When planning a family trip to Grand Teton National Park, it’s good to know a little history about the place. Grand Teton National Park officially became a National Park in 1929, though it was a much smaller park then. The park is rated as one of the US’s top 10 national parks. One of the park’s most striking features is the Teton Mountain Range, with at least eight peaks over 12,000 feet of elevation.
Interesting Facts About Grand Teton
There is quite a bit of political history regarding the designation of Grand Teton National Park. It took decades of planning, negotiations, and compromises between the federal government, residents, ranchers, and one wealthy man. John D. Rockefeller Jr. bought up a lot of land that now makes up the park and eventually gave it away to the National Park Service, much to some locals’ dismay. In the coming decades, more land was set aside as a National Monument, and by 1950, it became its actual size, as it is today.
When to Visit Grand Teton National Park
There is something special about each season on a family trip to Grand Teton National Park. Late spring and early summer are generally preferable for weather that’s not too hot or cold. Summer is the best time to see baby animals like bears, pronghorn sheep, moose, and more. Fall is the rut season for hooved animals, so there are usually many male elk, deer, and moose around searching for a mate. Winter is an ideal time for winter sports, including ice skating, cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing.
Indigenous Peoples of the Area
Grand Teton National Park is on ancestral lands of the Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead, Gros Ventre, Nez Perce, and other Native tribes. Indigenous people seasonally used this land for abundant resources, including hunting wildlife. Evidence shows that humans traveled and lived in this area at least 11,000 years ago.
Your Must-See Stops in Grand Teton
Jenny Lake and Jenny Lake Scenic Drive
This should be first and foremost on your family trip to Grand Teton National Park. The lake and scenic drive have scenic views to satisfy anyone. Jenny Lake is near the base of the mountain range and is one of the most popular destinations within the park. Pack a picnic lunch and eat on the shores before a short afternoon drive that hugs the lake and offers views of the Teton Range.
Mormon Row Historic District:
Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park is arguably one of the most iconic barns, known as Moulton Barn, in the country. The historic district is nestled in a valley where the Teton Range towers in the backdrop. This valley became the original settlement for the first homesteaders in the area.
Snake River Overlook
The Snake River Overlook gained notoriety after Ansel Adams photographed it in 1942. Today, it remains a trendy place for photographers of all skill levels. You can view the winding Snake River and the Teton Range behind it from the overlook. The most common recommendation is to catch a sunrise here if you can. The morning light soaks the peaks in golden rays and makes for an unforgettable way to start the day.
Another popular location for iconic photographs, Oxbow bend, offers a closer view of the river and, if conditions are right, a stunningly reflected Mt. Moran atop the water. Some lucky visitors catch sights of moose munching on aquatic vegetation in or along the Snake River. Sunrise or sunset are the best times to visit this scenic destination and will provide warm glowy images.
Cascade Canyon Trail
If you’re looking for an activity that takes you deeper into the backcountry on your family trip to Grand Teton National Park, this may be the hiking trail for you. This 9-mile hike is a popular trek because of the incredible views and gentle inclines. In the summer, there will be pops of wildflowers, making the valleys colorful.
Phelps Lake has tons to offer. Hike around the lake on the Phelps Lake Loop Trail, launch a kayak or paddle board, or take a refreshing dip on a hot summer day. When you’re there, you get to see the effects of glaciation and the way glaciers shape the landscape up close and personal.
Blacktail Ponds Overlook Trail
Blacktail ponds overlook trail offers a moderate 4.7-mile hike through idyllic landscapes. Along the way, you get glimpses of nearly every ecosystem within the park, alpine, forest, wetland valleys, sagebrush, and open meadows. Because of the variety, there is a chance to see many wildlife species.
Signal mountain is a great place to visit if you or someone in your group cannot hike. The mountain’s summit is accessible by car (or foot if you prefer hiking), making it an excellent option for families of all ages and abilities or those traveling with pets. Enjoy the grand view of the Teton range and Jackson Valley.
Grand Teton National Park is a mountainous area where weather conditions can rapidly change. Dress appropriately for the weather, and bring an extra layer, even in the summer. For a stress-free visit, don’t forget to pack essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, bear spray, a map, a camera, and binoculars.
Leave No Trace
A visit to public lands comes with the responsibility of land stewardship. Be aware of your impacts, and do your part to minimize them. Walk on established trails in high-traffic areas, and pack out all garbage with you until you reach a trash receptacle. Leave No Trace is a helpful tool worth reviewing before your trip to National Park.
Remember, all animals in the park are wild and should not be approached. Grand Teton National Park has brown and black bears, as well as other animals that can be dangerous. Don’t forget your bear spray and familiarize yourself with how to use it before heading out.
I’m sure by now you can’t wait to start your family trip to Grand Tetons National Park. You’re equipped with tips for some of the best things to add to your itinerary. There is so much to do and see, though, that no matter what you choose, it will leave you with enough memories to last a lifetime.
More National Park Family Guides
Looking for more family-friendly guides to America’s national parks? See the complete list here.