headed to nearby Yellowstone, or other parts of Wyoming, then definitely consider stopping for some stellar views, and maybe even some Grand Teton camping and hiking. The park protects the major peaks of the 40-mile Teton Range, including the famous Cathedral Group. This oft-photographed cluster of nine pyramid-shaped mountains is mostly over 12,000 feet tall with the highest, Grand Teton, topping out at 13,770’.
The Teton Range is known for its dramatic east side, where the mountains rise steeply without foothills, between 4,000 and 7,000 feet above the valley of Jackson Hole. The reason for this sudden rise is the Teton Fault, which has sharply uplifted the mountains, making them one of the youngest mountain ranges in the U.S. at only nine million years old. Despite, their young formation age, the Tetons are composed of some of the oldest rocks in North America, a 2.7-billion-year-old metamorphic gneiss intruded by 2.5-billion-year-old igneous granite. The result is that some rocks have a zebra pattern of light and dark rock which can be spotted by visitors on the ground.
Highlights at the park include driving park roads to scenic viewpoints, camping at one of the seven NPS campgrounds, and water sports on park lakes. Grant Teton hikes fall into two categories: easier front-country trails in the valley and harder backcountry trails into the mountain range. Like other Wyoming national parks, winter is a good time for snow sports in and around the Tetons, but the seasons for camping and hiking run from late spring to early fall.
Grand Teton National Park Camping
NPS manages six campgrounds inside the park, and one just outside, offering around 1,100 campsites, plus additional glamping opportunities, if you prefer more comfort for your Wyoming vacation. All campsites are only available by advanced reservation, up to six months in advance, at recreation.gov. These sites range from tent-only sites to group sites to RV sites with electric-only or full hook-ups. Most campgrounds offer modern amenities like flush toilets and running water, while only certain campgrounds have pay showers, laundry, and stores. The campgrounds below are presented north-to-south. Be sure to check further details for each one before reserving your site.
Headwaters Campground at Flagg Ranch is located just north of Grand Teton N.P., on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, which also adjoins Yellowstone N.P. The campground is open from June to October, offering 131 sites, including some tent-only sites and mostly full-hookup and pull-through RV sites. There are also 40 Camper Cabins that have lanterns but no electricity. Located near the headwaters of the Snake River, this campground is popular for its remote location, fishing opportunities, wildlife viewing, and proximity to Yellowstone National Park.
Lizard Creek Campground is on the northern shore of Jackson Lake, open from mid-June to mid-September. Among the 60 sites, nearly half are forested walk-in tent sites, while the remainder are drive-up sites for tents or dry RVs. This quiet and rustic campground has flush toilets and running water, but you’ll need to visit nearby NPS villages for additional amenities. Highlights include lake access, wildlife viewing, and photography.
Three campgrounds are located at the popular Colter Bay Village, which the park service describes as a summer camp for the entire family. Located on the shore of Jackson Lake, this busy village offers hot showers, laundry facilities, a grocery store, restaurants, a marina, gift shop, and visitor center. Highlights include stunning views across the lake to the Teton Range, plus activities like hiking, boating, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, and swimming.
The Colter Bay RV Park is open from early May to early October, offering 112 full-hookup RV sites. Nearby, the Colter Bay Tent Village is the glamping option, offering 66 tent cabins that are open from mid-May to early September. The Colter Bay Campground, open mid-May to mid-September, offers 373 sites, including spaces for tents, dry-camping RVs, group sites, hiker-bicyclist sites, and ADA-accessible sites.
Signal Mountain Campground is located in the center of the park on the shore of Jackson Lake, near Signal Mountain Lodge. There you’ll find many amenities, including hot showers, laundry, a general store, restaurants, and more. The campground is open mid-May to mid-October, offering 81 sites, mostly for tents or dry RVs, plus some electric-only hookups. Highlights include lake access, boat rentals, and opportunities to join various guided trips.
Gros Ventre Campground, in the southeastern part of the park, is the closest to the town of Jackson. Located next to the Gros Ventre River, this 322-site campground is surrounded by aspen trees. Open late April to early October, many sites offer views of nearby Blacktail Butte and the more-distant Teton Range. Highlights include frequent opportunities for wildlife viewing, including bison and moose, and fishing opportunities along the Gros Ventre River.
In addition to camping, there are seven lodging options inside the park. Much of the lodging and camping operations are managed by the Grand Teton Lodging Company, which maintains a helpful website for sorting through the many options. Plus, more hotels are available in the town of Jackson.
Grand Teton Hiking
Hiking at Grand Teton National Park involves two types of trails—easier front-country trails, mostly through the valley, and steep backcountry trails, which mostly require long day-hikes or backpacking into the mountains. The below list is organized north to south.
At Flagg Ranch, in the northern part of the park, there are two popular front-country trails. Polecat Creek Loop is an easy 2.5-mile loop trail that partially follows Polecat Creek through meadows and forests. Nearby, the Flagg Canyon Trail is a 2.5-mile (one-way) trail that passes through Flagg Canyon along the Snake River.
From Colter Bay Village, there are several front-country trails of varying lengths. One shorter hike is the Lakeshore Trail, a 2-mile loop through a forest and along Jackson Lake. Another easy trail is the Heron Pond-Swan Lake Loop, a 3-mile hike winding through forests and wetlands with great views of the Tetons. A more challenging hike is the Hermitage Trail, a 9.7-mile loop through rolling terrain that leads to Hermitage Point on Jackson Lake.
In the southern half of the park, a popular trail is the String Lake Loop. This easy 3.7-mile loop is mostly flat, with plenty of shoreline and mountain scenery. Nearby, a shorter alternative is hiking the 1.8-mile out-and-back Leigh Lake Trail along Leigh Lake’s eastern shore. Both lakes offer a quiet experience given only non-motorized boating is allowed.
Some of the most popular trails in the park are found around Jenny Lake, near the base of the Cathedral Group. A moderately challenging front-country hike is the Jenny Lake Loop, a 7.6-mile round-trip hike around Jenny Lake known for stunning mountain views and access to several popular short backcountry trails.
These short backcountry trails include Hidden Falls, a highly popular 1-mile out-and-back trail (with 200 feet of elevation gain) that leads to a 100-foot cascading waterfall. Adding another 1-mile round trip (with 300 feet of elevation gain) leads to Inspiration Point, known for views of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole. For those who want to visit Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point but don’t want to hike the Jenny Lake Trail, they can buy a ticket for the shuttle boat that departs from near the Jenny Lake Visitor Center.
For adventurous hikers, they can continue past Inspiration Point into the Grand Teton backcountry on the Forks of Cascade Canyon Trail. This trail runs for 4.4-miles, one-way, with 500 feet of elevation gain, through a glacial-carved valley beneath the tallest peaks in the Teton Range. Go only as far as you can manage in a day and return as you came to the Jenny Lake Trail.
Of course, there are plenty more trails to explore, so check out the park’s hiking webpage for further ideas. In addition to hiking, other popular activities include boating or paddling on park lakes, climbing and mountaineering in the Tetons, and fishing on park waterways—with each activity requiring permits, special equipment, and planning.
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Cover photo: Moulton Barn. NPS/Tobiason