How to Plan a Vacation at Grand Teton National Park

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Grand Teton National Park twice in my life. The first time was on a girls trip after college (so, more than a few years ago). The second time was in July 2015 when the kids and I set off from Virginia on a cross-country road trip. It’s one of my two favorite national parks. Grand Teton ranks up there with Crater Lake. Both are so beautiful.

I would go back to Grand Teton in a second. If you have the chance to visit this gem in Wyoming, I hope you’ll hop on the opportunity. Here’s what you need to do as you begin to plan out your Grand Teton vacation, with or without kids. 

When to Start Planning a Grand Teton Vacation

Grand Teton National Park may not be as popular as a Yellowstone vacation but given its proximity to the fifth largest national park in the U.S., many visitors set out to see both in one vacation. It’s barely a hop and a jump from Yellowstone’s south entrance to the north information station at Grand Teton.

Grand Teton National Park Sign

Grand Teton is also much smaller than Yellowstone. Grand Teton is nearly 310,000 acres. This sounds like a lot (okay, it is a lot), but compare that to Yellowstone, which is more than 2.2 million acres. Now that’s a lot. Anyway, that noted, you can do Grand Teton in a couple of days, but you’ll want to book early since many hotels and campgrounds fill up quickly.

Before you go, I encourage you to buy an America the Beautiful pass for $80. This annual pass allows you – and everyone in your vehicle – entrance into national parks that charge an entrance fee.

A seven-day pass to enter Grand Teton National Park alone is $35. If you decide to add on Yellowstone, that’s another $35 for a seven-day pass. So, you can pay $70 to see two parks or $80 to see as many parks as you like over the course of a year. I buy an America the Beautiful pass every year. It’s a fantastic deal for national park lovers.

As a side note, don’t forget about the Every Kid in a Park pass. It’s free pass for fourth graders that allows fourth graders and all family members with the passholder free entrance into national parks. I did that last year when my son was in fourth grade. It’s an amazing deal.

How to Get to Grand Teton National Park 

On the two occasions that I visited Grand Teton National Park, we drove in from Yellowstone since we were on a road trip across multiple states. However, it’s relatively easy to fly to Grand Teton by way of Jackson Hole, Wyoming (JAC). Downtown Jackson is just five miles south of the southernmost point in this national park.  

There are three entrances to Grand Teton National Park. You can either come in from the north, by way of Yellowstone. You can come in from the south, by way of Jackson Hole. Or, you can enter or exit from the west, by way of the Moran Entrance Station. We entered from the south and left the park from the west in order to drive on to Colorado.

Alternatively, if you plan to see Grand Teton and Yellowstone, you can make West Yellowstone, Montana your base camp. It’s a bit of a trek to see Grand Teton in a day, then turn around and bed down in West Yellowstone, but it’s definitely doable.

Where to Stay in Grand Teton National Park

There are a variety of places to stay at Grand Teton both inside and outside this national park. I highly recommend staying very close to the park entrance, like in Jackson or Moran, if you aren’t planning to stay at one of the lodges, ranches or cabins inside the park.

Grand Teton Lodges & Cabins

The Grand Teton Lodge Company operates four lodging options, including historic lodges and cozy cabins inside the national park. All are open on a seasonal basis, typically open from May/June to September/October. Beyond these five lodging options above, there are three additional properties with delicious Grand Teton views. All book up quickly in peak season.

Grand Teton-Jackson Lodge

Colter Bay Village
Set on the shores of Jackson Lake, the mountain cabins at Colter Bay Village boast spectacular views of the majestic Grand Tetons. Here you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities, like kayaking, canoeing and horseback riding. Click here for more details or to book a room.

Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch
Set on the north end of the national park, this lodging option is a good pick for those eager to see both Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Enjoy horseback rides, hikes to alpine lakes and rafting on the Snake River with on-site guides. Click here for more details or to book a room.

Jackson Lake Lodge
The view alone is worth a booking at this hotel thanks to 60-foot floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase pristine views of Jackson Lake and the Grand Tetons. A free guest shuttles takes guests to Jenny Lake, Colter Bay and Jackson. Click here for more details or to book a room. 

Jenny Lake Lodge      
Enjoy a horseback ride or check out a cruiser-style bicycle to ride along a nearby bike path. This lodge also provides easy access to scenic cruises and shuttles across Jenny Lake. You can even rent canoes and kayaks as a family. Click here for more details or to book a room.

Signal Mountain Lodge
You’ll find more rustic accommodations, including country rooms, lakefront retreats and cozy log cabins. Inside the main lodge, there are three restaurants, including a kid-friendly pizzeria. There’s also a gift shop and a general store. Click here for more details or to book a room.

Triangle X Ranch
Located just inside the national park on the south end, this dude ranch offers cozy cabins and rooms in the main house. Join in activities like horseback trail rides, scenic float trips and Grand Teton hikes with spectacular views. Click here for more details or to book a room.

Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch
This is the place to stay for those eager to get in some climbing while at Grand Teton National Park. Accommodations are bunk style, but children are welcome to stay with caregivers in this dorm style lodging (4-8 bunks per cabin). Click here for more details or to book a room.

Grand Teton Campgrounds

For those eager to catch some zzz’s in the fresh mountain air under a sky full of stars, Grand Teton camping is available at six campgrounds. All Grand Teton campgrounds are first-come, first-served. As in, no advance reservations are taken at this time.

Grand Teton Camping

  • Colter Bay (a large campground set in a lodgepole pine forest near Colter Bay Village)
  • Lizard Creek (a rustic campground in a more remote section of the national park)
  • Signal Mountain (a mid-sized campground situated near Signal Mountain Lodge)
  • Jenny Lake (a small campground just steps from the eastern shore of pristine Jenny Lake)
  • Gros Ventre (the park’s largest campground, very close to downtown Jackson)
  • Headwaters (located at Flagg Ranch, just two miles from Yellowstone’s south entrance)

For RVers, two of the above sites for Grand Teton camping also have full hook-ups, laundry and shower facilities. These include Colter Bay (112 RV sites) and Headwaters (110 RV sites). Advance reservations are accepted for RV visitors.

Jackson Lodging & Campgrounds

If you can’t stay inside the park, a very good option is to book a stay in Jackson, Wyoming. It’s just a few miles from the south entrance, making it easy to get into the park quickly so you can see and do it all at Grand Teton National Park.

According to TripAdvisor, there are more than two dozen Grand Teton hotels, motels, inns, cabins and ranches in Jackson, Wyoming. Among the top-reviewed stays in Jackson are:

  • Hotel Jackson (a four-star city-center boutique with 55 premium hotel rooms)
  • Hampton Inn Jackson Hole (an affordable stay with easy park access and free hot breakfast)
  • Spring Creek Ranch (situated on a wildlife sanctuary with spectacular Teton Range views)
  • The Lexington at Jackson Hole (set in downtown Jackson enjoy free breakfast and parking)
  • Flat Creek Inn (across from the National Elk Refuge with views of Sleeping Indian Mountain)

Beyond hotels, you’ll find campgrounds and glamping stays, like the Jackson Hole/Snake River KOA. Rent tubes and stand-up paddleboards at this KOA for water adventures on Snake River. Or, book a tour with a local operator for a scenic float, horseback riding, fly fishing or a whitewater river trip.

For glamping, look to Glamping of Jackson Hole. Here you’ll sleep in one of six canvas safari-style tents with foam beds, solar lighting and heated showers. Start your day with a hot breakfast served up by wranglers before heading out on a horseback trail ride.

Moran Lodging & Cabins

On the east side of the park, there are a handful of accommodations options that are a stone’s throw from the Moran Entrance Station. The top-rated stays in Moran include:

  • Togwotee Mountain Lodge (a delightful lodge with an on-site restaurant and log cabins)
  • Heart Six Guest Ranch (go all-inclusive or book nightly rate cabins)
  • Buffalo Valley Ranch (book a stay in a wagon with incredible views of the Tetons)

Things to Do at Grand Teton National Park

This national park may be small, but there is still a lot to see and do. For starters, here are a few things to do in Grand Teton National Park to add to your vacation planner:

Take a Boat Across Jenny Lake

Take a one-hour scenic cruise across Jenny Lake with Jenny Lake Boating, which runs Grand Teton boat tours. Alternatively, take the boat shuttle, which runs every 10-15 minutes. Once you cross the lake, head off on a short hike to Hidden Falls or Inspiration Point for scenic views of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole. From Inspiration Point, you can either walk back to the marina or take the return shuttle.

Enjoy a Scenic Drive Around the Park

As I noted earlier, the park is not very big, so it’s worthwhile to simply take a drive along Teton Park Road, making stops at lookout points here and there (here’s a Grand Teton map). If you’re entering the park from Yellowstone, you’ll access the road by way of Jackson Lake Junction.

Driving on Teton Park Road

It’s also easy to hit the visitors centers at Colter Bay, Moose and Jenny Lake to explore and learn more about the park from the on-duty park rangers. Among the absolute best things to see in Grand Teton, here are the most popular look-out points:

      • Oxbow Bend (revel in the reflections of the Teton Range in the bend of the Snake River)
      • Schwabacher Landing (another opp to see the magnificent Tetons reflected in the water)
      • Snake River Overlook (beautiful views in all four seasons)
      • Mormon Row (six remaining historic homesteads set against the Grand Tetons)

Go on a Scenic Float Trip

Hook up with Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips for a 10-mile float trip along the Snake River. These gentle rafting trips are manageable for young children, though do note that the minimum age for participants is six years old. During the half-day of rafting adventure, float along a scenic section of the Snake River situated entirely within Grand Teton National Park.

Stamp Your Passport (Multiple Times)

Buy a Passport to Your National Parks. You can buy one online for $9.95 or you can buy one at the park visitors center or bookstore (same price). Inside the park, buy the official park sticker for your passport book. Then, keep your eyes open for cancellation stamps at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and Flagg Ranch. It’s an easy add to your list of what to do in Grand Teton National Park (and a fun one too).

Attend a Ranger-Led Program

On your first visit to Grand Teton, it’s a must to attend a ranger program run by the National Park Service. You and your kids can learn about bear safety, geology, history and native animals. There are even ranger-led hikes and campfire programs. Pick up a park newspaper when you arrive or go online ahead of time to check out the schedule for the day(s) you’ll be at the park.

Enjoy a Narrated Cruise Across Jackson Lake

The Grand Teton Lodge Company offers scenic, narrated cruises across Jackson Lake. They also offer meal cruises (breakfast, lunch and dinner) that enable you to cruise across the lake, then disembark onto a private island for a sit-down meal in a picnic area with panoramic views of the Teton Range.

Become a Junior Ranger

My kids love earning badges and patches at various national parks through the Junior Ranger program. You can pick up an activity booklet at any visitors center inside the park. Complete a certain number of activities depending on your child’s age. Children also need to attend a ranger-led program and can get sworn in on the spot by a park ranger.

Take Lots of Photos

It’s okay, take as many photos as you like. I easily took dozens of photos of the Teton Range from visitors centers, lookout points, even from my car. Every view seemed better than the last and worthy of a photo. It’s incredible to look back at the photos and think that we were there in the shadow of the Teton Range. So beautiful.

Best Grand Teton Hikes

Grand Teton National Park is a hiker’s paradise. Whether you want to take it easy or go for a more challenging hike to soak in all the views, there’s something for you (and your kids). Here are the top-rated Grand Teton hiking trails, according to AllTrails.

Cascade Canyon Trail

Moderate, 9.7 miles. This moderate out-and-back trail begins at Jenny Lake, taking hikers deep into the Grand Teton Range, up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point for incredible views. This hike has more than 700 reviews and an average 4.8-star rating.

Jenny Lake Trail

Moderate, 7.7 miles. This moderate loop trail wows hikers with mountain views all around as you circumnavigate the park’s second largest lake on foot. This hike has nearly 700 reviews and an average 4.6-star rating.

Colter Bay Hermitage Point Trail

Easy, 9.6 miles. This easy loop trail offers plenty of opportunities for side hikes and views, like Heron Pond and Swan Lake. You’ll also be able to indulge in gorgeous views of Mount Moran. This hike has 70+ reviews and an average 4.1-star rating.

Sting Lake at Grand Teton National Park

There are plenty of Grand Teton National Park hikes not listed on AllTrails too that are short and easy to manage with kids. You’ll want to add one or two of these to your personal Grand Teton itinerary. Among these recommend Grand Teton hikes are:

      • String Lake Trail (3.7 miles) – a kid-friendly loop hike around String Lake
      • Lakeshore Trail (2.0 miles) – an easy hike with views of the Tetons across Jackson Lake
      • Leigh Lake Trail (1.8 miles) – a short hike on the shores of String Lake and Leigh Lake
      • Cabin Loop Trail (0.8 mile) – a straightforward hike to a preserved historic homestead
      • Flagg Canyon Trail (4.0 miles) – an easy out-and-back hike along the Snake River

I hope these best of the Tetons vacation ideas are useful to you as you plan out your own Grand Teton vacation. I hope you have an amazing experience you won’t soon forget.