Things to Do in Grand Teton National Park
The largest of the glacial lakes in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake sets the scene for some of the park’s best sailing, windsurfing, fishing, and paddling opportunities, all against the backdrop of the towering Teton Range. The Jackson Lake Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, stands on the lake’s eastern shore.
If you’ve seen a photo of Grand Teton National Park, you’ve likely seen Oxbow Bend. Without a doubt, this curved section of the Snake River is the park’s most photographed site, with the river meandering in the foreground reflecting the rugged peaks of Mount Moran. It’s a beautiful setting, and a great place to spot wildlife.
A highlight of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, the Jenny Lake area is characterized by thundering waterfalls, canyons, mountain vistas, and the crystalline expanse of Jenny Lake itself. The lake trail runs 7.1 miles (11.4 kilometers) around the water’s edge and passes by Hidden Falls, Cascade Canyon, and Inspiration Point.
Some of the first settlers of the Jackson Hole Valley were homesteading Mormon pioneers, who managed to farm and raise irrigated crops in the harsh Teton terrain. Arriving from Idaho in the 1890s, they constructed cabins, log homes, and barns that had no running water or electricity, and the wooden structures still standing today offer glimpses of this pioneering past. At the famously scenic John Moulton Barn, the snow-capped peaks of the Teton Range offer a dramatic wilderness backdrop, and help to shape the ruggedly romantic feel of Wyoming’s frontier. In 1997, Mormon Row was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and remains one of the most popularly photographed spots in Grand Teton National Park.
Nearly all visitors to Grand Teton National Park will stop at the Colter Bay Visitor Center, whether to pick up supplies, get trail information, or permits for camping and boating. With a nearby campground and set just minutes from the shores of stunning Lake Jackson, the Colter Bay Visitor Center is one of the park’s most popular—and busiest—areas. While here, instead of just swinging through for some maps or quickly arranging your permits, stop to read up on the park information and peruse the cultural exhibits. Most notable is the Indian Arts Museum, which houses 35 rare, American Indian artifacts from the David T. Vernon collection. While the original collection was much larger, the lack of proper facilities at the visitor center forced its relocation, with a handful of artifacts remaining here on the land where they were originally crafted. There are free, ranger-guided talks of the display each morning and afternoon, and once a week they even construct a traditional Native American teepee.
Western Wyoming, with its windswept plains, jagged mountains, and refreshing, airy solitude, exudes a classical romance that’s lost on the developed, urban US. It should only make sense then that this rustic church built in 1925, with a glass window behind the pulpit that frames the snowcapped Tetons, is one of the most scenic and popular places to get married in all of Wyoming. Here at the Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park, loved ones gather to exchange blessings and vows amidst the golden plains, and ring the bell, cast in 1842, that still hangs from the ranch style bowery. Though weddings here are most popular in summer, from May through the end of September, the church is open every day of the year—provided the door isn’t blocked by snow from a recent winter snowstorm. While the church was built as a place for worship for early Wyoming pioneers, today it’ a classic photographer’s favorite inside of the National Park, and a wooden reminder of the western spirit that still survives here today.