Grand Teton National Park is a hiker’s paradise, with over two hundred miles of trekkable trails that traverse serene lakes, peaceful meadows, towering mountains, deep canyons, and thick forests.
There is an option for every hiker in Grand Teton, whether you want a short, scenic jaunt, a relaxing lakeview trail, a challenging uphill workout, a hidden forest hike, or a backcountry trek into the solitude and isolation of Grand Teton’s mountainous heart.
Background on Grand Teton National Park
The backbone of Grand Teton National Park, and all its resident hiking trails, is the Teton Mountains range. This immense mountain chain spans the length of the park, providing stunning backdrops from whichever hiking trail you may find yourself on.
Over time, these mountains, along with the transformative work of the region’s glaciers, snowmelt, rivers, and streams, have created a rugged, untouched, hiker’s haven, full of breathtaking scenery and unique wildlife, like grizzly and brown bears, moose, elk, and pronghorn!
Location of Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is located in northwest Wyoming. The closest town is Jackson, Wyoming.
Know Before You Go
- Hours: Grand Teton National Park is open daily (though there are seasonal closures)
- Entrance Fees: $35 a vehicle (good for 7 consecutive days)
- Closest Town(s): Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Victor, Idaho
- Closest Airport: Jackson Hole Airport (WY)
- Pet Policy: Pets are not allowed on trails in Grand Teton National Park
Where to Stay Near Grand Teton National Park
There are ample accommodation options in Jackson, Wyoming, including hotel chains, boutique motels, and vacation rentals. There are also additional (and often cheaper) accommodation options in smaller surrounding towns like Victor, Idaho.
Camping: there are both developed, reservable campgrounds available and backcountry camping within Grand Teton National Park.
Best Time to Hike in Grand Teton National Park
When considering which of the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park to enjoy, it is important to make note of when is the best time to hike in the park, for you personally. While Grand Teton National Park is open daily, the capacity changes throughout the seasons, and this can affect which hikes you may choose, and when.
Hiking in Summer
Summer is considered the peak visiting season in Grand Teton National Park, and it is the season when its hiking trails will be the most busy. Summer daytime temperatures average in the 70’s Fahrenheit, creating perfect hiking weather.
Wildlife is also active in the summer, which draws many visitors to Grand Teton’s hiking trails in search of sightings. Many of these animals may have young in tow as well, another draw to wildlife sightings in summer.
While summer is an ideal time to enjoy the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park, it does come with a few considerations.
First, with peak season comes peak traffic. The most popular hiking trails will be busy, as will their respective parking lots. In the summer, trailhead parking fills up early across the park, especially on weekends. An early start is recommended for the best chance at securing a parking spot without a significant wait, or an additional walk from an overflow or roadside parking spot.
Secondly, summer brings the potential for afternoon showers. It is often ideal to start your hike early, and finish early.
Hiking in Fall
The arrival of fall creates a beautiful scene for hiking Grand Teton’s top trails, with the yellow leaves of the aspens, and the snow-capped peaks of the Tetons. In addition, the crowds are fewer, and the trails are less busy. The bugling of elk in rutting season provides a unique harmony for hiking as well.
In September, the park begins to see the first of its seasonal closures, which affect roads and facilities, including campgrounds, visitor centers, lodges, and ranger stations. Once these facilities close in the fall, they will remain closed until spring.
While the fall season may still see some daytime averages in the 50s, the overnight lows begin to dip into the teens and 20s, making conditions a little more challenging for those hikers looking at backcountry treks and overnight hiking.
By October, winter weather has usually made its appearance known in full, with characteristic freezing temperatures in the single digits, and heavy snowfall. While the park and its hiking trails remain open in the fall, these closures and seasonal changes may affect how you plan to access them. For these reasons, early fall is considered more ideal than late fall for hiking in Grand Teton National Park.
Hiking in Winter
Many people may wrongly assume that hiking is not possible in Grand Teton National Park in the winter, but it is, it just looks a lot different! By November 1st, park roads are closed, as well as park facilities. However, roads and trails remain open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and in some designated areas of the park, snowmobiling.
If you are a winter weather recreationist, comfortable with the unique characteristics of winter hiking, then this season may just be the best time of year for you to enjoy the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park! There are even ranger-guided snowshoe hikes throughout the winter!
During winter, the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park are draped in snow, deafening silence, and welcome solitude. It is a truly unique way to experience hiking in this winter wonderland, for those that are adequately prepared for it.
Hiking in winter is also an excellent time to watch for signs of wildlife in the park, as fresh tracks in the snow are evidence of ongoing animal activity!
Hiking in Spring
The arrival of spring brings new life to Grand Teton National Park, both literally and figuratively. Young elk, moose, and bear cubs follow diligently behind their mothers around the thawing trails of Grand Teton National Park’s lakes, forests, canyons, and meadows.
Wildflowers begin to bloom from beneath the disappearing blanket of snow and ice. The mountain peaks begin to lose their ivory drapery, and the snowmelt fills the streams, rivers, and lakes of the park.
The park itself awakens as well in the spring. In April, park roads reopen, as well as facilities including campgrounds, visitor centers, ranger stations, and lodges. This means for those looking to enjoy hiking in Grand Teton, accessibility to the trails gets a little easier, as well as logistical accommodations following their hike.
Temperatures throughout spring might still be on the colder side, especially at night, but with proper gear and layering, it is possible to hit the trails!
Some of the higher elevation hikes may not fully thaw out until the early summer months of May and June, but much of the park will continue to see snow melt on its trails throughout the spring season.
Hiking in late April or May will provide a chance to dodge the heaviest of crowds that will start arriving in June and July while avoiding the worst of the frigid winter temperatures and snow-bound trails.
Best Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
Below are the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park. These trails include a kaleidoscope of the best qualities of the park, including exposure to its mountains, canyons, rivers, lakes, valleys, and forests!
The Cascade Canyon Trail
- Length: 9.1 miles roundtrip out and back
- Rating: Difficult
- Elevation Gain: 1,102 feet
- Estimated Time to Complete: 4-5 hours
- Parking: there is parking located at the trailhead (at Jenny Lake)
- Facilities: there are bathrooms located at Jenny Lake
The Cascade Canyon Trail is one of the most cherished trails in the park. It is a wild, backcountry trek that takes you deep into one of the most beautiful canyons in Grand Teton National Park, surrounded by towering views of the “Cathedral Group” of mountains, namely.
The trailhead for Cascade Canyon is located on the west shore of Jenny Lake. There are two ways to access the Cascade Canyon trailhead.
You can hike the Jenny Lake Trail to the Cascade Canyon Trailhead, located on the west shore of the lake. Pick up the Jenny Lake Trailhead from the south shore of Jenny Lake, and hike several miles until you reach the trailhead for Cascade Canyon.
The Jenny Lake Trail
- Length: 7.2 miles roundtrip loop
- Rating: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 456 feet
- Estimated Time to Complete: 3 – 4 hours
- Parking: there are two parking lots at Jenny Lake
- Facilities: there are bathrooms, a visitor center, a general store, and a ranger station at Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park is a favorite among the park’s many lakes, and for good reason. Its hiking trail traces the circumference of this beautiful lake, containing several surprises, like Inspiration Point, Hidden Falls, and the trailhead for the Cascade Canyon Trail.
When you hike the Jenny Lake Trail, you can hike the entirety of the trail all the way around the lake, or to certain “turnaround” spots on the trail. Some popular turnaround spots include Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls.
You can also take the Jenny Lake ferry from the south shore to the west shore boat dock, for a quicker way to visit Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. You can also take the Jenny Lake ferry back from the west shore to the south shore of Jenny Lake.
Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls are located only a few tenths of a mile apart from each other on the Jenny Lake Trail. They are also located a short hike from the west shore boat dock, for those hikers who are arriving via the Jenny Lake ferry.
Inspiration Point offers dramatic, cliff views of Jenny Lake and beyond, into the Jackson Hole Valley. Conversely, the 100-foot-tall Hidden Falls is shouldered and secreted away by deep green forest walls along the Jenny Lake Trail.
Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls are both located approximately 2.5 – 2.8 miles into the Jenny Lake hike, making it around a 5-ish mile roundtrip hike if you turn around and hike back to the Jenny Lake trailhead from these locations.
Aside from these two highlights, the entire trail is enjoyable! There are sections of brief and moderate ascents, sections of rolling flat, sections of dappled forest canopy, and sections of open overlooks spanning the entire lake and valleys beyond!
The Jenny Lake Trail is also important due to its status as a connecting trail to other hikes in Grand Teton National Park. As already mentioned, the Cascade Canyon Trail starts on the Jenny Lake Trail. Other trails that connect the Jenny Lake Trail in some way include the Moose Pond Trail, the Lupine Meadows Trail, the Hurricane Pass Trail, the Lake Solitude Trail, the Leigh Lake Trail, and the String Lake Trail.
Not only can you hike the Jenny Lake Trail, but there are also several water activities to enjoy at Jenny Lake, which is the second largest lake in the park, second only to its northern neighbor, Jackson Lake. The Jenny Lake ferry shuttles guests from the south shore to the west shore, providing a shortcut for those who wish to visit Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls or pick up the Cascade Canyon Trail.
You can also bring your own boat, or rent one, to enjoy some relaxing time out on the water.
The Leigh Lake Trail
- Length: 7.1 miles roundtrip out and back
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 95 feet
- Estimated Time to Complete: 3 – 4 hours
- Parking: there is parking at the Leigh Lake Trailhead
- Facilities: there are bathrooms at the Leigh Lake Trailhead
Leigh Lake is located directly above Jenny Lake. Though smaller in size, it is just as appealing, with its forested trail and mountain summits reflecting off the still waters.
Leigh Lake is also similar in length to Jenny Lake, but thanks to its lower elevation gain and flatter trails, it is considered an easier alternative to its popular southern neighbor. It is also important to note that the Leigh Lake Trail, unlike the circular loop trail of Jenny Lake, is an out and back trail, meaning that it does not circle around the entire lake.
The String Lake Trail
- Length: 3.7 miles roundtrip loop
- Rating: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 252 feet
- Estimated Time to Complete: 1-2 hours
- Parking: there is parking at the String Lake Trailhead
- Facilities: there are bathrooms at the String Lake Trailhead
The String Lake Trail is another favorite lake hike, located in the same vicinity as Jenny Lake and Leigh Lake. It is shorter, though still has some portions of moderate ascent. The String Lake Trail does traverse a loop around String Lake, with the trail following closely along the eastern shoreline, before departing the shoreline to merge into the wilderness on the western side of the lake.
It is also possible to connect the String Lake Trail and the Leigh Lake Trail, for those hikers who want to enjoy views of both of these stunning lakes on one hike. You can connect to the Leigh Lake Trail via the Leigh Lake Bridge on the north side of String Lake.
The Taggart Lake Trail
- Length: 3.8 miles roundtrip loop
- Rating: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 423 feet
- Estimated Time to Complete: 1.5 – 2.5 hours
- Parking: there is parking at the Taggart Lake Trailhead
- Facilities: there are bathrooms at the Taggart Lake Trailhead
The Taggart Lake Trail is another hike known for its beautiful mountain views, surrounding an idyllic mountain lake.
Only a portion of this trail parallels the shoreline of Taggart Lake, but that shouldn’t be seen as a drawback. The rest of this hike passes through aspen meadows and forests, with persistent glimpses of the Teton Mountains as a constant companion!
If you find yourself visiting during autumn, the Taggart Lake Trail is one of the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park in the fall! Its resident aspen trees really glow in their golden hues, lining portions of the Taggart Lake Trail.
The Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail on Jackson Lake
- Length: 2.5 miles roundtrip loop
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 85 feet
- Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour
- Parking: there is parking at the Colter Bay Lakeshore Trailhead
- Facilities: there are bathrooms at the Colter Bay Lakeshore Trailhead
Jackson Lake is the largest lake in the entire park, and if you are looking for a trail to soak in these majestic views, the Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail is the best choice! The Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail does not go around the entire Jackson Lake, like some of the other lake hikes mentioned on this list, but it still provides unbeatable shoreline and up-close views of the Teton Mountains.
The Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail is a relaxing, easy stroll in and out of the forest, re-emerging to catch repeated glimpses of the lake.
The Mormon Row Trail
- Length: 0.2 miles roundtrip loop
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 3 feet
- Estimated Time to Complete: 10 minutes
- Parking: there is parking at the Mormon Row Trailhead
- Facilities: there are bathrooms at the Mormon Row Trailhead
The Mormon Row Trail is ideal for hikers of all types, including families. It is short, flat, and packs a little dose of history into its trail. The iconic Moulton Barn, one of the most photographed and recognizable spots in all of Grand Teton National Park, is the destination on this short jaunt. It is always a welcome bonus when you can not only go on a hike to enjoy nature and the outdoors, but learn a little about history as well.
Other Top Hiking Destinations Near Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Another big name in the hiking world, only two hours away from Grand Teton National Park, is Yellowstone National Park. Whereas the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park are known for their rugged mountains and pristine lakes, the best hikes in Yellowstone are known for their geothermal activity and characteristics that provide an other-worldly landscape to trek amongst.
A few of these favorite hikes and sights include the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the Norris Geyser Basin, Gibbon Falls, Old Faithful, the Midway Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Springs, and the Fountain Paint Pot Trail!
If you are planning to visit Yellowstone National Park in addition to Grand Teton National Park, the west entrance of Yellowstone is the recommended gate to plan your activity around. Due to Yellowstone’s massive size, it would take much longer to reach one of its other 4 entrance gates from Grand Teton National Park.
But at only 2 hours north, a Yellowstone itinerary from the west entrance makes for a very doable and realistic National Park road trip! And the wildlife spotting opportunities in Yellowstone are superb.
Mesa Falls, Idaho
Mesa Falls is a highly underrated destination located in neighboring east Idaho, only two hours northwest of Grand Teton National Park. This 114-foot tall waterfall is one of the last untouched, unchanged, unmodified waterfalls in Idaho. It comprises two separate sections, the Upper Mesa Falls and the Lower Mesa Falls.
Upper Mesa Falls is the highlight of Mesa Falls, with its hiking trail that ends at an overlook directly above the thundering falls. There is also a short, easy nature trail at Mesa Falls, a perfect hiking option for families and young children.
Grand Teton National Park is surrounded by two National Forests, which provide a plethora of additional hiking opportunities. These two National Forests are the Bridger Teton National Forest in Wyoming, and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Idaho.
About the Author
Kristen Czudak is the author and adventurer behind Yonderlust Ramblings. If you are looking for a different kind of vacation, active travel is the answer! Discover just how far your own two feet can take you!
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