Explore the fascinating highlights, history, geology & nature of Grand Teton National Park with this entertaining, educational, point-by-point Waypoint Tour - your personal tour guide for Grand Teton travel adventure.
Grand Teton National Park Tour
1 Grand Teton
2 Mormon Row
3 Schwabacher Landing
4 Snake River Overlook
5 Cunningham Cabin Historic Site
6 Oxbow Bend Turnout
7 Jackson Lake Lodge
8 Colter Bay
9 Jackson Lake Dam
10 Signal Mountain
11 Mount Moran & Cathedral Group Turnouts
12 String & Leigh Lakes
13 Jenny Lake Overlook
14 South Jenny Lake & Hidden Falls
15 Teton Glacier Turnout
16 Menor’s Ferry Historic Area
17 National Elk Refuge
18 Jackson, WY
19 Teton Village
Grand Teton is the triumph of national parks. It was the land that everybody wanted for something else, but was instead preserved as a national park for all to enjoy. Most travelers only get a few windshield glances at the majestic mountains as they pass, hurrying through on their way to Yellowstone. The good news is, this means you won’t have to share the grandeur of Grand Teton with quite so many others.
First, there is a multitude of wildlife to watch, and while number one on almost everyone’s hope-to-see list is a bull Moose, that’s just the beginning. Bison, Elk, and Pronghorn can be viewed in the sagebrush meadows along the back roads. Signal Mountain is a good place to look for Black Bears. 225 miles of trails lead hikers to secluded wonders beyond the reach of roads. Ponds, lakes, and rivers offer canoeing, boating and rafting. Lake Trout and native Cutthroat Trout make these waters all the more exciting to the skilled angler. Eagles, Hawks, Pelicans, Herons, Geese, and Osprey, among others, ply the skies and the waterways. They are sustained by the land and waters our forbearers had the wisdom to preserve.
Though not as obvious as the landscape, but ever-looming in history, is the Tetons’ role in defining conservation compromises. Grand Teton National Park is a compromise in every sense of the word. Though most of the park’s 310,000 acres are federally-owned, Teton also contains over 100 private in-holdings dating back to the late 1800s. Those who settled here called it Jackson Hole.
The park also issues over 700 Elk hunting permits each year. Commercial jet airliners roar over the southern portion of the park making hourly landings and take-offs from a regional airport inside the park’s boundary. However, if it weren’t for these and many other compromises, the natural glory of Grand Teton might never have become a national park and therefore never made available for millions to enjoy.
And last, but certainly not least, there are the mountains. – archetypical mountains, they are towering majestic peaks, glacially-carved and snow-adorned; the kind of mountains that all other mountains aspire to be. As the story goes, an unknown lonely French Fur Trapper named the mountains—Les Trois Téton. Since he selected three of the grandest peaks for that name, it’s doubtful he was reminiscing about any one particular woman.
This is the opening chapter in the always interesting, often ironic, and occasionally amusing story of one of America’s most controversial national parks…. Grand Teton. Welcome to Grand Teton National Park!
Between Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park is a broad valley of hardy grass with red-tailed hawks and eagles circling overhead. It is bordered by Flat Creek, which is well known for the trumpeter swans, Canadian geese, herons and sandhill cranes often seen patrolling its placid waters. For thousands of years, this has been the terminus of the largest mammal migration in the lower 48 states. From the mountains south of Jackson and from southern Yellowstone, 25,000 elk converge on this valley to survive the winters.
American Indian groups from both sides of the Rocky Mountains organized late fall and early winter hunting trips to this location to take advantage of the elk congregation. White Jackson Hole residents also ate a lot of elk meat during the winter. However, to farmers and ranchers, the abundance of elk was more of a nuisance than a blessing. Hungry elk decimated hay crops intended for their livestock. Those that who took pity on the starving elk and fed them portions of their precious hay only made matters worse, by ensuring that there would be even more elk to feed next winter.
The winter of 1908 was particularly harsh. Thousands of elk starved to death. Locals reported that the valley was so strewn with death that a person could walk for miles on elk carcasses without ever having to set foot on the ground. Stephen Leek’s photography of the carnage validated these reports, compelling both the State of Wyoming and the Federal Government to establish the National Elk Refuge.
Administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, this 25,000 acre reserve is dedicated to the health of elk as a species, which means that when necessary, individuals may be compromised. To that end, the alfalfa hay feeding program is balanced by carefully monitored hunts designed to cull the elk population to a manageable size. Grand Teton National Park assists by issuing 700 annual elk hunting permits. Hunters on both the refuge and parklands must obey strict regulations, policing each other to perpetuate the privilege of hunting these beautiful, majestic animals. The 10,000 pounds of antlers that naturally drop off the male elk each year are collected from the refuge by the Boy Scouts of America who sell them at auctions, returning 80% of the profit to the refuge and offsetting the expensive feeding program. Those interested in close-up but safe encounters with not only elk, but also bison, bighorn sheep, deer and occasionally wolves, can financially support the refuge by purchasing tickets for winter sleigh rides into the heart of the herds.
Will this Grand Teton story of compromises continue to have a happy ending? While that is impossible to say for certain, there are few places in the world that offer such beautiful sunsets to ride off into. Remember the old saying? Well, here’s your chance to be that hero. Cherish this beautiful land. Honor those who have fought to make it available to you by leaving no trace and taking only pictures. By doing this, you too will become an honored part of the proud legacy of Grand Teton National Park.