Wyoming is home to two of the most visually striking national parks in the US: Yellowstone and Grand Teton. While Yellowstone encompasses much of the state’s northwestern corner, Grand Teton National Park to the south is equally breathtaking.
The striking mountains of the Teton Range rise from the Wyoming plains to staggering heights. Grand Teton Mountain, the park’s highest peak, reaches an elevation of 13,775 feet, which is also the second-highest peak in Wyoming, behind Gannett Peak.
Why Visit Grand Teton National Park in an RV?
The Grand Teton is an icon in the American mountaineering landscape, but there’s more to do than climb tall mountains in this wonderful park. There are lakes for kayaking and boating, the Snake River for floating and whitewater adventures, and much more.
To truly experience what the Tetons have to offer, renting an RV or taking yours on a road trip to Wyoming is the way to go. There are RV-friendly campgrounds in the park, as well as nearby. And the proximity to Yellowstone National Park allows you to hit two of the most popular parks in the country in a single adventure.
Or, if Yellowstone is too busy, the Tetons are one of the best alternatives to Yellowstone. From casual scenic drives to rock climbing and mountaineering, there’s truly something for everyone in the Tetons.
When to Visit Grand Teton National Park
The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but the availability of visitor services and motor vehicle access vary throughout the year. Summer is the most popular time to visit, but there are reasons to explore the Tetons year-round.
Here’s a little more info on each season, but be sure to check the weather before your visit:
Grand Teton National Park in the Spring
Spring is known for cold nights and mild days in Grand Teton National Park. Precipitation alternates between rain and snow, but most of the hiking trails in the valley remain snow-covered through late May. Average spring highs range from 39-61℉ and lows range from 12-30℉.
Grand Teton National Park in the Summer
Warm days provide exceptional weather for hiking, biking, mountaineering, and other outdoor activities, but cool nights are still common throughout the summer. All visitors should be aware of the possibility of afternoon thunderstorms all summer. Average highs range from 69-81℉ and average lows hover between 32-41℉.
Grand Teton National Park in the Fall
Thunderstorms become less common as the heart of fall settles onto the park, but are soon replaced by occasional snow storms. Still, the park experiences mostly sunny days with those same cool nights during this time of year. Average highs range from 38-70℉ and average lows range from 13-32℉.
Grand Teton National Park in the Winter
The Tetons are known for cold, long winters. Heavy snows are common by late October and early November, lasting through April. Snow and frost are possible any month of the year. Average winter highs range from 26-31℉ and lows average between 0 and 5℉.
Where to Stay
There are a total of eight campgrounds in Grand Teton National Park, but two are tent-only: Jenny Lake Campground and Colter Bay Tent Village. Here’s some quick info on the remaining six park campgrounds:
- Gros Ventre Campground: Max vehicle length: 45 feet.
- Signal Mountain Campground: Max vehicle length: 30 feet.
- Colter Bay Campground: Max vehicle length: 45 feet.
- Colter Bay RV Park: Max vehicle length: 45 feet.
- Lizard Creek Campground: Max vehicle length: 30 feet.
- Headwaters Campground: Max vehicle length: 45 feet.
Colter Bay RV Park and Headwaters Campground are the only two full hookup options for RVers. The rest contain basic amenities like vault toilets, pay showers, and picnic tables. Consult the website for the campsites you’re interested in for a full list of campground amenities.
Staying Outside the Park
If you’re unable to find a campground inside the park, check out these nearby options for Grand Teton camping:
- Greys River Cove Resort: Located in Alpine, WY about one hour and 20 minutes from the Jenny Lake Visitor Center.
- Snake River Cabins & RV Village: Located in Jackson Hole, WY about 50 minutes from the Jenny Lake Visitor Center.
- The Virginian Lodge and RV Park: Located in Jackson Hole, WY about 40 minutes from the Jenny Lake Visitor Center.
Tips for Your Camping Stay
- Campground spots are only available by advanced reservation. Use recreation.gov to reserve campsites up to six months in advance.
- Car camping or sleeping overnight in vehicles is NOT prohibited outside of developed campgrounds.
- The maximum length of stay is seven days at Jenny Lake and 14 days at all other campgrounds, not to exceed 30 days in a calendar year.
- Many campground services are seasonal, such as the availability of ice and firewood. Check before heading out for your Grand Teton camping trip.
How to Get Around Grand Teton National Park
This expansive park covers roughly 310,000 acres, which means towing a vehicle behind your RV is beneficial when it comes to exploring. Of course, if you’re towing a travel trailer or toy hauler, you’ll already have your exploration-ready vehicle once you disconnect.
The park has four road entrances: Grand Canyon, Moose, Moran, and Flagg Ranch. Be aware that several are closed or offer limited access from November through May, so check road statuses before you head to the park.
Here’s a little more on these entrances:
- Grand Canyon Entrance: Might look like the quickest entrance if coming from Utah or Idaho, but is a slow, winding road. It does provide excellent viewpoints if you want to start your visit with a scenic drive. If not, head down to Jackson and up to the Moose Entrance.
- Moose Entrance: The obvious choice if you’re heading north from Jackson Hole.
- Moran Entrance: Use this entrance if coming from Denver, CO through Dubois, WY
- Flagg Ranch Information Station: Not technically an entrance, but this is where you’ll buy a park pass if heading directly south from Yellowstone into Grand Teton.
Once you’re in the park, you’ll need your own vehicle to get around. It will be helpful to print or download park maps to plan for your visit and navigate while you’re there. Also, check the Park Service’s parking page to make sure you’ll have a safe place to leave your vehicle when you’re ready to explore on foot.
Places to Go
If it’s your first time visiting Grand Teton National Park, add these stops to your itinerary:
The Visitor Centers
There are technically seven visitor centers where you can gather information before and during your visit. Talking to a park ranger when you arrive is incredibly valuable. No matter how much online research you do, conditions on the ground may be different, and the only way to know that is to stop at a visitor center.
Here’s a quick list:
- Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center
- Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center
- Jenny Lake Visitor Center
- Jenny Lake Ranger Station
- Colter Bay Visitor Center
- Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center
- Flagg Ranch Information Station (closed for 2022 season)
Moose and Mormon Row
Located at the southern end of the Tetons, Moose is the gateway between Jackson Hole and the national park. There are some great hiking trails in the Moose area, but there are also several historic districts to explore, including Menors Ferry, Murie Ranch, Chapel of the Transfiguration, and Mormon Row – home to one of the most photographed structures in the park.
Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve
In a time when many national parks can feel like theme parks, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve offers something that many travelers seek – an opportunity for solitude and reflection. The winding road into the preserve is unpaved for 1.5 miles and parking is limited, so get here early to soak in the serenity of the natural environment.
On hot summer days, many park visitors flock to the shore of Jenny Lake. Considered the ‘centerpiece’ of the park, the lake’s east shore offers spectacular views of the Tetons. Jenny Lake is also the location of several trailheads, such as those for Hidden Falls or connectors for those looking to head up Cascade Canyon.
If you’re looking for a lakeside experience in a slightly less crowded part of the park, check out String and Leigh Lakes. With a canoe or kayak, you can even launch in String Lake and then portage over to Leigh Lake for a full day of water-based recreation.
Signal Mountain is one of the only peaks in the region accessible by car. Of course, it can also be reached on foot if you’re looking for a challenge. The 7,727-foot peak provides stunning panoramic views of the Teton Range and the valley that’s home to Jackon Hole.
Moran and the East
If you’re looking for the iconic Oxbow Bend or you’re interested in floating the Snake River, Moran is your stop. There’s also some great hiking in this area and Oxbow Bend is a popular location for birdwatching and wildlife viewing.
Jackson Lake Lodge
Designated as a National Historic Landmark, one of the biggest reasons to visit Jackson Lake Lodge is to learn stories of homesteading, ranching, and early tourism endeavors in the region. But you can also hop outside and enjoy some great hiking, or simply sit on the deck and enjoy the views from the natural bluff the lodge was built on.
When you’re visiting the northern part of the park, Colter Bay is a must-visit location on the shores of Jackson Lake. Photographers come for the views of Mount Moran across the lake, but there’s plenty for hikers and paddlers to enjoy here as well. The visitor center here is also home to contemporary art produced as part of the park’s American Indian Guest Artist Program.
Leeks Marina and the North
Established in the 1880s by cattle rancher, conservationist, and entrepreneur Stephen Leek, Leeks Marina is just a few miles north of Colter Bay. The marina and surrounding facilities were originally a hunting and fishing camp. Today, it’s a great spot for launching private boats and it’s home to one of the best pizza places in the park.
Rockefeller Parkway and Flagg Ranch
The Rockefeller Parkway is the connection between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made significant contributions to many US national parks, including Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains, and, of course, Grand Teton. Congress named the highway after him in 1972.
Along the highway, you’ll find Flagg Ranch sitting on the banks of the northern Snake River. The ranch’s information station is the best place for visitors to stop as they’re heading south from Yellowstone into Grand Teton.
Things to Do in Grand Teton National Park
Once you establish your RV basecamp and get the lay of the land at a visitor center, here’s everything you can do in Grand Teton National Park:
For first-time visitors, scenic drives are often the best way to get an overview of the park. There are four main drives you should start with if it’s your first visit. They range from 15 to 60 minutes in length, depending on traffic and how many stops you make at scenic vistas.
Jenny Lake Scenic Drive, Moose-Wilson Road, Signal Mountain Summit Road, and Teton Park Road all offer beautiful views, opportunities to see wildlife, and more.
Grand Teton National Park offers more than 250 miles of hiking trails, ranging from casual strolls around some of the lakes to challenging ascents of the park’s highest peaks. Acclimating to elevation is important for travelers coming from lower altitudes, but there are plenty of tips for hiking smart on the NPS website.
Here are five of the most popular hikes in the park (all mileages are round-trip):
- Taggart Lake: An easy, three-mile out-and-back hike with a beautiful alpine lake at the turnaround point.
- Lunch Tree Hill: An easy, half-mile lollipop loop trail with interpretive signage and excellent views.
- Forks of Cascade Canyon: A moderate, 9.4-mile out-and-back hike up one of the most magnificent glacially carved canyons in the park. (9.4 miles if using the shuttle boat; 13.3 miles if using the South Jenny Lake Loop Trail)
- Hermitage Point: A moderate, 9.5-mile loop hike with minimal elevation gain and excellent wildflower viewing in the early summer.
- Marion Lake: A very strenuous hike with nearly 4,000 feet of elevation gain, but the reward of a gorgeous alpine lake at the halfway mark. Distance is 14.7 miles using the Rendezvous Mountain Trailhead, or 18.8 miles using the Granite Canyon Trailhead.
Climbing & Mountaineering
The rugged peaks of the Tetons have fascinated climbers and mountaineers for decades. Permits aren’t required for climbing in the park, but any overnight trips must include a backcountry camping permit, obtainable at park visitor’s centers.
Exploring these activities safely requires the right skills and equipment. You should also be aware that mountain conditions vary dramatically from what you’ll experience down in the valley. Do your homework, know your stuff, and consult with park rangers before climbing or mountaineering in Grand Teton National Park.
Floating and Boating
From the many lakes that dot the park’s landscape to the meandering waters of the Snake River, there are ample opportunities for boating, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
Casual lake paddles are easily accessible to most visitors, but navigating the Snake River requires a little more skill and research. The river’s tangle of channels requires advanced knowledge of routes and the ability to adapt quickly.
Learn more about boating permits and resources to help you plan your trip.
Mountain biking is limited in the Tetons, but there are opportunities for road biking and riding on the multi-use pathway. Road biking is allowed on all paved roads in the park, although some roads are closed to all vehicles during the winter season.
Some roads have narrow shoulders, so riding the multi-use pathway is a safer option, especially for families. The pathway is used by bikers, roller bladers, and pedestrians. It runs from Jackson north to the intersection with Antelope Flats Road, before continuing along Teton Park Road to the South Jenny Lake area.
To fish in the park, you’ll need to follow Wyoming state regulations and be in possession of a Wyoming fishing license. Lake fishing is open year-round in the park, with the exception of the closure of Jackson lake from October 1st through October 31st.
Catch-and-release fishing is permitted for cutthroat trout in the Snake River from November 1st through March 31st. Check the park website for more information on fishing regulations and seasonal closures of rivers and streams in the park.
Horses and other livestock have been part of this region’s heritage since before the park’s formation. Today, there are three horseback riding concessionaires for visitors to choose from at Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch, Grand Teton Lodge Company, and Triangle X Ranch.
Visitors are also permitted to bring their own horses, provided they follow all regulations and trail etiquette. There are also five backcountry stock camp locations in the park, for those wishing to enjoy overnight expeditions.
Guided Tours and Ranger Programs
Ranger programs are one of the best ways to learn more about any national park you visit. From programs dedicated to flora and fauna to others focused on the geological forces that formed the park, Grand Teton’s event calendar is loaded with educational opportunities.
Additionally, there are numerous approved concessionaires that offer guided tours in the park. These tours include multi-day kayaking adventures, backpacking, mountain climbing, float trips, river and lake fishing, scenic lake cruises, and more.
What to Bring and How to Prepare
- Stock up in advance. Campgrounds and park stores offer some limited food supplies and camping equipment. Stop in Jackson Hole or Dubois and pack your RV refrigerator or camping cooler before heading into the park.
- You’re in bear country. While the park is home to other wildlife, bear-human interactions are common. Read park recommendations on bear safety and consider carrying bear spray on hikes.
- View wildlife from a safe distance. Give bears and wolves a minimum of 100 yards and give all other wildlife a minimum of 25 yards. Bring a pair of binoculars if you want a closer look.
- Prepare for cool nights. Make sure your RV furnace is running well, or bring a portable space heater to stay warm overnight, even during the summer.
- Pack for changing weather. Even if you stay in the valley, daily temperature swings can be dramatic. Pack layers and bring them in a backpack when you leave camp so you’re prepared for anything.
- Check your hiking boots. The dramatic mountain terrain in the Tetons is begging to be explored. Make sure your hiking boots are in good shape so you enjoy excellent grip on the park’s trails.
Consult the National Park Service’s safety information for more tips on what to bring and how to prepare for a fun and safe Grand Teton RV camping adventure.
Brief History of Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park was originally established in 1929, but it was much smaller than it is today. Fourteen years later, Jackson National Monument was established nearby. In 1950, the two park units were combined to create what we now know as Grand Teton National Park.
Efforts to conserve the park began following the incredibly harsh winter of 1908-1909. A huge die-off of the region’s elk population inspired conservation efforts to establish the National Elk Refuge outside of Jackson Hole.
Prior to that, the valley had seen the comings and goings of American Indians, explorers and trappers, homesteaders, and dude ranchers for thousands of years. But until those early explorers arrived in the 1800s, the valley’s seasonal harvests were reaped, and possibly sewn by various tribes, including the Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead, Gros Ventre, and Nez Perce.
After the Homestead Act of 1862, life in the American West changed dramatically for these tribes. But Jackson Hole was one of the last places to be settled, due in large part to the unforgiving climate and rocky soil.
Still, by the turn of the century, dude ranches dotted the valley and development plodded along in the valley. Because the park’s original boundary only protected the high peaks and some lakes in the valley, concerns about over-development began to surface.
Families like Muries – owners of one of those aforementioned ranches – hosted groups of like-minded conservationists regularly, Those meetings eventually led to the park’s expansion and a significant chunk of the language used in the Wilderness Act of 1964.
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