Grand Tetons sightseeing
Usually the only official part of the De Anza College Outdoor Club Grand Teton National park trip is the kayaking, but there’s lots more to see and do. Bring your good hiking boots! Don’t plan too tight of a schedule, as you may stop and spend quite awhile longer watching animals than you might have expected.
(There are more pictures at:
Grand Tetons beaver lodge pictures )
You can download a Grand Teton park map at:
to be able to follow along with this narrative.
A larger version of this drawing of the Teton range, with the names of each peak,
as printed in the park newspaper, is at:
To print yourself a copy of three profile drawings
of the Teton Range with the names of peaks seen from these three views:
1) Highway 89, one mile south of Moose Junction
2) Teton Point turnout on Highway 89
3) from Jackson lake Lodge
and click on Teton profile
Please note it is against park regulations to imitate an elk bugle or wolf/coyote howl or use any artificial or natural audio attractants to attract or disturb wildlife.
When you see a bunch of cars stopped along the road, it usually means someone spotted a large mammal. As you sightsee, park in parking lots in designated parking spaces or well out of traffic on a solid road side pavement strip. Remember that parking on natural vegetation results in permanent damage to plants; violators are ticketed.
All is well when the moose is up on a hill, but when he decides to come down, cross the road, and head for his mid-day napping/hiding place, people need to give him a lot more room than these did:
Read about safety at wildlife jams
The camera angle in one of the photos above makes the moose look much smaller than he was. Try this comparison of a SUV and a moose (NPS photo) :
For more size comparisons go to:
And see: before a bison charges
For your safety while wildlife viewing, stay 25 yards at least for most wildlife, and 100 yards for bears, moose, elk, bison and wolves, whether on foot or in your car.
How far away is 100 yards? Picture the length of a football field without the end zones.
25 yards? picture four car lengths or six kayak lengths, or the width of an Olympic-sized pool like ours at the college.
and a telephoto lens for your camera.
You can’t always drive on every road or hike every trail. The park enforces a half mile closure from Feb. 15 to Aug. 15 around all bald eagle nests, a closure from April 1 to September 1 within 330 feet (or as posted) around nesting sites of osprey, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons and great blue herons. The area within one mile of wolf den sites is closed as well. Sometimes trails or even whole sections of roadways can be closed due to grizzly activity. Mid-march to mid-May the sage grouse seasonal mating arena (lek) is closed and observers are asked to arrive well before sunrise, remain as quiet as possible and not leave until after the birds have completed their morning display.
There are two roads between Moose Junction and Jackson Lake Junction. The main road, 23 miles on this section, Highways 191, 26/89, is straighter and generally faster, except during road construction. It has a nighttime (30 minutes after official sunset to 30 minutes before official sunrise) speed limit of 45 m.p.h.
From Grand Teton park news releases: “A total of 37 animals are known to have been struck by vehicles on park roadways in 2016. One grizzly bear cub, two black bears, nine deer, two bison, nine elk, two coyotes, and one red fox were involved in those collisions, which do not always involve a confirmed mortality. Over 100 large wildlife are known to be hit on park roadways annually, with 118 in 2015 and 115 in 2014.” . . . “In 2010, vehicles in the park hit and killed two wolves, five bears, 6 pronghorn, 17 bison, five moose, 41 deer and 48 elk. Most of the deaths occurred between dawn and dusk on the main highway between Moose and Moran Junctions. Please drive the speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly. Speed was the biggest factor, especially at night when people “overdrive their high beams – when stopping distance is greater than the headlight illumination distance.” Driving slower than the posted speed limit, especially after dark, can save animal (and human) lives.”
From Moose, away from the loop road this webpage describes, four miles south on the slow, winding Moose-Wilson road, is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. No trailers are allowed and the maximum vehicle length 23.3 feet. (For example, a Sequoia with a fairly long bike rack will fit, but measure your vehicle if you are not certain.) Carpools and an early arrival are advised as there is limited parking and the lot often fills 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The center is LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) platinum level, like the De Anza Kirsch Center. It features high-definition nature videos, a library with comfy seating and a soundscape room with nature recordings Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Soundscape Key . You can pick up a nature explorers pack. In the fall on our trips the road is sometime closed past the preserve due to animal activity. The center is open 9 or 10 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. (May 30 or June 1- Sept. 20 or 22) most years. Check the park website for times/dates this year.
On one wall is an extraordinary rendition of Phelps Lake, (a short hike from the center), made of hundreds of individual nature photos that the photos below do not do justice to:
See also a park service tour of Moose-Wilson road:
You can find a larger copy of this NPS photo map of the trails near Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and Phelps Lake, Granite Canyon, Open Canyon, Death Canyon, Stewart Draw, Mount Hunt, Fox Creek Pass, Mt. Hunt Divide, Static Peak Divide, Static Peak, Albright Peak, Mt Meek Pass, Death Canyon Shelf, Prospectors Mountain and White Grass Meadow at:
The main highway has a number of turnouts to stop and take pictures, and side roads down to the river.
At the end of bumpy dirt Schwabacher landing Road, here is the view:
The Snake River overlook is where Ansel Adams took his famous 1942 black and white picture. (Photo from National Archives.)
We recommend you include a 3/4 mile walk around the 1890 Cunningham Cabin, 6 miles south of Moran.
It’s a lodgepole pine “dog-trot” building of two boxes apart from each other with a sod-covered roof over its entirety, creating a veranda in the center. At first it was used as a house, then a barn and smithy.
The buck-and-rail fences at the homestead and in the entire area were used so that people didn’t have to dig fence post holes in the rocky ground. They are designed with upright Xs or “cross bucks” supporting the horizontal rails.
read more at:
Campfire Tales of Jackson Hole
THE AFFAIR AT CUNNINGHAM’S RANCH
All along this road are occasional opportunities for seeing bison, or in this case, horses and bison grazing together:
Part of the road is often long and straight,
tempting you to exceed the speed limit, but try not to. You’ll be much happier when you have the time to brake as an animal runs across the road in front of you or a tourist stops suddenly when they think they’ve seen something.
At the Moran entrance station the main road bears left. From the entrance station it is 5 miles to a junction with the Teton Park Road described below. On the way you should stop at the small parking lot / turnoff on the left for Oxbow Bend, one of the best aquatic wildlife watching areas. Check with the park for times a Ranger will be there to answer questions. On our trips this is the place we most often kayak at in the morning, starting before sunrise.
Photo below by Fred Hanselmann http://www.hanselmannphotography.com/Pictures_of_the_tetons.html)
The other road in this circle tour (Teton Park Road, inner park road) is on the other side of the river, closer to the mountains. It also has various turnouts worth stopping at.
There is a bridge on the Snake River at Moose, Wyoming that looks down on prime moose habitat.
With a telephoto or your own binoculars you can see any moose that are in the vicinity up close:
At Moose junction, just over the bridge, turn left to the Grand Tetons Discovery and Visitor center , (also know as the Moose Visitor Center) which has the biggest collection of books, postcards and posters for sale (they accept your Yosemite Association membership card for a discount) and free wireless internet.
No longer open year-round. Closed early November to early March. Various hours depending on time of year. Early June to late September, often open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
From the welcome-to info:
“Touch rocks, video rivers, climbing equipment, fur, footprints, and life-like displays stimulate the senses and invite exploration of Grand Teton National Park…
The interwoven themes of place, people, and preservation encourage visitors to connect intellectually and emotionally with Grand Teton National Park. The “video river”, a series of video screens in the floor with an accompanying soundtrack, leads you from “Place” to “People” to “Preservation” following the symbolic river flowing through the valley. As you enter “Place,” the video river displays footage of animals and the landscape during the different seasons. The “People” footage traces American Indians, trappers, and visitors across this landscape. Finally, the “Preservation” footage shows the story of historic structures, wild places, and on-going processes that are important to the park’s future. Images of flowing water at the end of each video segment connect the three themes…
A raised-relief map provides a birds-eye view of this landscape. The color scheme replicates natural communities, while the wedge of the Teton Range towers over Jackson Hole and slopes gently toward the Idaho plains. Look for the park’s major landmarks such as the Grand Teton and Jenny Lake. Notice metal bars embedded in the floor, radiating like spokes from the entry toward the terrace. If you stand on these “Peak Identifiers” and look west, your gaze will fall upon one of the major peaks in the Teton Range. Inside, the bars are engraved with the peak name and elevation, but if you follow the bars out to the terrace, you can learn the origin of the peak’s name and interesting facts about that mountain.”
You can watch a 24 minute high-definition movie: Grand Teton National Park: Life on the Edge.
Down a side road is a float trip parking area, down another side road on the opposite side of the river are rental cabins, gas, small store, a deli/pizzeria and canoe/bike/sports rentals.
Find each of these on a large map at:
It is safer to enjoy a bike ride on a designated bike/roller blade/walk path than on the road with drivers looking at scenery instead of you on your bike, and there is am 8 mile long pathway from the Moose Visitor Center (please walk your bike in the parking lot) to South Jenny Lake. Pets (except guide dogs) are prohibited and the pathway is closed from dusk to dawn for wildlife and public safety. Grand Tetons biking
Just past Moose, save time for a long stop at the 1/2 mile loop trail pioneer homesteading displays, historic cabin and store at Menor’s Ferry. (The turnoff is on the right as you drive north on the Teton park road just north of the Moose Visitor Center.) The park service says the trail “affords a look at homesteading and pioneer life in Jackson Hole. Ride a replica of the ferry that crossed the Snake River at the turn of the century (the ferry is launched after high water in the spring, usually after the 4th of July,” when staffing allows).
“Bill Menor charged 50 cents for a team, 25 cents for a horse and rider. A foot passenger was carried free if a vehicle was crossing…
During the wild berry season, Bill would charge “huckleberry rates” to the local people—fare one way only—when the berries were ripe along the ridges and around the lakes under the Tetons…
Once, after looking over the miles of sage that covered the levels of land that rise from the river to the mountains, an Eastern lady said to Bill, “Mr. Menor, what do you raise in this country?”
Bill, a dyed-in-the-wool bachelor, looked at her and said, “Hell and kids and plenty of both.”
Historic Menor store hours usually are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through late September. Join a ranger for a 45 minute walk June-early Sept.
You can download a tour map at: http://www.nps.gov/grte/photosmultimedia/upload/Menors-front-back.pdf and find a phone number there to call from your cell phone for a tour.
Read more at:
The park website page about Menor’s ferry is at:
Campfire Tales of Jackson Hole
MOUNTAIN RIVER MEN The story of Menor’s ferry
Read a thumbnail history of the founding of the park at:
and a historical overview (A Place Called Jackson Hole) at:
Photo below from http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/tetons2.html
The Chapel of the Transfiguration is nearby. You’ll recognize the altar window view framing the tallest Teton peaks from postcards. The park services asks: “Please be respectful, the chapel is a house of worship.”
photo below used with permission from Ron Niebrugge: http://www.wildnatureimages.com/
The Sacred Heart Chapel, right on the lake, south of Jackson Lake dam, is not the same photo opportunity.
Moose, Wyoming has a black and white aerial photo/map that could help you locate Menor’s and the Chapel of the Transfiguration.
Next watch for the turnout on the left, with a parking lot, for the Taggart Lake and Bradley Lake hikes.
You can find a larger copy of the NPS photo map below, which shows the location of Taggart Lake, Bradley Lake, Avalanche Canyon, Garnet Canyon, Stewart Draw, Buck Mountain, Mt. Wister, South Teton, Nez Perce, Middle Teton, Grand Teton, Mt. Owen, and Teton Glacier at:
On the left about 8 miles from Moose is the side road to South Jenny Lake. There’s another visitor center with geology information, a small store and in season, the (fee) shuttle boat across the lake to Cascade Canyon. The Ranger Station issues backcountry permits (hours often 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., early June to early September). Visitor Center hours usually 8 a.m. to 5 or 7 p.m., open mid May to late September. Parking is crowded or not available from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the summer. The campground is the first to fill each day.
Cascade Canyon is a quite popular hike, sometimes crowded, but not if you get up earlier or go farther than most of the hikers. We’ve seen moose, deer, a black bear, a pine marten, a fox, a weasel, marmots, pikas, river otters, golden-mantled ground squirrels, tree squirrels, Steller jays, tanagers, sparrows, water ouzels, butterflies and more.
You can do a short hike to Hidden Falls
and the Inspiration Point viewpoint down to the lake (The Rangers lead hikes there daily at 8:30 a.m. for about 2 1/2 hours from early June to early Sept. and occasionally later in September). For a farther hike it’s 4.5 miles to the trail junction and another 2.7 miles and a 1,000 foot plus climb to Lake Solitude at 9,024 feet elevation.
Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park has pictures, maps, more details and the shuttle boat cost.
You can find a larger copy of the NPS photo map below of Jenny Lake, String Lake, Leigh Lake, Paintbrush Divide, Cascade Canyon, Paintbrush Canyon, Hanging Canyon, Mount Woodring, Mount Moran, Teewinot, Holly Lake and Lake Solitude at:
A few miles further north on the Teton Park road is the turnoff to String Lake and the hike/or paddle and portage to Leigh Lake. One stop on the way in is the Cathedral Group Turnout with a spectacular view of the Grand Teton (13,770′), Teewinot (12,317′) and Mt. Owen (12,922′).
Just past the String Lake parking lot, the road becomes one way going past Jenny Lake Lodge (see also Grand Teton Lodging) for the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive (also known as Jenny Lake Loop Road). As you drive, bike or hike this route you are on the terminal moraine of the Jenny Lake Glacier that formed the lake. There is a small parking lot right above the lakeshore on the right hand side with this view across to Cascade Canyon:
We like this road better than some others for bike riding as the traffic is slower. The Jenny Lake Scenic Drive rejoins the Teton Park Road near South Jenny Lake. Watch out for people on the Teton Park Road trying to turn onto the one-way road you are leaving.
At some point during your trip you should take the 5 mile drive up (20 mph) Signal Mountain summit road for a panoramic view of the entire Teton range, Jackson Lake and most of Jackson Hole.
A description of the drive, and which parking lot to use for which views, is at: Signal Mountain, Wyoming.
On the left past Signal Mountain Lodge (see also Grand Teton Lodging) and Signal Mountain Campground you’ll see Jackson Lake close by for the first time. Past this bay, just before the dam itself, is a small parking lot with restrooms. From there you can walk out on the dam for a long view and pictures.
At Jackson Lake junction our two roads meet and combine to head north to Colter Bay and Yellowstone. Just before you pass Jackson Lake Lodge you might find a traffic jam and cars parked along the roadway. This will either be because someone spotted a moose on the left at a big pond well below the roadway, or because a lot of people are looking for moose, swans and ducks along the sagebrush trails of Christian Pond on the right.
Look for the black and white aerial photo at: Jackson Lake Lodge vicinity to find Christian Pond.
COLTER BAY VISITOR CENTER and INDIAN ARTS MUSEUM
About eight miles north of Jackson Lake junction, down the road from the Colter Bay campground and cabins, the Colter Bay visitor center (open early May to mid October, times vary with each season. Summer usually 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.).
Some of the David T. Vernon Indian Arts Museum displays have been sent to a conservation facility.
Each year the park sponsors a program for visiting Native American artists at the Colter Bay Visitor Center, usually a different artist each week, May to September. Guest artists usually exhibit daily, Monday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. adjacent to the Grand Teton Association bookstore. Artists also offer their finished items for purchase, including painting, carving, beadwork, weaving, jewelry, quillwork, drums, flutes, flint knapping, knives &/or pottery.
At the north end of Colter Bay there is a 1.5 mile trail with a small causeway to an island. A self-guiding nature trail goes around the island. The trail starts behind the visitor center or at the day use area.
Look for the black and white aerial photo at: Colter Bay, Grand Teton National Park to find the visitor center, lakeside picnic area, grocery, etc.
You can find a larger size copy of the NPS trail photo map below of Colter Bay, Half Moon Bay, Little Macinaw Bay, Swan Lake, Cygnet Pond, Heron Pond, Hermitage Point, Donoho Poin and Willow Flats at:
Past Colter Bay, on your way to Yellowstone, stop at the north end of Jackson Lake for this view, as seen in an Ansel Adams photograph (courtesy of the National Archives.)
You can get boat or backpack permits, a complete bird checklist, park fishing regulations and lots of other information and questions answered at any visitor center. The Moose and Jenny Lake centers have a raised relief map of the park, a section of which is shown below. (Jackson Lake is the big lake, Jenny Lake is the lake in blue at the top left, the red dot is the visitor center.)
Adventurers young and old can pick up the paperwork to earn a Grand Teton Junior Ranger badge, and take the pledge. You will want to start work on this at the beginning of the De Anza trip to have time to complete it.
Annual impacts of vehicle collisions with wildife in Grand Teton: $155,000 personal property damage, over 100 large animals killed annually.
Photo of griz and cubs crossing a road in Grand Teton park courtesy of NPS:
The local Forest Service reminds us:
“YOU ARE TOO CLOSE TO WILDLIFE IF:
· The animal stops feeding or resting.
· The animal starts moving either toward or away from you.
· The animal starts panting, huffing or making unusual sounds.
· The animal begins pawing the ground or swinging its head.
· Neck hair or feathers stand up.
· The animal appears nervous, uneasy or stressed.
If you notice these signs you are disturbing the animal and it is time to slowly move away.The safest way to view wildlife is through binoculars or spotting scopes.”
For a longer tour:
Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway
A park service page with lots of pictures/advice about getting to the Grand Teton summit:
Grand Teton and Yellowstone driving distances
Idaho Falls- Jackson 86 miles
Jackson – Gros Ventre river 7 miles
Gros Ventre river – Moose 6 miles
Moose – Moran 18 miles
Moran -Jackson Lake junction 4 miles
Moose – Jenny 10 miles
Jenny – Jackson Lake Junction 11 miles
Jackson Lake Junction – Colter Bay 10 miles
Colter Bay – West Thumb Yellowstone 39 miles
Moran – West Thumb Yellowstone 48 miles
Moran – Old Faithful Yellowstone 66 miles
West Thumb Yellowstone – Madison Junction 33 miles
Madison Junction Yellowstone – Norris Junction 13 miles
Norris Junction Yellowstone – Canyon Junction 12 miles
Canyon Junction Yellowstone – Lake Junction ( fishing bridge) 15 miles
Lake Junction ( fishing bridge) – West Thumb Yellowstone 20 miles
Old Faithful Yellowstone – Boseman, Montana 119 miles
Old Faithful Yellowstone – Cody, Wyoming 116 miles
Old Faithful Yellowstone – Idaho Falls 138 miles
For details about our next club trip to Grand Teton National Park, go to: Grand Tetons.
Grand Tetons trip pages index has brief descriptions of most of the pages about this trip.
and there’s more info at:
Enhance a hike or just a drive by reading:
The day hike gear section at Camping equipment checklist
Thunderstorm and lightning safety includes the answer to the question: Why can’t you swim during a lightning storm? A strike on a lake doesn’t kill all the fish in the lake.
see also: Cell phones in the wilderness which has advice on how/when to use a cell phone to contact 911 in the wilderness and a warning about interference between cell phones, iPods and avalanche beacons.
Can a person who is prescribed an epi-pen risk going into the wilderness? and some sting prevention notes are at: Anaphylaxis quick facts
Hiking Advice has hot weather hiking advice, hiking logistics and the answer to the question: When is the best time of day to cross a mountain stream?
Enhance your drive to the park: Road trip advice and etiquette
Grizzlies are rare in the Grand Tetons, but growing in number.
your safety in grizzly bear territory tells you what to do if
you see a bear in the distance or a bear charges you and has info, including links to park videos about Bear Pepper Sprays.
Camping solutions for women has tips for and answers typical questions from first-time women campers, including the question: Can menstruating women camp or backpack around bears? YES
Bears has links to general info about bears, then practicalities of camping and backpacking around bears, (food storage, what to do if you see a bear) mostly geared towards our trips around black bears in California.
more pictures at:
photos below by Quang-Tuan Luong/terragalleria.com, all rights reserved.
This is from an eastern U.S. website: The Rockies and the Tetons 2002.
Some of the advice is reasonable, but the author is a bit too worried about dangers. We are including it here mostly for a laugh, but hey, most of it is true. It was all italicized.
“WARNING: I recommend against hiking in these parks, due to the numerous life-threatening dangers. The high altitude of the mountains impose numerous requirements on hikers: lightning strikes the highest points on mountains, and when you are above tree-line you become the highest point, so always get off the mountain when rain occurs; the thin air results in heavy breathing which creates a loss of water vapor, hence you require about three times as much drinking water as required on Eastern U.S. mountains; thin air causes dizziness which can result in falling off the mountain, fainting, and death through edema, which requires numerous days of getting used to the thin air at lower altitudes; thin air provides less protection against ultraviolet radiation, so prescription dark glasses and sunscreen are required. If you do hike in these mountains, always talk with a park ranger about the conditions of the trail and your own physical condition and experience. Always tell someone where you are going, and when to expect you back; never hike alone. Also, the only real window for hiking is around the first two weeks of August, since snowstorms and icestorms can occur at any time. Beware of forest fires, and always check beforehand about their locations. Beware of wild animals jumping right in front of your moving vehicle. Beware of loose rocks and rockslides that may fall onto your trail from mountainsides nearby. Finally, the single greatest cause of death or injury in many of our national parks is automobile accidents, and driving in the western mountains is especially dangerous.”
Drownings are the number one cause of accidental death in the National Park Service.
Next to drowning, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of accidental
deaths in the National Park Service. One study found that “visitors distracted by scenery was a contributing factor in 27% of all motor vehicle crashes, alcohol was a contributing factor in 23% of the crashes, visitors from Asia and Europe crossing over the centerline to drive on the left side of the road was a factor in 14% of the crashes, excessive speed was the primary factor in 8% of the crashes, and visitors driving off-road and hitting stationary objects or rolling over was the primary factor in 11% of crash fatalities.