Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
- Chapel of the Transfiguration
- Signal Mountain Summit Road
- Oxbow Bend
- Snake River Overlook
- Hedrick Pond Overlook
Our flight arrived at 9:30 AM – we got our rental car and drove the scenic loop clockwise. That’s the combination of Teton Park Road and Route 89/191/26 (I don’t know why there are 3 different numbers for the same road). I think counter-clockwise would be better, but we went to Dornan’s first thing for some food so it made more sense for us to go clockwise. After grabbing lunch, we stopped at the chapel. Very neat, make sure to take a picture inside looking out the window at the mountains.
There are lots of scenic viewpoints along the loop, you just pull over into a small lot and take a picture. We hit a couple of them for a quick picture then kept going to the Signal Mountain Road. This is a must-see, but a bit of a detour (around 30-45 mins). This is one of the best areas to see bears, and we saw one on the way up, eating berries right by the road. The first stop is called Jackson Lake Overlook, and has the best view. Going all the way to the top wasn’t worth it in my opinion.
Continued on and stopped at Oxbow Bend, which is shortly after you get on Route 191. This is another area that’s good for wildlife, and probably better in the morning. The view is nice, but not amazing.
Next stop was the Snake River Overlook where Ansel Adams took his famous photo. Nice viewpoint, but the sun was over the mountains by the time we got there and it’s better lighting in the early part of the day. That will always be true if you’re on the Wyoming side, as you’re on the east and the views start getting hazy around 3 PM.
Next was another time-consuming, not-well-known detour along a rough road. Less than a quarter mile south of the Snake River Overlook is a road on the east side of the highway that leads to the Lost Creek Ranch. Take the first left after you turn off the highway, then the next left after that if you can. These are dirt/rocky roads and you’ll have to go slow. The second left that we needed to take had a gate prohibiting us from turning there, so we got out and walked to what is called the Hedrick Pond Overlook. There are some picnic tables, a port-a-potty, and a large fire ring. You can see the port-a-potty from the “main” dirt road – once you spot it, you can just park and walk there. One of the best views in the entire area, but a commitment to get to. Plan for at least 30-45 minutes of slow driving.
We wanted to do Shwabacher Landing, but there was construction and it was getting later in the day so we drove to Teton Backcountry Rentals to rent bear spray. Highly recommend – max cost of $28 (unless you use it) vs almost $50 for buying and having to leave one.
Picked up a good amount of groceries at Smiths, which I recommend for the best place to get good, inexpensive food. Drove to our VRBO at the Aspens and made dinner.
- Jenny Lake Visitor Center
- Hidden Falls
- Rendezvous Park
Drove to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and started the loop hike counter-clockwise. That is the longer way to get across to the other dock and the trailhead for Cascade Canyon/Lake Solitude, but has the better views.
The Jenny Lake Visitor Center is the busiest part of the park – get there early if you want a parking spot close to the lake. The loop hike takes you to the start of String Lake on the north end, where there is the coolest bridge with a stunning view of the mountains. It’s a little bit away from Jenny Lake, but the only way around and is absolutely worth it.
Had lunch there, then continued along the loop trail to the West Shore Boat Dock, where you can take a boat back to the visitor center ($10 pp one-way). We did the 1-mile RT hike to Hidden Falls, which starts right by the boat dock, then took the boat back. Inspiration Point is not much further than the falls, but not worth it.
You do not have to buy tickets for the boat ahead of time, and there’s a line for everyone who wants to go back. Those who did buy tickets do not have priority – everyone waits in the same line.
Drove to Rendezvous Park, which is right by where we were staying, for one of the coolest and least-known parts of the area. This is a beautiful park, again known for wildlife, and there is a stone pathway that leads across one of the ponds. Awesome for pictures, very unique. You can also access the Snake River from the park and walk to the pedestrian bridge that spans it.
Day 3: Yellowstone day trip
- Old Faithful
- Grand Prismatic Spring
- Morning Glory Pool
- Artist Point
- Upper Falls
Got up at 6:30 for a long day trip to Yellowstone National Park to hit the highlights. You need to pay another $35 for Yellowstone, in addition to the $35 entrance for Grand Teton National Park, so we bought an annual pass on day 1 for $10 more than the combined cost. First stop was Lewis Falls – not really worth it but a quick stop for a picture. Next was Old Faithful, about 2.5 hours from where we were staying. There is plenty of parking, and it’s best to check Twitter for the most up-to-date predictions for the next eruption. We only had to wait about 25 minutes luckily. It usually goes off every 1-2 hours.
Just a little bit north is the Biscuit Basin/Artmisia Trailhead. Park and cross the road for the trail to Morning Glory Pool, which we all agreed was the neatest thing in the park. Stark yellow and blue/green, it doesn’t look natural. It’s about 2 miles RT, and you can walk there from Old Faithful, too, but it’s closer to 3 miles RT from there.
Ate a packed lunch then continued north to the Fairy Falls parking lot for the short walk uphill to the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook, which is other-worldly. It’s much better to see it from above, where the true colors come out – there is a boardwalk at ground level, but we skipped it and don’t feel we missed anything. Maybe 30-45 minutes total.
We had about an hour’s drive to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to view the big waterfalls. It started pouring rain so we stopped at the Canyon Village Education Center. After waiting it out a little bit, we were able to drive and get out at Artist Point for some pictures in between downpours, thankfully. This is the best viewpoint of the lower falls emptying out into the canyon (not Inspiration Point, Grand View, or Lookout Point – Artist is the best per the rangers and the park), and lower falls and South Rim Drive dead-ends here.
Had Uncle Tom’s Trail on our radar but it was closed. Brink of the Upper Falls was suggested by the rangers as the next-best thing, but we didn’t do it because of the rain. We thought the Upper Falls Viewpoint, which is right out of the parking lot, was a good consolation.
Wanted to do Lamar Valley because that’s the best place for wildlife, but it would have been a 2-hour detour and we started the drive back. Passed through Hayden Valley and saw a bison (score).
Stopped at Leek’s Pizzeria for a bite to eat then Colter Bay Marina for some pictures – great photo opportunity. Would have been better if it wasn’t raining and earlier in the day, but we were passing by and it’s out of the way otherwise so we just stopped while we were right there.
- Phelps Lake
After such a long day, we had a relaxed morning and had to check out at 10 to go to our next place – Anne Kent Cabins. We would have booked all 7 nights here but it wasn’t available for the first 3.
We drove to the Rockefeller Preserve to hike to Phelps Lake. There wasn’t any parking at 10:30, so we had to park off the road and walk a bit to the Woodland Trail. That’s the most direct route from the reserve to the lake, just over a mile one-way.
We walked along the loop trail in a counter-clockwise direction to get to the jumping rock, about another 1.2 miles. You can get to the jumping rock from the Death Canyon Trailhead, too, but it’s a bit more strenuous. There were plenty of people jumping off the rock – you can’t miss it. Water is freezing, but definitely worth it.
Hiked back to the car (4.5 miles RT), drove to our cabin in Kelly, got settled, and made dinner. Unbelievable, uninterrupted view of the mountains from the deck.
- String Lake
- Leigh Lake
Had some sickness through the night so we stayed at the cabin in the morning and gave the kids a nap. Drove to String Lake and got there around 4. The lighting wasn’t in our favor and it was very cloudy, but still beautiful.
Walked along String Lake for about a mile to the start of Leigh Lake (they are connected), played around there for a little, then walked back. Stunning scenery the whole way. You can keep going all the way to the other end of Leigh Lake for about a 7-mile RT hike but we didn’t have time (or really want to).
- Delta Lake
- String Lake
Everyone was feeling better and we got the first half of the day to do a hike without the kids (thanks again, mom). Chose Delta Lake: 9 miles RT with about 2,300 feet of elevation gain. It’s not on the park map and not an official trail. I’ve read that the park doesn’t want to make it an official trail because social media has made it blow up with people that don’t take care of the land. Please hike responsibly and follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace so places like this don’t get ruined.
Park at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, and get there early. We started our hike at about 7:15 and were the third couple to the lake. Start on the trail to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes. After a few miles, the branch to Delta Lake can be easily missed. Since it’s not an official trail, there is no sign. However, the trail is at the end of the switchback on which the sign for Garnet Canyon is. Once you pass this sign, instead of going up and left to the next switchback, continue straight/right and you’ll see a trail sharply descend. It is at the 6th switchback.
Follow the trail and the cairns across the first boulder field. There is a trail on the far left of the second boulder field that is much easier than boulder-hopping. Then you’re at the lake! Took us 1 hour 45 mins to get there. Stunning, no other lake in the park has that green-colored water and the Grand Teton right in the center, overlooking the water. Stayed for about an hour, and there were at least 25-30 people there by the time we left.
After the kids got up from their nap, we rented a canoe from Dornan’s (cheapest and best option – you can rent right on Jenny and/or Jackson Lakes, but expensive and you can only go on those lakes). We drove back to String Lake, which is the most popular spot for canoeing and SUPing. Very shallow, still water and again, stunning scenery. Paddled to the end of String Lake and back again. There is a short portage area at the end of String Lake if you want to pick up your canoe and walk about 100 yards to Leigh Lake.
Had dinner at Dornan’s pizza – excellent food. One of those places you’ll look forward to going back to just as much as the mountains you’re looking at while eating.
- Mormon Row
- Schwabacher Landing
- Blacktail Ponds Overlook
- Bradley Lake
- Taggart Lake
Last day. We were 10 minutes from Mormon Row, where the historic barns are that are one of the most photographed spots in the Tetons. We had passed them each day and took lots of pictures of the 2 closest to the road/parking. There are several on either side so you could spend a bit of time. Lots of professional photographers there in the morning. Also, lots of bison were in the fields and crossing the road right by there each of the previous 2 mornings.
Next stop was Schwabacher Landing for the famous reflection shot. Make sure to take the path along the river, away from the parking lot, for several minutes for a beautiful view/reflection of the mountains flanked on both sides with pine trees.
Went to Snake River Overlook again for better pictures, and cause the kids were sleeping during the first stop.
Blacktail Ponds Overlook isn’t a must-see, but nice, quick, and another spot where people saw lots of wildlife during our trip (we didn’t, however).
Drove to the Taggart Lake Trailhead, had lunch, and hiked to Bradley Lake. Not worth it. Hiked back the same way and took the .5 mile sidetrail to Taggart Lake. Just take the direct, 1.5 mile route to Taggart. There is a 6-mile loop that might be better, we ended up doing 5 miles total, but there is no water access at Bradley. You’d have to go further around the lake to try and find some. Taggart is one of the most beautiful lakes ever. Would have loved to have been there early in the morning for reflections, but maybe next time.
Returned the bear spray, walked around Jackson shopping for a little, then back to the cabin for dinner. Flew home the next morning.
The Tetons were very high on my list of places to go, and lived up to it 100%. I felt like I saw everything I needed to in Yellowstone in 1 day – maybe Mammoth Springs and Lamar Valley would be cool, but we’re more about the mountains. Jackson airport is the most convenient place I’ve ever flown. No lines, no traffic, right in the National Park, everyone is friendly, car rental onsite and about 25 paces from the airport door. Would definitely return to this area. Mid August was perfect – 30s at night, 70s and 80s in the day. No bugs because of how cold it was at night. It would be ideal to stay in the park at a cabin, but that’s really expensive (everywhere is, but even more so).
Year traveled: 2019