The Tetons of Wyoming are famed among hikers, mountain climbers, river runners, and made familiar to all by photographers. This rugged range forms one of the most iconic skylines on America's natural landscape. From the time of Ansel Adams until today, the image of jagged, snowy peaks and a fiery sunset sky reflected on still water are a classic portrayal of the montane West.
Grand Teton National Park preserves this majestic landscape for all to experience firsthand. It is not huge in area when compared to some other national parks, but the amount of terrain in this rugged range is astounding nonetheless. Three days isn't enough to see it all, of course, but this itinerary will help you pack in the highlights and make the most of a long weekend.
If you'll be approaching from Yellowstone National Park, start with Colter Bay District and move south. If you approach from the town of Jackson, start with Moose and Laurence Districts and head north.
Day 1: Colter Bay District
Colter Bay is a major hotspot in the park, with many activities and services available in Colter Bay Village as well as iconic views across Jackson Lake. Though actually a reservoir, Jackson Lake is the largest water body in the park, and its many miles of shoreline and open water are there for hiking and boating with an unbeatable backdrop.
- Hermitage Point Loop, or the shorter alternative Swan Lake Loop, is a must-do for taking in the scenery and excellent chances of spotting wildlife. Birds, otters, deer, and moose are common residents to look for.
- To cool off on a hot day, take a dip at the Colter Bay Swim Beach. The water is clear and cold at all times of year.
- Getting on the water is easy, too. From the swim beach or the nearby marina you can launch a canoe or kayak and paddle on Jackson Lake. There are many islands and secluded inlets, so bring your own boat or rent from the marina to explore them.
- If you have extra time, or if you want to find a less busy alternative to the Jackson Lake area, drive the Pacific Creek Road to Two Ocean Lake Trailhead and hike to Grand View Point or swim in these pristine lakes.
- Catch an incredible sunset over the Tetons from Oxbow Bend.
- Stay the night at in a campground or lodging in Colter Bay Village, or at the Jackson Lake Lodge. There is also a nice lakeside campground farther north at Lizard Creek.
Day 2: Jenny Lake District
Jenny Lake is in the heart of the park near the base of the Grand Teton and the other craggy pinnacles that define the skyline. Many of the park's best hikes depart from trailheads here, so be sure to get a good night's rest and an early start to kick off your second day.
- For easy hikes with incredible views, walk the shores of String Lake or Leigh Lake from the Leigh Lake Trailhead.
- To explore Jenny Lake itself you can walk a shoreline trail, take a scenic boat tour, or paddle your own.
- Hidden Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park that you can see up close. Reach it by a short hike from the boat shuttle on Jenny Lake or take the scenic route along the lake shore.
- Beyond Hidden Falls is Cascade Canyon, an all-time favorite of many Grand Teton hikers. Loved for wildflowers, waterfalls, wildlife, and granite grandeur, this trail pretty much has it all. You can see a lot in a moderate-difficulty out and back of about 10 miles.
- To make your jaw drop even lower in Cascade Canyon, hike a little farther. The trek up to aptly-named Lake Solitude is well worth it. The truly intrepid may want to take on the 20-mile loop through Cascade and Paintbrush Canyons as a long day hike or overnighter.
- Another set of classic trails departs from Lupine Meadows Trailhead. Take a moderately strenuous hike into the canyons that carve the face of the Grand Teton, and choose between icebound alpine lakes on Amphitheater Lake Trail or flower-filled meadows and a waterfall in Garnet Canyon.
- Pitch a tent at Jenny Lake Campground or stay indoors at Jenny Lake Lodge.
Day 3: Moose and Laurence S. Rockefeller Districts
The park's southern region makes your last day's hurrah, or first, depending on direction of travel. The order matters not, because the diverse scenery here makes just as good an introduction to the Tetons as it does a finale. An interesting mix of natural scenery and human history are on prominent display.
- If you can make it up for sunrise, go to Schwabacher Landing to see first light hit the mountains and their reflection in the river. Another picturesque scene for sunrise, or any time of day, is at Mormon Row, where rustic old barns sit against a Teton backdrop.
- For a pleasant morning hike, go to Taggart Lake, which has a few options for mileage and scenery along the way, all of it gorgeous.
- Brief yourself on the interesting and ongoing history of the region by visiting the Chapel of the Transfiguration and the Menors Ferry Historic District at Moose Junction.
- If you're up for one more long and rewarding hike, Death Canyon is worth every step. Maybe it's called this because the views are to die for. Take a moderate hike to the patrol cabin, or the all-day, difficult trek up to Static Peak Divide.
- Camp out at the somewhat isolated Gros Ventre Campground or stay in the more centrally located Dornans Lodge.