THE 5 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, JACKSON HOLE
Around just about every corner, the national parks in Wyoming offer stunning views, hikes, wildlife-spotting and ideal spots to snap pictures of nature. Add in the Tetons’ big neighbor to the north, Yellowstone, and soon you’ll be scrambling spending most of your day in a car instead of enjoying the nature you traveled to see. There are so many opportunities, in fact, that if you’re planning a trip to Grand Teton National Park or the greater Jackson Hole area, odds are good you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the options.
But never fear, I’ve gone and done the on-the-ground research for you and can say that five locations are truly “can’t miss” spots for any trip to Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole, but especially those hoping to snag breathtaking pictures of nature.
- Schwabacher Landing
Schwabacher Landing is located along Route 191, the main road along the face of the Teton range. If you are heading north from Jackson the entrance will be on your left side, just past Morman Row.
The landing has two popular locations for photographers. If you’re going for photography, arrive very early. An hour and a half before sunrise should be enough time to beat the crowds and line up your perfect composition. If crowds aren’t your thing, the first parking area typically attracts fewer visitors, while offering equally spectacular views.
For those who are just there to take in the views or go for a hike there is a trail that leads through the area offering different views and opportunities to spot wildlife. While I was photographing the two popular viewpoints I heard elk calling. Often moose are seen in the area along with occasional black bears. So, as is always a good idea when hiking in the national parks in Wyoming, bring your bear spray!
- Oxbow Bend
Oxbow Bend is located inside the entrance to Grand Teton National Park a few minutes north of Moran Junction. The pulloff is on the left, coming from the junction. While the lot is small, there is plenty of roadside parking even during busy times.
This location offers many different compositions for photographers. Many choose to stay right in the parking lot offering a panoramic view of the mountains with the passing river. Others prefer to get down along the river and capture a reflection off the water.
There is not much hiking in this area, but the bird watching is great. Raptors of all kinds patrol this area along with cormorants and, to my surprise, a pelican.
- Willow Flats
Just a few minutes further down the road from Oxbow Bend, headed toward Yellowstone, you’ll find Willow Flats. Its large parking lot sits atop the hill, and it draws only moderate crowds.
This can be a great place for wildlife viewing early in the morning. You’ll find elk, moose, grizzly bears, deer, and a variety of birds at Willow Flats. While its wildlife is often only able to be seen at a far distance, it’s a great location for kids or people who would prefer not to get too close. Willow Flats’ tall willow brush gives it its name, but also makes hiking dangerous. An eight-foot-tall moose can easily disappear just a few feet inside.
What Willow Flats lacks in hiking it makes up for in panoramic landscapes. I was drawn to this location for sunsets. The sun sets behind the peaks, casting beautiful light up into the clouds for some truly gorgeous pictures of nature.
- Gros Ventre River
Gros Ventre River (pronounced “Grow-Vaunt”) is located just a few minutes north of Jackson. A roundabout marks its location. Heading east or west will bring you to prime moose viewing locations although the best locations are found to the west toward the campground.
If you’re looking to find moose, Gros Ventre’s riverside is arguably the best location in not only Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole, but perhaps all the national parks in Wyoming. Moose love the wetland brush that surrounds the river, as it provides them both food and shelter.
During a recent trip to Gros Ventre to capture pictures of nature and local scenery, I came across large moose right by the road on several occasions. But my best moose-sightings required hiking in a little. However, if you do choose to hike in, remember, this is still bear country, so BRING BEAR SPRAY!!! Also, moose themselves are very dangerous, powerful, potentially fatal animals that should be given the same respect as a bear. Don’t approach, provoke or harass them in any way. Educate yourself and enjoy.
- Mormon Row
Mormon Row is located about 15 minutes north of Jackson. Heading north the road to Mormon Row will be on your right leading away from the city or airport.
There are a few other barns across the street, but most visitors make the trek just to snap a photo of this one. Easily the most photographed and famous barn in the world, it’s a crowded, tourist hot spot during most days. So, photographers should arrive early — especially if you want a shot of the barn sans people.
Mormon Row’s popularity is well earned. The historic barn is gorgeous, its shape echoing the surrounding peaks and its perceived isolation evoking a true Wild West feel.
Visit the Grand Tetons to treat the family, fill up your portfolio
The Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole boast hundreds of places to explore, hike and snap pictures of nature and wildlife. If you’re planning to visit the national parks in Wyoming, making time to hit these five locations will guarantee a successful family vacation and/or photography portfolio boost.