schwarbacher landing at grand teton national park in wyoming with sunset reflection colors

Wyoming National Parks: The best things to do at Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Whoever gave the Wyoming National Parks the best of the best in terms of outdoor qualities sure deserves a medal. This stretch of pristine wilderness and landscapes in western Wyoming is one of greatness, allowing individuals the chance to see what the world was like 300 years ago.

The massive jagged peaks, geysers, wildlife, and crystal clear lakes harken back to a time when humans roamed these lands on foot, not via four wheels.

I’ve been lucky enough to explore this remarkable area multiple times and honestly believe everyone should experience these two National Parks at least once in their lifetimes. With these two places within a couple of hours, it’s the perfect outdoor road trip destination!

Keep reading for my top places to see and what to do in the region!

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Best Things To Do At The Wyoming National Parks

Grand Teton National Park

Here’s what I would do while visiting the area.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Enjoy the night sky

The Wyoming night sky is among the most magnificent in America. It’s dark and clear during the summer months, making it perfect for photographing the Milky Way. In 201, my buddies and I did a tour-de-force of night photography, landing some pretty special shots.

Remember to aim south when shooting the Milky Way. I recommend visiting these places:

  • String Lake (a very short walk from the parking lot)
  • Jackson Lake (shoot near the damn)
  • Jenny Lake
Milky way views from Grand Teton national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Hike Miles and Miles

The hiking opportunities are endless in Grand Teton National Park. And there’s no shortage of views, either!

Delta Lake

It is a 10/10 hike that is perfect for a sunrise mission. Just be aware you’re hiking through bear country, and you need to carry bear spray – especially in the wee hours of the day. You’ll cover nearly nine miles and 2,500 feet of gain, but it’s worth it!

Hiking Delta lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming best hikes
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Cascade Canyon

I was floored by how beautiful this area was! The jagged peaks and tons of wildlife (we saw five moose) made me fall in love with it. I totally recommend it, and it’s a pretty moderate hike. I think we did about seven miles, though we could have kept going if we wanted.

Paintbrush Canyon

Of the two canyons, I wasn’t as enthralled by this one, but it was much snowier than Cascade, so maybe if I had gone later in the summer, it would have dazzled me more. In all, this was a 10-mile day up to the lake above the canyon.

Jagged peaks of the Teton Range
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Teton Crest Trail

This is an epic backpacking trip that covers 30-40 miles and shows off what makes the Teton backcountry so exquisite! You need permits for this, but if you’re looking for a top-tier adventure, this is it!

Summit Grand Teton

For those looking to push their limits, summit the tallest peak in the range! This is a true mountaineering experience, so it’s not for the faint of heart.

Go wildlife watching

It’s fantastic out here. The Wyoming National Parks offer some of the best wildlife viewing in the US. While you’ll want to keep your eyes open and look around, watch what others are doing.

If you see a bunch of cars pulled over, the odds are good there’s an animal.

A moose eats the plants in Grand Teton National park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Please be safe and pull entirely off the road so you won’t block traffic. Furthermore, be animal-smart and keep a safe distance from all wildlife.

You’ll never get good photos with a phone. If you want good shots, you’ll need a telephoto lens, which is at least 200mm, but better to be at 400mm or 600mm.

Enjoy the many lakes

The lakes in front of the Teton Range are immaculate and offer plenty of hiking, sightseeing, and water activities. Early in the morning, you’ll get some stellar reflection of the jagged peaks, and then at night, they offer dark sky havens for those looking for the Milky Way.

  • Jenny Lake – One of the most famous of the Wyoming National Parks lakes. The campground is here, which draws more crowds.
  • Jackson Lake – The biggest of the lakes in Grand Teton National Park. The dam offers incredible views of the mountains.
  • Leigh Lake – Further away from the road and parking lots, plenty accessible.
  • Taggart and Bradley Lake – Moderate hiking options for these neighboring lakes are available.
  • String Lake – A short walk from the parking lot makes this a favorite for night photography. Good for all families
a road photo leading into grand teton national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Photograph to your heart’s content

What makes Grand Teton so nice is the multitude of places to see and photograph that are right off the road. Almost all the most picturesque spots require little to no effort, which is sure nice for wanting to shoot sunrise.

There’s no need to wake up super early or hike a bunch to reach your destination.

Epic Spots

  • Schwabacher’s Landing
  • Glacier View Turnout
  • Snake River Lookout
  • Jackson Lake Dam
  • Oxbow Bend
  • Mormon Row
  • Mount Moran Turnout

Explore Jackson Hole, Wyoming

One of the coolest (and most expensive) towns in the country. When you visit, there’s really no point in being frugal because everything is pricey. But it’s a rad town with a lot to do. We did walk around a bit, but mostly just ate there after sunset.

The mountain resort is super cool. In the summer, the gondola is free. Take it up and enjoy the views. They have food and drinks for those interested. Hilariously, we got stuck up top due to a storm—worse places to be, if you ask me.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: Renowned for its skiing and snowboarding in the winter, the resort also offers hiking, mountain biking, and scenic gondola rides during the summer months. The aerial tram ride to the top of Rendezvous Mountain provides breathtaking views of the Tetons and Jackson Hole Valley.

National Elk Refuge: This refuge provides a habitat for thousands of elk each winter. Visitors can take sleigh rides among the elk herds, offering a unique and up-close wildlife viewing experience.

Town of Jackson: Explore the charming town square adorned with iconic elk antler arches. Jackson is full of art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants that offer a taste of the local culture and cuisine. Don’t miss the live music and entertainment at the historic Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

Snow King Mountain: Located in the town of Jackson, Snow King Mountain offers year-round activities. In the winter, it’s a popular spot for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. Summer activities include hiking, an alpine slide, and a scenic chairlift.

Jackson Hole Rodeo: Experience the authentic Wild West with a visit to the Jackson Hole Rodeo, held on Wednesday and Saturday evenings during the summer. Enjoy traditional rodeo events such as bull riding, barrel racing, and calf roping.

Teton Village: Situated at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton Village is a hub of activity with a variety of shops, restaurants, and bars. It’s also the launching point for paragliding adventures and offers easy access to mountain biking and hiking trails.

National Museum of Wildlife Art: Overlooking the National Elk Refuge, this museum features a vast collection of wildlife art, including works by prominent artists such as Carl Rungius and Bob Kuhn. The sculpture trail outside the museum is also worth exploring.

Whitewater Rafting on the Snake River: For those seeking adventure, a whitewater rafting trip on the Snake River offers thrilling rapids and stunning scenery. Several companies in the area offer half-day, full-day, and scenic float trips suitable for all ages and experience levels.

Check out Mormon Row

An old establishment that is now primarily a photography hotspot with the Teton Range in the backdrop. It’s a short drive from the main road and worth the detour. During the summer, the flowers here are magnificent.

Yellowstone National Park

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Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Yellowstone Lake

The largest high-elevation lake in North America (7,000 feet and above) offers many activities, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, swimming, and photography. However, water temperatures stay in the low 40s, so swimming is really only an option for the bravest of souls!

Lamar and Hayden Valley

Driving through these valleys offers the best place to see wildlife. I suggest getting into these respective places at dawn when there’s less traffic, and the animals are more prevalent. Most people will see Hayden Valley, with Lamar Valley being far off in the upper right of the park.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Did you know that Yellowstone has a Grand Canyon? It’s a beautiful place to explore and takes hardly any effort to get out. (Battling crowds is the hardest part.) This area offers waterfalls and massive canyon walls and is also an excellent area to spot wildlife.

the grand canyon of the yellowstone
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Hot Springs and Geysers

Old Faithful. Grand Prismatic. Morning Glory. Yellowstone sits on a caldera, which means you can enjoy many mud pits, hot springs, and geysers in short proximity to each other. I recommend spending at least half a day—if not a full day—exploring this small section.

It’s worth it!

Drive the Grand Loop Road

Millions of people visit Yellowstone each year. Of all the National parks, it ranked fourth in 2023. But not as many people venture up north and drive the Grand Loop Road. There are plenty of great places to see in the northern sections of the park, and you’ll find fewer crowds. (But not no crowds.)

Photograph to your Hearts Content

  • Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (including the falls)
  • Morning Glory
  • Grand Prismatic: Above and Ground Level
  • Mammoth Hotsprings
  • Wildlife throughout the park
  • Old Faithful
  • Gibbon Falls
  • Thumb Geyser
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The best time to visit the Wyoming National Parks

The best time to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park is 100% during the summer. The long days, crazy views, and superb weather rockets it to the top of most bucket-list lists. In the summer, there is a plethora of things to do for however long you plan to stay.

But shoulder seasons also have pros. Take wildlife watching, for instance. In the spring, bears are leaving hibernation and venturing out. The same goes for other animals as they shake off the winter cobwebs.

Then, in the fall, the Tetons have stunning fall colors and far fewer crowds. This also means it’s less expensive to visit! Talk about a win-win.

Traveling to Wyoming

Fly vs Drive

There’s nothing like a road trip to Wyoming!

When I was five, my family had a reunion at Grand Teton National Park. My parents threw my brother and me in the car, and we drove up from Arizona. While I don’t remember much of the trip, road trips were an annual event for us, and this tradition has continued into adulthood.

Now, this usually only makes sense for those on the West Coast exploring the Wyoming National Parks.

But if you have extra time, you can save money by not buying airline tickets and then see some pretty amazing sights along the way.

That said, for those who plan to fly, you’ll want to head into Jackson’s airport. It’s the easiest, though also priciest. Otherwise, flights to Idaho Falls or Salt Lake City will require a 3-4 hour drive to the area.

Where to stay for the Wyoming National Parks

It’s not easy to find a place to stay in this highly sought-after area. But there are options—they just aren’t cheap unless you plan to camp.

Camping:

Grand Teton National Park

  1. Jenny Lake Campground
    • Type: Tents only
    • Location: Close to Jenny Lake
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
  2. Gros Ventre Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Moose, WY
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water, dump station
  3. Signal Mountain Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Jackson Lake
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water, showers nearby
  4. Colter Bay Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Colter Bay Village
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water, showers, laundry
  5. Lizard Creek Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near the northern end of the park
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
  6. Headwaters Campground at Flagg Ranch
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Between Grand Teton and Yellowstone
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water, showers, laundry
  7. Atherton Creek Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: East of the park near Slide Lake
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water

Yellowstone National Park

  1. Mammoth Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Mammoth Hot Springs
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
  2. Norris Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Norris Geyser Basin
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
  3. Madison Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Madison Junction
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
  4. Canyon Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water, showers nearby
  5. Bridge Bay Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Yellowstone Lake
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water, showers nearby
  6. Grant Village Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Grant Village
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water, showers, laundry
  7. Fishing Bridge RV Park
    • Type: RVs only
    • Location: Near Yellowstone Lake
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water, showers, laundry, dump station
  8. Pebble Creek Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near the Northeast Entrance
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
  9. Slough Creek Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Lamar Valley
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
  10. Tower Fall Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Tower Junction
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
  11. Indian Creek Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Mammoth Hot Springs
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
  12. Lewis Lake Campground
    • Type: Tents and RVs
    • Location: Near Lewis Lake
    • Facilities: Restrooms, potable water
gorgeous reflection photo from schwarbachers landing in grand teton
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Lodging:

The best places to stay are Jackson, Teton Village, and Driggs for Grand Teton and Cody, West Yellowstone, or inside the park for Yellowstone. Expect to pay at least $200 a night for lodging.

Take a Tour

If you’re interested in taking a tour in and around Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, you can browse those options here: Yellowstone Tours | Grand Teton Tours

Wrapping up your guide to the Wyoming National Parks

The Wyoming National Parks are two of my favorites in the entire country! As a wildlife photographer, I find the abundance of nature here astounding, and it offers so much to everyone who visits.

Whether you enjoy hiking, being near water, wildlife, photography, or simply being in nature, this is the place to be. You will revel in the time spent in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons!

Until next time, adventurers, stay safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside