Grand Teton is a very special National Park, but I think most people would agree that if you can only go on one day, make it a clear one so you can see the mountains. You can see them from almost everywhere in the park and the different views are spectacular. That’s why we waited a full two months to see the park. Coordinating a clear sky day with our work schedules was a bit of a challenge but finally we got that beautiful mountain shot that we have seen from others.
But I am jumping ahead. First we had to travel through Yellowstone and into the north entrance of Grand Teton. As an interesting note, there is no need to pay through the north entrance (there isn’t even a gate) and later when we asked a ranger he said it was because they assumed people had already paid at Yellowstone. Makes sense because there is only one dirt road opened seasonally that can be used to bypass the Tetons.
The beginning of the road through Teton is shared but then it splits with the more scenic Teton Park Road, which runs closer to the lakes. The highway also has some nice views but it is farther out and moves much faster. This is actually pretty cool because it allows people to “pass through” the park quickly. The Teton Park Road is more for the tourist traveler and that’s the one we wanted.
Before the road splits there are some initial views of the mountain and large grassy areas where (if you are lucky) you can see buffalo and or bears. In general we saw fewer animals in Tetons versus Yellowstone’s but this starting section usually has some kind of animal in it.
The Colter Bay Visitor Center is the first of three visitors centers coming from the north and we stopped there briefly. That’s where we learned the National Park was under a mask requirement and masks had to be worn inside all building in the park. We were really surprised because there is no mask requirement in Yellowstone, but we learned Wyoming institutes county wide mask bans as needed based on “hot spots” and the county the Tetons are located in was under such a ban Thankfully they had masks available so we grabbed a couple and went on our way.
Next we stopped at a beautiful Catholic Church. We love seeing old churches in our travels and the Chapel of the Sacred Heart (built in 1937) was beautiful. The altar and stained glass window faced the mountain view and the inside wooden artwork was equally beautiful.
Next we saw a sign to Signal Mountain and on impulse we decided to make the drive. If you do nothing else I highly recommend driving this road because the views at the top were absolutely spectacular. The picture above for example was taken from there and it was my absolutely favorite spot of the entire day. It as Jack’s favorite too!
I took many more pictures, and these are just a few of my favorites. I also wanted to show some pictures I got of a grouse (first time seeing one for either Lee or I) and its posing for us made the spot extra perfect.
After Signal Mountain we continued on Teton Park Road and saw a dirt turnoff. Since we had such luck with Signal Mountain we decided to give this a shot. The road ultimately ended down at the Snake River (it was so wide I initially thought it was a lake) and there were a couple of campsites down there. It was a great place to walk Jack so we wandered around a bit. As an FYI this was one of the few places we couldn’t see the mountains from.
The biggest disappointment of the day was when we got to Jenny Lake Visitors center. It was absolutely packed because it is also a major trailhead and we couldn’t find anywhere to park at all. We later learned from our friends Julie and Casey that it was almost always packed and to get a spot you have to come really early in the morning which will be very hard for us living in West Yellowstone. We did stop at a pull out a bit down the road and went and got some views. This area was also super crowded but at least we could find a spot. We didn’t take Jack on this one though because the path was narrow and tons of people were on it. It was a pretty spot though.
Personally, I found the best views (Mount Signal aside) to be from the road itself. There are lots of turnouts and we stopped a couple of times to get pictures. There are 11 active glaciers in the park although you can see with my long lens shots many of them are shrinking. Cool though.
Right before the end of Teton Park Road we saw an Episcopalian Church (Chapel of Transfiguration opened in 1925). I really liked this one because they had a large glass window facing the mountains. It also had outside seating facing the mountain and a beautiful old church bell.
Finally we arrived at the Craig Thomas Visitors Center and it was really terrific. One of the best I have seen in any National Park and again huge glass windows looking out on the mountains. I particularly liked that the park was focused on the various people who lived and traveled here and had cool iron statues of many of them. Beautiful building, fantastic giftshop (although really pricey) and great exhibits.
According to the National Park website here is a quick history. “Congress created the original park in 1929 to protect the Teton Range and several lakes at the foot of the mountains. In 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared additional land in the valley to be Jackson Hole National Monument. In 1949, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated the land he purchased to the government to be included in the national park. Finally, in 1950, Congress combined the original park, the national monument, and the Rockefeller lands to establish present-day Grand Teton National Park.” John D Rockefeller is given a ton of credit though for the status of the park today.
Overall I really liked the Teton Park Road but can’t stress enough that you should go on a clear sky day. It’s definitely all about the views and you don’t want to miss those. After finishing the road we went on Moose-Wilson and Grosse Venture Roads on the outer edges of the park but I will save that for the next post.
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