The park was established and dedicated in 1929 but then it was a tiny portion of what is today's park, containing only the mountains and a thin strip of lakes. In 1950, it was enlarged with the addition of most of the Jackson Hole National Monument which included the 52 square miles of land which John D. Rockefeller Jr. had donated to the public trust. The park extends from its north boundary (with Yellowstone Park via the Rockefeller Parkway) to just north of the town of Jackson. The small range of mountains called the Tetons rose from the valley floor, beginning about nine million years ago, and twisted as they rose. At the same time, the valley slipped downward and now slopes toward the mountains. This movement continues to this day.
Now, to that name: The peaks in the center of the range are said to have been dubbed Le Trois Tetons by overly-lusty French Canadian trappers when passing through the area. The Idaho side of the range is much more gentle and doubtless led the trappers to fantasize.
What to See & Do
As one stands on the east side of the Snake River Valley, the full range is apparent. From south to north (left to right), the peaks appear as follows:
The Wall is the slope of limestone just above the town of Jackson at Jackson Hole. There are many other sedimentary limestone layers in the mountains to the north. South Teton (el. 12,514 feet) is the first peak at the south end of the range. Nez Perce (11,901 feet) is next with Middle Teton (12,804) to the north. The Lower Saddle divides Middle and Grand Teton peaks. The Grand is the highest in the range at 13,770 feet, the third highest mountain in Wyoming and the most spectacular of them all. The first successful climb of the Grand is said to have been made in 1872 by Nathaniel Langford, the first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park -- but others have laid claim to the distinction. There are many routes up the Grand and none of them are easy. The most popular leads from Garnet Canyon and then up via the Upper Saddle.
North of Gunsight Notch, Mt. Owen rises to a summit at 12,928 feet. It was named after William Owen, an early mountain climber whom the Wyoming legislature has recognized as one of the first party to make the Grand Teton summit, in 1898. Teewinot (12,325 ft.) named by Fritiof Fryxell and Phil Smith, its first climbers, is a Shoshone word meaning "Many Pinnacles". Then, looking north, there are several less impressive peaks: Mt. St. John (11,430 ft.), Rockchuck Peak (11,144 ft.), Mt. Woodring (11,500 ft.) and Thor Peak (12,028 ft.). Anchoring the northern end of the range is Mount Moran, at 12,605 feet, named for Thomas Moran, the Western artist whose paintings helped to establish Yellowstone as a national park in 1872.
Park Scenery and Facilities
Two lakes define the park's valley area. At the north end of the park, Jackson Lake is more than 16 miles long and covers about 26,000 acres. There are picnic areas, campgrounds and viewpoints along the eastern shore of the lake. It is a natural lake which was made larger by the dam near Jackson Lake Junction. Anglers will find cutthroat, mackinaw, brown and brook trout in the lake.
Jenny Lake was named for a Shoshone woman, the wife of an early trapper and local guide, Richard Leigh (for whom Leigh Lake was named). There is no more beautiful lake for awe-inspiring canoeing than Jenny.
There are several motels and lodges within the park, providing rustic to deluxe accommodations. Flagg Ranch is the most northern place to stay, a guest ranch, motel and cabins with restaurant, saloon and store. The resort offers riding and river trips. Colter Bay Village on Jackson Lake has moderate rates for its cabins. There is a dining room and lounge but no cooking in the cabins.
Jackson Lake Lodge is the upscale place to stay if you like lots of people around. The lodge has deluxe rates and a fine dining room with lounge. Just to the south, Jenny Lake Lodge is located in a more secluded location on the Jenny Lake Loop Road. Its rates are deluxe, with only 30 units and a dining room with lounge, open during the summer and fall seasons. Signal Mountain Lodge, also with deluxe rates, has 22 cooking units among its total of 79 units and it too is a seasonal operation. The lodge has a dining room and cocktail lounge. Moose Head Ranch has a horse for each of its 40 guests. It's located on Highway 26/89/191 with cabin accommodations and features cookouts with fishing close at hand.
There are service stations and grocery stores along the highway, next to the major accommodations areas. Park visitor centers are at Colter Bay and Moose. The Colter Bay center includes the Indian Arts Museum where Native artists demonstrate their work during June, July and August. The Moose Center features a park orientation video which provides a good overview of park attractions and facilities. Both information centers are open from 8 am to 7 pm during summer months and to 5 pm the rest of the year. Ranger-led tours and other interpretation activities are available during summer months. Backcountry and boating permits are available at both Moose and Colter Bay centers..
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Staying in the Park
The principle concessionaire in the park is the Grand Teton Lodge Company which operates the first three lodges (guests of any of their operations may use facilities at the others). All are seasonal.
Jackson Lake Lodge
This large deluxe lodge caters to kids with riding and float trips, but also features a cocktail lounge, dining room and pool. ($$ to $$$). Write to the lodge at Box 240, Grand Teton N.P. 83013.
Jenny Lake Lodge
Cabins in this spectacular location are rustic but luxurious and rates (also luxurious) include two meals a day at the lodge, known for its excellent continental cuisine. Young children are not encouraged here ($$$). Write to Box 240, Grand Teton National Park, WY 83013.
Camping in the Park
You'll find five campgrounds inside the park, operated by the Park Service. From north to south, these are: Lizard Creek, with 60 sites; Colter Bay with 310 sites, laundry, propane and dump station; Signal Mountain with 86 sites and dump station; Jenny Lake with 49 sites restricted to tents and small camping vehicles (no trailers) and dump station; and Gros Ventre, the largest of the campgrounds with 360 sites and dump station.
For places to stay in the town of Jackson,
located just south of the park, go to the Jackson Page.
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