Few American peaks are as instantly recognizable as the Tetons. High, jagged, and framed by groves of aspen, glittering lakes, waving meadows, and the winding Snake River, they epitomize the Wild West. This is where cowboys and buffalo roam free and where pioneer history almost feels like it’s still alive, right in front of you. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel that this parks’ grandeur rivals that of nearby Yellowstone—in fact, in my opinion, the Tetons make for even more majestic landscape photography. From admiring vintage barns to catching sunset in the hues of Jenny Lake, here’s what to do on your first time in Grand Teton National Park.
Trails may be covered in snow all the way into June, so prepare accordingly.
If you only have time for one thing, make it hiking around the Jenny Lake area.
On your first day in Grand Teton, stop in the Jenny Lake Visitor Center to talk with rangers, then head out on a hike. With impressive trails and newly renovated facilities, Jenny Lake makes a fantastic place to stretch your legs and picnic. To avoid traffic, hop on a tour or take the shuttle boat across the lake to Inspiration Point.
If you’re staying in Jackson Hole, take the evening to explore this booming town. Nearly 60 miles of bike trails link it to the national park, and downtown is full of museums, shops, and bars.
If you’re into photography, you won’t want to miss shooting the sunrise in Grand Teton. Two of the most iconic spots are the T.A. Moulton and John Moulton barns, 100-year-old-plus homesteads in the Mormon Row Historic District. Other great options include the String Lake road, Willow Flats Overlook, Jenny Lake, and Schwabacher Landing.
On day three, get up early to catch sight of wildlife munching in the meadows on a safari tour. You might spot bears, bison, moose, wolves, elk, pronghorn, eagles, and more. It’s also a great way to learn about the park’s ecology, geology, and biodiversity.
If you’re visiting in winter, don’t leave the area without first stopping at the National Elk Refuge. A horse-drawn sleigh ride is the most memorable way to experience the wide-open landscape—and though it may not technically fall within park boundaries, it’s still a wonderful slice of the wild.