Grand Teton National Park

Mormon row barn, Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is a United States National Park that is located in the Rocky Mountains, in Northwest Wyoming. The park is south of Yellowstone National Park and just north of the town of Jackson. Grand Teton National Park is noted for its stunning mountain vistas, its shimmering alpine lakes and its abundant wildlife.

Understand

History

In the late 1800s, Colonel S.B.M. Young, the acting Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, suggested the expansion of Yellowstone's park boundaries towards the south. During the following years, various officials introduced a series of proposals to include the Teton mountain range and Jackson Lake in an enlarged Yellowstone. These proposals were met with fierce opposition by local ranchers, who feared that an expanded park would lead to cuts in their grazing areas.

Around this same time, farmers in the region suggested the damming of Two Ocean, Emma Matilda and Jenny Lakes for irrigation purposes. Ranchers became concerned that if the lakes were dammed, it could lead to the destruction of natural resources by way of increased commercial development. This concern led to a key meeting in 1923, when Yellowstone Superintendent Horace Albright and some local residents decided that they could pool private funds to buy up land. This way, they could lock the land away from developers and preserve the natural character of the Jackson Hole region.

Albright was the only person at the meeting who openly supported a national park. The other attendees wanted to make sure that they could continue to use the land for hunting and ranching. As time went by, public support for a national park grew. This support wasn't unanimous, and there were still many holdouts who would not sell their land to the government. Nonetheless, on February 26, 1929, Grand Teton National Park was signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. became enamored of the Jackson Hole area and decided to help with Superintendent Albright's plan. Rockefeller created a private company as a front to buy land, using the company to hide both his personal involvement and any links to the federal government. That way, local residents would sell their land to the company, not knowing that it was in fact going to be donated to the National Park Service.

When the true nature of Rockefeller's front company became publicly known, it caused outrage in the area. After many legal battles, this controversy was put to rest with a compromise that allowed limited hunting and grazing within the park, as well as the existence of some privately run guest ranches.

Landscape

The Wyoming landscape in Grand Teton National Park is stunningly beautiful. This range often represents the entire Rocky Mountain range in countless photographs, postcards, and imaginations. This section of the Rockies is a wondrous playground for climbers, hikers, skiers, and nearly all other outdoor enthusiasts.

Flora and fauna

Moose bed down in the willows, and are frequently spotted throughout the park.

Grand Teton National Park has abundant wildlife, but it is most famous for its populations of elk, bison (buffalo), moose and bald eagles.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 26 32 41 49 59 69 79 78 68 54 36 26
Nightly lows (°F) 1 3 12 21 30 37 42 40 32 24 14 4
Precipitation (in) 2.9 2.1 2.1 2.0 2.3 1.7 1.2 1.2 1.4 1.8 2.9 2.9

   Data from NOAA (1981-2010)

Jackson Hole hardly seems the same place when one contrasts the winter and summer seasons. The southern end of the valley averages 15 feet of snow in the winter and often reaches balmy 80 degree temperatures in the summer. Temperatures in higher elevations average four degrees Fahrenheit cooler every 1,000 feet in rise. Raingear is recommended during spring, summer and fall. Sub-zero temperatures are common throughout winter and demand multi-layered clothing, hats, mittens and cold weather boots. Vehicles with four-wheel drive or all-weather tires are recommended for winter travel, roads may be closed during blizzards. Drive at or below posted speed limits at all times; moose and other wildlife are often seen crossing roads during the winter.

Winter doesn’t officially set in until December 21, but the first heavy snows may fall by November 1. Between winter storms the days are sunny and the nights are frigid. Average temperatures range from a daily maximum of 29°F to a minimum of 6°F. Ask at the Moose Visitor Center for road closures during blizzards.

During spring mild days and cool nights frequently come with rain or snow. The spring months average 11 days with measurable precipitation. Temperatures typically range from 22°F to 49°F. Valley trails remain snow-covered until late May.

Between the months of June through August the average daily temperature is 76°F, but high-elevation hiking trails don’t melt out until mid-July. Nighttime temperatures can reach the lower 40s. Most of the year’s precipitation falls during the summer months; afternoon thunderstorms are common.

Sun and occasional rain and snow fill the short fall days. The average daily maximum is 54°F while the minimum average is a cool 25°F. The fall months average 23 days that drop below freezing. For a comfortable trip, bring plenty of layered clothing.

Get in

Grand Teton overview map

By air

Jackson Hole Airport (IATA: JAC) lies within the park boundaries, on the west side of the Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway, which carries three US Route designations: 26, 89, and 191. American, Delta, Frontier, and United serve the airport. Some service is seasonal.

By car

From the north, U.S. Highways 89, 191 and 287 share the same road into the park via Yellowstone National Park. This route is closed from November to April due to snow.

From the south, U.S. Highways 26, 89 and 191 share a road from Jackson.

From the east, U.S. 26 connects to Dubois.

From the west, Grassy Lake Road, a gravel road, connects Ashton, Idaho, to U.S. 89 near the north end of the park. This route is closed during the winter.

Driving Teton Pass, going from Sheridan over to Idaho, is treacherous. It has a steep grade up and down, wide curves, and you can easily miss a turn and drive off if you take your eyes off the road or the sun gets in your eyes.

By bus

Alltrans Park Shuttle runs from Jackson right through the park to Flagg Ranch. $14 per day (park fees extra).

By foot

There are an extensive number of trails entering the park on all sides including the 3100 mile long Continental Divide Trail.

Fees/Permits

All vehicles and individuals entering the park must pay an entrance fee that is valid for seven days. The entrance fee provides entry to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Fees are $25 for non-commercial vehicles, $12 for hikers and cyclists, and $20 for motorcycles. From December through mid-April a winter day use pass is also available for $5 per person (Grand Teton National Park only).

There are several passes that allow free entry for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes are valid at all national parks including Grand Teton National Park:

In 2016 the National Park Service will offer several days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 16-24 (National Park Week), August 25-28 (National Park Service's 100th birthday weekend), September 24 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).

Grand Teton National Park is a bit curious in that the ranger stations where you pay the entry fees lie fairly deep within the park. This essentially means that sections of the park can be accessed for free, including Jackson Hole Airport.

Get around

Most visitors to the park drive around, because of the distances involved. Some hardy souls bike or hike.

See

There are turnouts and scenic overlooks throughout the park which offer a good view of Grand Teton's many mountains. Here are just a few highlights:

Besides the mountains, there are other attractions worth seeing:

Do

Cunningham Cabin in Jackson Hole, a structure that is on the national register of historic places.

Eat

Colter Bay Village

Jackson Lake Lodge

Sleep

Due to the political deals which made Grand Teton National Park a reality, a mix of concessionaire lodging, private guest ranches and camping is available within the park. Apart from the in-park accommodations, Jackson is the closest town with many lodging options.

Lodging

Camping

Backcountry

All backcountry camping requires a permit. These permits are free when applied for in person, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Permits can be obtained at the Moose and Colter Bay visitor centers, and at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. People who wish to climb mountains must apply at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.

Requests for advance reservations are accepted from January 1st to May 15th. Send the request by regular mail, fax, or in person. Include your name, address, phone number, number of people, and preferred campsites and dates. Be sure to include alternatives. Requests are processed in the order received. Requests may be faxed to +1 307 739-3438 or mailed to:

Grand Teton National Park
Backcountry Permits
PO Box 170
Moose, Wyoming 83012

A non-refundable service fee of $15 will be charged for each reservation (fee is per trip, not per person). Put credit card information directly on the fax, or mail a check made payable to the National Park Service. If no payment is received with your request, you will be billed. Only one-third of the sites are reserved in advance, leaving two-thirds available for walk-in reservations.

Stay safe

The weather can change rapidly in this mountainous region. Temperatures can plummet with little advance warning. Lightning is a real danger. Watch the skies, and if you hear thunder, take shelter within a structure or lower your profile to the sky.

Go next

Routes through Grand Teton National Park

Idaho Falls Jackson  W  E  Riverton Casper
Livingston Yellowstone N.P.  N  S  Jackson Logan
Bozeman Yellowstone N.P.  N  S  Jackson Rock Springs
Helena Yellowstone N.P.  N  S  Lander Rawlins


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 25, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.