Julie United States 27 Comments

Grand Teton National Park has something for everyone. Hikers will love the long list of trails that head into the Teton mountain range. Photographers will love capturing sunrise at Mormon Row and Oxbow Bend. Families will love the easy to visit overlooks, crossing Jenny Lake by boat, and spotting moose and elk as you drive through the park. If you have one day in Grand Teton National Park, we can tell you how to combine all of these experiences into one unforgettable day.

We have visited Grand Teton National Park numerous times, with our most recent visits being in August 2019 and September 2020. This is one of our favorite national parks, not only for the hiking trails, views of the Tetons, and wildlife encounters, but also for its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park.

Kara and I did this same itinerary on our visit in August 2019, with a few minor changes. You will drive one loop through the park, visiting the top sights in Grand Teton National Park. This maximizes your time and lets you visit several key locations at the best time of day for photography. I also give you tips to avoid the crowds, which can be quite large from June through September.

Also in this post I give you some suggestions on how to modify this itinerary. Let’s face it, a perfect day in Grand Teton will look very different for a hiker than a family or a photographer.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Quick Facts about Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is located in Wyoming, just north of the town of Jackson. Jackson is a great place to stay. Not only are there many highly rated hotels to choose from, but you can end your day with dinner and drinks.

There are three roads in Grand Teton National Park that form one loop: Highway 191, Teton Park Road, and Jenny Lake Road. Called Scenic Loop Drive, this is where you will find most of the park’s top viewpoints and trailheads.

IMPORTANT! Teton Park Road and Moose Wilson Road are closed from November 1 through April 30. This one day in Grand Teton itinerary works best from May through October, when all of the roads are open. Outside of this time frame, visiting the park becomes much more challenging, since you cannot drive to many of the trailheads and viewpoints.

One Day in Grand Teton: Best Things to Do

With one day in Grand Teton National Park, here are the best things to see and do:

  • Mormon Row Historic District
  • Spot wildlife at Oxbow Bend
  • Schwabacher Landing
  • Jenny Lake Scenic Drive
  • Jenny Lake
  • Inspiration Point
  • Moose Wilson Road
  • Take your pick from the long list of hiking trails

 

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers. You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
 
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

One Day in Grand Teton National Park Itinerary

If you only have one day in Grand Teton National Park, I highly recommend getting an early start to maximize your time. How early? Plan to hit the road just before sunrise, if you can. I know rolling out of bed can be painful, but you will get a head start on the crowds and get to see the Tetons at its loveliest time of day…sunrise.

Below is a rough timeline for this itinerary. These times are taken from the loop that we did through Grand Teton National Park (using the time stamp on my photos). I know that 6:30 am is a bit early for many people. You can start an hour or two later and still get to everything, but expect bigger crowds at many of these sights.

  • 6:30 am: Mormon Row
  • 7:30 am: Schwabacher Landing
  • 8:30 am: Snake River Overlook
  • 9:00 am: Oxbow Bend
  • 9:45 am: Leigh Lake
  • 11:15 am: Jenny Lake Overlook
  • Noon: Jackson or Teton Village
  • 4:30 pm: Jenny Lake & Inspiration Point

Sunrise/Early Morning: Mormon Row

Mormon Row is one of the best sunrise photography locations in Grand Teton National Park.

If you want a prime tripod location, you must get here before sunrise. There are numerous companies that offer sunrise photography tours and they line up early. If you get here too late, you will be stuck on the fringes with a less than ideal view of these historic buildings.

Grand Teton Photography Tour

If you have no desire to get here that early, you can still take some very nice photos after sunrise. The lighting is great all morning.

There are two barns to visit, and photograph, if you are interested. There is the historic barn on Mormon Row and the T. A. Moulton Barn located on Gros Ventre Road, across Antelope Flats Road.

Mormon Row

Mormon Row

 

TA Moulton Barn

TA Moulton Barn

Getting Here: From Jackson, it takes 30 minutes to drive here. 

Schwabacher Landing

From Mormon Row, drive back out to Highway 191 and head north. It takes 15 minutes to drive to Schwabacher Landing. The last part of the drive will be on a gravel road that is suitable for standard cars. This is an extremely popular spot in the morning so the crowds are unavoidable, unfortunately.

From Schwabacher Landing you get one of the most iconic views of Grand Teton National Park. If it is not windy, you will be able to capture the reflection of the Teton mountain range in the Snake River.

Schwabacher Landing

You can either walk out to the first viewpoint and take your photos here. Or, walk the short trail to the end for slightly different views of the mountain range.

Snake River Overlook

Continue north on Highway 191 for 5 miles (about 10 minutes) to the Snake River overlook. This photography location was made famous when Ansel Adams snapped a photograph here in 1942, while working for the United States government.

Snake River Overlook

Snake River Overlook

Oxbow Bend

It is a 20 minute drive to get to the next destination, Oxbow Bend. On this drive you will pass through the Moran Entrance Station and pay the park fee. There could be a line now that it is mid-morning.

Oxbow Bend

This is the place to get the iconic view of Mt. Moran’s reflection in the Snake River. It’s also a great place to see moose or elk, although we weren’t so lucky. For photographers, this is another popular sunrise photo spot.

Optional: Signal Mountain

After Oxbow Bend, you will turn left onto Teton Park Road and head south towards Jenny Lake.

You have the option to add on Signal Mountain at this point. I recommend it for those who want a scenic view of the park and have no plans to add a hike onto the day, other than the short hike to Inspiration Point.

There are two viewpoints on this drive: the view from the top of Signal Mountain and the view from the Jackson Lake Overlook.

Jackson Lake Overlook

Jackson Lake Overlook

 

Signal Mountain

View from the top of Signal Mountain

How to Do It: Signal Mountain Road is 4.4 miles long and it takes 15 minutes to drive it one way. It’s just wide enough for two cars and there are many bends and switchbacks. At the summit and at Jackson Lake Overlook, there is a parking lot. This road is closed from November 1 to mid-May.

Jenny Lake Scenic Drive

Continue along Teton Park Road until you reach Jenny Lake Scenic Drive. From Oxbow Bend, this takes 20 minutes (not including the Signal Mountain Detour).

Jenny Lake Scenic Drive is a one-way road that follows along the eastern edge of Jenny Lake. There are several overlooks and trailheads located along this drive. The views from the road really aren’t that great since you are driving through the trees…you will have to stop at the overlooks for the best views.

The first viewpoint you will come to is the Cathedral Group Turnout, which gives you a decent view of the Tetons (but does not have the same wow factor as Schwabacher Landing or the Snake River Overlook).

If you want to get out and stretch your legs, you can walk the Leigh Lake trail. If you simply hike to Leigh Lake, it’s just 1.8 miles round trip. If you go farther, walking along the eastern shore of Leigh Lake, the hike becomes 3.7 miles round trip.

String Lake

We loved this hike. The views across String Lake, especially with the reflections of the mountains, was beautiful. It also didn’t feel that busy, with just a few groups of hikers on the trail.

Continue along Jenny Lake Road and make sure you stop at the Jenny Lake Overlook for one of the best views of the lake.

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake

Midday in Grand Teton National Park

Midday crowd levels on Jenny Lake and on the more popular trails are insane. Parking will spill out from the immense Jenny Lake parking lot onto Teton Park Road. Lines to board the Jenny Lake shuttle will be very very long. And good luck finding a spot at the trailhead for Taggart Lake or the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve.

Rather than joining the crowds, I recommend leaving Grand Teton National Park for a few hours. I know that sounds crazy but it actually works very well.

Option #1: Teton Village at Jackson Hole

Combine the drive on scenic Moose Wilson Road with a tram ride up into the Teton Range.

Moose Wilson road starts near the Grand Teton National Park Headquarters and heads south towards Jackson. Along the way, it passes Phelps Lake, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, and Teton Village. You have a good chance of spotting moose on this road.

Moose Wilson Road one day in Grand Teton

Have lunch in Teton Village and then spend the early part of the afternoon in the mountains.

Ride the Aerial Tram to Rendezvous Peak. At an altitude of 10,450 feet, it’s one of the highest views in the area.

From here, you can ride the tram back down to Teton Village or hike to one of the other chairlifts or gondolas on the mountains. We hiked the Cirque Trail, a 1.8 mile mostly downhill trail to Bridger Gondola and then rode this back into town. Learn more here. 

IMPORTANT: In 2022, Moose Wilson Road will be closed between the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and the Granite Entrance Station. This road closure will take place except for weekends (learn more here). To get to Teton Village from the Jenny Lake area, you will have to drive through Jackson and then take Moose Wilson Road north from Highway 22 (Teton Pass Highway). This drive takes 40 minutes. You can still drive the north section of Moose Wilson Road, which in our experience, has been the best place to spot moose. 

Cirque Trail Jackson

View from Rendezvous Peak

Option #2: Lunch and Shopping in Jackson

Another option is to drive to Jackson and have lunch, then return to Grand Teton once the crowds have quieted down. We frequently do this and this also works very well. While in town, pick up some food for a picnic dinner.

4:30 pm: Jenny Lake & Inspiration Point

Crossing Jenny Lake by shuttle and hiking up to Inspiration Point is one of the most popular things to do in Grand Teton National Park.

It might sound strange leaving this until the end of the day, but we have done it and it is so much better than joining the midday crowds.

During the summer months, the Jenny Lake Boat shuttle operates from 7 am to 7 pm. If you time your visit for the end of the day, there will be very few people on board the shuttle. Kara and I actually waited until 5:45 pm and we shared the shuttle with 2 passengers and the driver. However, this was really cutting things close, so I don’t recommend waiting until 5:45 unless you are a very fast hiker. I recommend getting started no later than 4:30 pm unless you are a very fast hiker.

Once across the lake, it is a 2 mile round-trip hike to visit Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. This will take most people about an hour and a half. This time of day, the crowds will be low and the lighting is great for photography across the lake.

Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls

 Kara Inspiration Point one day in Grand Teton

Trail to Inspiration Point

 

Inspiration Point one day in Grand Teton

Inspiration Point

If you are doing good on time, you can continue the hike into Cascade Canyon. This trail heads way back into the Teton Range. Moose are frequently spotted here and you might not have to go far to see them. We have seen moose right on the trail in Cascade Canyon.

Cascade Canyon

Cascade Canyon

 

Cascade Canyon Moose one day in Grand Teton

Moose on the trail in Cascade Canyon

PRO TRAVEL TIP:  Confirm with Jenny Lake Boating when the final shuttle of the day makes its run across Jenny Lake. If you miss the shuttle, you will have to walk 2.4 miles around Jenny Lake back to the parking lot.

Once you return to visitor center side of the lake, there are several benches along the walking trail. Kara and I brought a picnic dinner and sat here and enjoyed the view.

Grand Teton Picnic Spot one day in Grand Teton

OPTIONAL: 4:30 pm: Go for a Hike

Jenny Lake and Inspiration Point get a lot of hype, but I think that there are short hikes that are just as good, or maybe even better, than Jenny Lake.

Taggart and Bradley Lakes

This is an extremely popular hike but late in the day the trail will be mostly empty. We hiked to Taggart Lake after our visit to Jenny Lake and Inspiration Point, finishing this hike at sunset.

Taggart Lake

Taggart Lake

If you hike to both Taggart and Bradley Lakes, the entire hike is 5.5 miles round trip and takes 2 to 3 hours. If you only go to Taggart Lake it is a 3-mile round-trip hike.

Phelps Lake Overlook & Death Canyon

For one of the best lake views in all of Grand Teton National Park, put the short, sweet hike to the Phelps Lake Overlook on your to-do list. At just 2 miles in length with a minimal amount of elevation gain, this is a great hike for all ages and ability levels.

Phelps Lake

Phelps Lake Overlook

The trick is getting to the trailhead. To get to the hiking trail, a 4×4 is recommended, since you will drive on a rough gravel road to get to the trailhead (the Death Canyon Trailhead). But a high-clearance SUV should work, too.

From the Phelps Lake Overlook, you can continue into Death Canyon. This is a great place to spot moose and bear. We haven’t seen bear in this canyon but we did see four moose, including a bull moose with a cow and a calf. If you add on Death Canyon, you will hike between 4 and 7 miles round trip, depending on when you choose to turn around.

Once finished, either at Jenny Lake or one of these hikes, return to Jackson or Teton Village.

How to Modify This Itinerary

One Day in Grand Teton: For Hikers

If you are a hiker, I recommend ignoring the itinerary above and choosing one of many great hikes there are to do in Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton is one of our favorite national parks for hiking…not only are the trails a blast but there is a very good chance that you will spot wildlife along the way.

Plan on starting first thing in the morning. Getting a parking space at the trailhead is more important than visiting Mormon Row or the overlooks (you can do that at the end of the day). By mid-morning, most parking lots will be filled.

We have a post with 15 great hikes to do in Grand Teton which I recommend reading. This also has links to more detailed hiking posts.

Here are a few suggestions:

Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop. This is a long, tough hike but it is our favorite in Grand Teton. In just one hike, you can visit a handful of the park’s top spots: Jenny Lake, Inspiration Point, Lake Solitude, Cascade Canyon, and Paintbrush Canyon. Throw in panoramic views across the Teton mountain range and a few moose, and you have an unforgettable hike in Grand Teton National Park.

This hike is a big undertaking. At 20 miles, with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain, it’s a massive hike. Many people do this as a 2 or 3-day backpacking trip, but if you are fit and fast, the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop can be done as a day hike.

Lake Solitude one day in Grand Teton

Overlooking Lake Solitude on the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon loop.

Death Canyon + Static Peak Divide. At 16 miles, this hike is little more manageable than Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons, but it is still a challenging hike with a lot of elevation gain. On this hike, you get an awesome view over Phelps Lake, panoramic views of the park, and a very good chance to spot wildlife in Death Canyon.

Grand Teton Hike

Static Peak Divide

Death Canyon. Shorten the above hike by skipping the massive climb up the Static Peak Divide. You still get the amazing view over Phelps Lake and a high chance to spot a moose or bear. This canyon gets far fewer hikers than Cascade Canyon and there is a chance you could have it all to yourself. This hike is 8 miles round trip.

Cascade Canyon to Solitude Lake. Ride the Jenny Lake boat shuttle, hike past Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, and then hike up Cascade Canyon to the Forks of Cascade Canyon. Take the trail to the right and continue on the moderate, uphill trail until you reach Lake Solitude. This hike is 15 miles round trip and is a shorter version of the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon loop.

Spend the remainder of your day driving Scenic Loop Drive and visiting the viewpoints.

One Day in Grand Teton: For Photographers

If you are a photographer, plan on rolling out of bed before sunrise. Mormon Row is one of the most popular sunrise photography spots, but Schwabacher Landing and Oxbow Bend are also very popular. Unfortunately, with one day in Grand Teton National Park, you will only be able to catch one of these at sunrise.

Start at your chosen sunrise destination and then visit the other overlooks and viewpoints we mention.

If you also want to capture wildlife, they are most active early and late in the day. We have spotted moose in Cascade Canyon and Death Canyon.

I also recommend visiting Mangelsen Images of Nature in Jackson if you want to see some spectacular photos of Grand Teton National Park.

One Day in Grand Teton: For Families

Young kids are not going to want to roll out of bed early to take a photo of a barn or a bunch of viewpoints. However, as a parent, you might want to see some of these places for yourself.

The itinerary above will work great for families, with a few minor changes.

Keep your kids happy and get a slightly later start. Consider skipping a few of the overlooks that we list in the morning, choosing to the visit the ones that look the most interesting. Schwabacher Landing is nice because your kids can get out and walk the trails next to the Snake River.

Once on Jenny Lake Road, the Leigh Lake hike is easy and a very nice hike for all ages.

Midday, I recommend making the detour to Teton Village (just keep in mind that the Moose Wilson road construction will make the drive longer to get to Teton Village). Riding the gondola is a unique thing to do here and even kids will love the spectacular view from Rendezvous Peak. You can also hike downhill to the Bridger Gondola and ride this back into the village. 

End with the boat trip across Jenny Lake and the hike to Inspiration Point.

Rendezvous Peak one day in Grand Teton

View from the Aerial Tram and Rendezvous Peak

Best Time to Visit Grand Teton National Park

The best time to visit Grand Teton National Park is from mid-May through October, when all of the roads and visitor centers are open.

June, July and August are the busiest months in the park. Expect big crowds on the hiking trails, difficulty finding a parking space midday, and sold out lodges inside of the park.

The best time for wildlife sightings are at dawn and dusk.

If you want to see the park ablaze in fall colors, the end of September into very early October is best time to visit.

From November through mid-May, Teton Park Road is closed, along with several other scenic roads, such as Moose Wilson Road and the road to the summit of Signal Mountain.

In recent years, we have visited Grand Teton National Park twice. In 2019, Kara and I visited the park in mid-August. It was busy, but it’s easy to avoid the crowds, if you don’t mind taking a break in the middle of the day. To avoid the crowds, the best time to visit the park is between 6:30 am and 11 am, and 5 pm to 9 pm in the summer months.

We returned to Grand Teton National Park in September 2020, both to catch the fall colors and to hike some of the longer trails. The end of September is a gorgeous time to be here. Daily temperatures were in the 60’s and 70’s with sunny skies. There was a brief cool down with some rain in Jackson Hole and snow up on the mountain peaks. For fall colors, beautiful weather, and a great chance to see wildlife, consider visiting at the very end of September.

How to Get to Grand Teton National Park

The closest airport is Jackson Hole Airport, which is located in the park. In fact, Jackson Hole Airport is the only commercial airport located within a national park.

Other nearby airports include Idaho Falls Regional Airport (94 miles, 2 hour drive) and Salt Lake City International Airport (280 miles, 4.75 hour drive).

Grand Teton Sign one day in Grand Teton

Where to Stay

Inside Grand Teton National Park

There are numerous lodges and campgrounds available inside of the park. Click here to learn more about your options.

Teton Village at Jackson Hole

Ski resort by winter, outdoor playground by summer. This resort offers hotels and restaurants, plus gondolas, chair lifts, and a cable car that will whisk you up to Rendezvous Peak for stunning views over the Tetons. If you like the idea of staying in a resort town just outside of the park, this is a great place to consider. However, during the planned road construction on Moose Wilson Road, Teton Village is an inconvenient place to stay, in order to visit Grand Teton National Park. To get into park, you will have to drive south on Moose Wilson Road, drive through Jackson, and then head up into the park via Highway 191.

Jackson

From Jackson, it takes just 15 minutes to drive to Moose (the southern end of Grand Teton National Park) and 30 minutes to drive to Jenny Lake. With a large number of accommodations and restaurants, this is a great place to base yourself for visiting the park.

This is where we stay when we visit Grand Teton National Park.

Wyoming Inn at Jackson Hole. This is one of the highest rated hotels in Jackson and our favorite hotel. It is not located in the city center, so you will have to drive to the town square and park your car if you want to visit the heart of Jackson. But we loved the spacious room, excellent Wi-Fi, and comfy beds.

The Lodge at Jackson Hole. This hotel is located next door to the Wyoming Inn, mentioned above. We stayed here on our most recent visit. We had a great stay…the room was clean, very quiet, and comfortable. We liked the Wyoming Inn a little bit better but we wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again, especially since prices are a little lower. To get into the heart of Jackson, it is a short drive or a 20-minute walk.

Hotel Jackson. This boutique hotel looks amazing. Just five minutes from the town square, rooms are beautifully decorated. All rooms have a gas fireplace and the hotel has two onsite restaurants and a hot tub.

Cowboy Village Resort. On our first visit to Grand Teton National Park, this is where Tim and I stayed. Western-style cabins come equipped with a private bathroom and a kitchenette.

The Wort Hotel. If you want an upscale experience in the city center of Jackson, the Wort Hotel gets great reviews.

Jackson Square one day in Grand Teton

Jackson Square

Entry Fee for Grand Teton National Park: $35 per vehicle, valid for 7 days

Hours: Grand Teton National Park is open 24 hours a day, year-round. For opening hours of the visitor centers and current conditions, click here. 

Grand Teton App: Before you go, download the Grand Teton National Park app, to get updates on road closures, trail status, and services throughout the park. 

Grand Teton National Park Guide

Where Are You Going Next?

Here is more information for your trip to Grand Teton and Wyoming.

ROAD TRIP IDEA: How to Visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton on One Epic Road Trip
ROAD TRIP IDEA:
Grand Teton, Yellowstone, & Glacier National Parks: 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary
GRAND TETON ITINERARY:  How Many Days Do You Need in Grand Teton? A Complete Itinerary
THINGS TO DO: 15 Amazing Things to do in Grand Teton National Park
DAY HIKES: 15 Best Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
HIKING: How to Hike the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop
HIKING:  How to Hike to Surprise, Amphitheater and Delta Lakes
YELLOWSTONE DAY TRIP: The Perfect Yellowstone Day Trip from Grand Teton National Park
BEST OF YELLOWSTONE: 18 Amazing Things to Do in Yellowstone
YELLOWSTONE: Yellowstone Itinerary: How to Spend 1 to 5 Days in Yellowstone
NATIONAL PARKS: The Complete Guide to the US National Parks


If you have any questions about how to spend one day in Grand Teton National Park, let us know in the comment section below.

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Comments 27

  1. Avatar for Mark
    Mark

    Thanks for all the great ideas. Is the 15 mile Cascade Canyon to Solitude Lake hike out and back or is it a loop?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
  2. Avatar for Debbie
    Debbie

    We have a trip planned for four adult during late May /early June. We plan to follow your four day itinerary for Yellowstone first. We will be driving from West Yellowstone on Sunday, June 5 to Jackson. We plan to leave early from West Yellowstone to maximize our time in that area. What would you suggest as to how to schedule that day driving from West Yellowstone.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      To drive to Jackson, you can go through YNP and GTNP or drive directly to Jackson through Idaho, which is slightly quicker. I recommend driving through the 2 national parks. On this drive, visit the northern sights in Grand Teton. This includes Jackson Lake Overlook, Colter Bay Village, and the Lakeshore Trail, if you like the idea of a short, easy hike/walk with views of Jackson Lake. Then visit Oxbow Bend. If the weather is clear, I say drive up Signal Mountain Summit Road for views over the park and continue down Teton Park Road. End the day with the String Lake Trail, another easy but very pretty hike to do. Then drive to Jackson, check into your hotel, and have dinner. There are lots of great restaurants in Jackson and it’s usually a good idea to make your reservation in advance. With 3 more days to sightsee in GTNP, you have plenty of time to do Jenny Lake, the Laurance Rockefeller Preserve, and Schwabacher Landing. Should be a great trip! Cheers, Julie

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