Insider Tips for Your Grand Teton National Park Vacation
There are few places on the planet that can top the spectacular jagged peaks of the Teton Mountain Range that anchors one of our National Park System’s iconic destinations, Grand Teton National Park. While you’ve likely heard of this grand range and the abundance of wildlife here including, moose, buffalo, elk, deer, wolves and bears, there are a number of insider tips that can help you make the most of your first time visit to the park.
When to go
The peak summer months of July and August bring out the hordes of tourists, as well as a beautiful array of wildflowers. The winter season is the most tranquil time to head to the park. While travelers still come in droves to the Jackson Hole area, many stick to the slopes. Most of the park facilities are closed, but this is a fabulous time to go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
After the kids are back in school, autumn is another good time to visit with fewer crowds and the chance to view brilliant fall foliage including golden yellows of the aspens as well as bright oranges and fiery reds. While it depends on Mother Nature, of course, the third week in September is typically the peak time for fall colors.
Spring is a good season to visit for wildlife viewing, but beware as the weather can be wild and unpredictable.
Hiking the backcountry
If you plan to camp in the backcountry, you’ll need to do some advanced planning as it requires a permit. Park-approved bear canisters must be used, but they are available for free through the park. For day hikes in the backcountry, you don’t need a permit but should check with rangers at any one of the park’s visitor centers to determine trail accessibility as weather conditions can be extreme.
The park offers 238 miles of trails, with the majority open and accessible by late summer, but hikers may run into snowbanks as late as September. If you plan to hike in the low country, typically you won’t have to worry about snow by late spring/early summer.
Keep in mind, this is bear country. It is recommended that hikers carry bear spray at all times in the backcountry and know how to use it. Make sure it’s accessible in case you encounter a bear out on the trail. Making noise at regular intervals, such as loudly clapping your hands and shouting, can help avoid a run in with a bear.
Best places to view wildlife
The park is home to sixty-one animal species that live beneath the peaks of the Grand Tetons. Moose, elk, buffalo, coyote and antelope can often be spotted from the roads in the park, but if you hope to see grizzly bears, black bears, wolves or mountain lions, you’ll have to get out and explore the hiking trails.
There are many birds that can be viewed, with the most common including eagles, ospreys, grouse, western tanagers and even the American white pelican.