Grand Teton National Park in a Day
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If you find yourself in the Tetons with just one day to spend in Grand Teton National Park, be sure to make the most of your time in this absolutely magical place. Whether you’re an avid hiker or looking for a low key experience, Grand Teton National Park has something for everyone. I’ve put together a list of ideas for how to spend your day in the Tetons.
For the Casual Hiker
If you prefer a shorter hike with minimal elevation gain, head to Jenny Lake. Hiking from the Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center to Hidden Falls (a must-see) is just under 3 miles with mostly gradual elevation change. In addition to the picturesque beauty of the lake, Hidden Falls offers an impressive waterfall that is easily accessible for most people.
Take the short detour to Moose Pond (it will be on your left if you’re headed to the falls from the Visitor’s Center), as seeing a moose grazing in the water is virtually a guarantee. After hitting the falls, keep hiking a short distance to Inspiration Point for incredible views of the lake, or head back the way you came. Don’t feel like walking back? No problem! The Jenny Lake ferry offers an easy ride back across the lake.
For the Avid Hiker
If you love to hike, you've picked an incredible location. There are endless options for spending a full day hiking in Grand Teton National Park, but I recommend exploring one of the park’s canyons. The Cascade Canyon Trail, accessible from the Jenny Lake trail head, is just over 9 miles round trip and boasts a modest 1,100 feet of elevation gain. The views inside the canyon are incredible, and you can also access Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls, and Inspiration Point.
Prefer something harder? Try the Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes Trail, a 10 mile out-and-back trail that gains 3,000 feet of elevation. This trail is known for its wildlife and is less popular than some of the other trails in the park due to its challenging terrain. Depart from the Lupine Meadows lot. Plan to spend most of the day on this hike, especially if you’re not acclimated to the elevation, and bring plenty of water with you. Looking for more suggestions? Here's a list of some of the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park.
For the Water Lover
Grand Teton National Park is famous for its mountains, but its lakes are pretty spectacular, too. There are plenty of ways to enjoy a day on the water at the park, including renting a kayak, paddle board, or canoe.
String Lake is a local favorite thanks to its accessibility (the parking lot is mere feet from the access point and beaches). Plus, its shallow depth and clear water mean this lake is considerably warmer than the others. If you’d prefer a bigger aquatic playground, head to Jenny Lake or Taggert Lake.
It's possible to rent boats and rafts in the park, so if you need one, head to Jenny Lake Boating, Signal Mountain Lodge, or Grand Teton Lodge. If you choose to rent from the park, you won’t have to worry about inspections and permits. If you choose to bring a watercraft from outside the park, plan ahead, and leave time to purchase your permits and get any necessary aquatic invasive species inspections.
For Those Desiring Accessible Options
Whether you have young children, older adults, or mobility challenges in your group, there is plenty to see at Grand Teton National Park if hiking or water sports aren’t on your list of things to do. Jenny Lake offers a ferry that runs in both directions, dropping you and your group off about 0.5-mile from Hidden Falls. The trail features gradual incline and accommodates people of all ages and abilities.
If you’d prefer to stay on a boat and enjoy the views from the lake, consider enjoying one of the famous Jenny Lake scenic cruises. The cruises are available 2-3 times per day throughout the summer season and typically take about an hour to complete.
For the Fisherman
If you love to fish, you’ve come to the right place. Grand Teton National Park’s many lakes and streams, as well as proximity to the Snake River, Gros Ventre River, and Buffalo Fork River, offer seemingly endless opportunities for anglers of all types. If you plan to fish in the park, avoid the peak of the summer, as the fish are prone to experience stress. You’ll need a Wyoming fishing license, which can be purchased in the park, and to make sure you understand the restrictions on legal tackle, creel, and size limits. Many commercial fishing operations lead trips in the park, but it’s possible to go it alone if you are confident in your abilities to find the fish.
What to Bring to Grand Teton National Park
To make your experience at Grand Teton National Park as enjoyable as possible, make sure you have the right gear with you.
- Sun shirt – Grand Teton National Park sits at 6,800 feet of elevation and higher, which means the sun is extra strong. I recommend wearing a sun shirt and other protective clothing as much as possible, especially if you're out on the water. My personal favorite is the KÜHL Engineered Hoody.
- Hat – Make sure to pack a hat to keep the sun off your face. The KÜHL Sun Blade is a great choice, but a trucker hat also works in a pinch.
- Bear spray – Grand Teton National Park is home to both black bears and grizzly bears. Make sure you’re carrying bear spray no matter where you are in the park and follow the rules for bear safety.
- Plenty of water – The high altitude, strong sun, and dry air mean that you’ll get dehydrated quickly no matter your activity of choice. Make sure you bring plenty of water on your hike, and consider bringing a filtration device just in case you run out.
- Needed permits or licenses – If you plan to boat or fish in the park, you’ll need the appropriate permits and licenses. The same goes for backcountry camping. Pick up the permits you need at the main visitor’s center for the park.
Danielle Cemprola is a freelance writer, marathoner x 52 and world traveler. Danielle and her husband, AJ, love to hike, travel, and eat their way across the planet. She's a self-described carry-on enthusiast who loves challenging herself to pack for any trip, no matter the length or destination, in a carry-on bag. When Danielle's not flying the friendly skies, you're likely to find her working at her day job as an environmental scientist - hey, someone needs to pay for all those plane tickets!