The Grand Teton National Park is one of the gorgeous gems of our national park system, and the next time you visit this beautiful place, take a look at the list below to help you decide which way your family should experience it first. (** Bonus points if you complete all ten!!)
1) Rent Bikes for an Easygoing Trail Ride
It’s simple and inexpensive to rent bikes from a few hours to a full day for prime exploration of the wonders of Grand Teton National Park via the bike path. Today, bike paths extend from the town of Jackson into the Park, eventually stopping at the Jenny Lake parking lot. Keep in mind the distance between these two points is about 22 miles one way before embarking on an epic expedition with your family! You can rent bikes in the town of Jackson, or if you’re looking for a shorter ride, look no further than the town of Moose (and grab a slice of pizza while you’re in the area from the locals’ favorite: Dornan’s).
2) Ride the Boat Across Jenny Lake and Hike to Inspiration Point
Jenny Lake is one of the stunning lakes lining the base of the Grand Teton Mountain Range like a pearl necklace. To get to the mountain range behind the lake, you can either walk a few miles around the side or better yet, you can take the boat across for a small fee. The ride across the lake doesn’t take long and it gives you a different perspective of the Tetons than the same ole’ view from the car window. Once you arrive at the other side of the lake, embark on a short but beautiful hike (2.2 miles round trip) up to Inspiration Point to get gorgeous views of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole from high up. To get back to your vehicle, walk back around the lake to lengthen your hike or take the boat back across to the docks.
3) Take a Horseback Ride in Jackson Hole
Not to be confused with the town of Jackson, Jackson Hole is the valley lying to the east of the Teton Mountain Range. Within this valley and its nearby surrounding areas, there are many ranches and horseback riding operators that offer trail rides anywhere from an introductory two hours to multi-day excursions. Horseback riding is one of those activities that is associated with the west and what better place to bust out that cowboy hat and old pair of jeans than Grand Teton National Park, a place brimming with old west history. For first-timers, two hours of horseback time should be plenty (your legs will thank me for that suggestion later).
4) Float or Fish the Snake River Under the Towering Tetons
Book your family a guide and head out on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park. Either float or fly fish the calm section of the river that runs through the center of the Park. Floating the river involves a large raft and a goofy raft guide with lots of jokes. Also, you will probably be paired up with another family or two, which can be fun for the kids. The section of the river in the park is very mild and scenic.
So, you can just sit back and relax while your guide does the work of getting you downriver. (If you want more whitewater, you can still raft the Snake River!) Fishing is more personal and involves a smaller boat (usually 2 fishermen, plus the guide in one drift boat). Fishing tends to be more expensive; but, those who try it out are “hooked” for life. You’ll likely catch some beautiful trout and will go home with photos of the big one that didn’t getaway.
5) Check Out the Moose Visitor Center in Moose, WY
The Moose Visitor Center sits in the tiny town of Moose, WY just off of the main highway of Grand Teton National Park. This visitor center shows off gorgeous displays on the region’s wildlife, human history, geology, and even history of rock climbing. There are always a few antlers and horns for the kids to touch and pick up, to find out how heavy that bull elk antler weighs. You can also ask to touch the animal pelts they usually have hidden behind the information desk. It can be truly fascinating for a child to feel the difference between a bearskin and a wolf pelt. If you see big crowds standing near the bridge near the visitor center, you’ll want to bring your camera to photograph the moose that will no doubt be standing in the willow bushes near the river!
6) Hike to Phelps Lake in the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve
One of the most recent additions to Grand Teton National Park, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve is located just off the dirt road between Teton Village and the tiny town of Moose. Beginning your hike at the small visitor center, you can decide which side of the loop you want to walk first to make it to Phelps Lake (3 miles round trip). This hike is a perfect half-day excursion and allows your family to see some of the beautiful Tetons scenery this Park is known for. From a picturesque tumbling creek to possible wildlife sightings to Phelps Lake itself, you’ll leave at the end of this hike with too many photos to count and even better memories.
7) Hire a Guide to Teach Your Family How to Rock Climb
A rock-climbing outing may seem a bit intimidating, but when you go with a professional, you’ll soon find out how unique, fun, and exhilarating a “jaunt up the mountain” can be. Many beginner rock climbing classes take place in Cascade Canyon, just behind Jenny Lake. Your guide will provide climbing shoes, ropes, and instructions on how to climb and how to get the most out of your family’s experience. Climbs in Cascade Canyon range from an introductory climb up a not-so-steep slope (with ropes of course!) to expert level and everything in between. The best part: those beautiful views of Jackson Hole from high up!
8) Kayak or Canoe on Jackson Lake From Colter Bay
One of the most memorable ways to view the Tetons is by paddling your vessel, be it kayak or canoe, on the calm and clear water of Jackson Lake. The largest lake in Grand Teton National Park. Accessing the lake via Colter Bay brings you to a marina where you can rent canoes or kayaks for a few hours to take in the scenery from the water. After exiting Colter Bay and paddling towards the mountains, you’ll eventually wind up with an unforgettable view of square-topped Mount Moran seemingly rising out of Jackson Lake’s western shore. You’ll be given a map of the lake and a quick paddling lesson by the marina staff, then you’re on your own to give it a go.
9) Embark on a Wildlife Safari on Antelope Flats Road
Towards the eastern side of the Jackson Hole Valley lies Antelope Flats Road, a mecca at any time of year for wildlife viewing. This road follows the Gros Ventre River at first. Eventually, passing through the small town of Kelly and winding up at the Mormon Row Historic District. There the famous Moulton Barn resides. Along the river, you’ll want to search for moose hidden among the willows and in the open prairies. Keep your eyes open for pronghorn, bison, and coyotes. Bring a pair of binoculars and go early in the morning (just after dawn) or later in the afternoon to have the best chance of spotting wildlife when they’re most active. Remember to keep a good amount of distance between you and these wild animals.
10) Accept the “Polar Bear Plunge” Challenge by Jumping into a Park Lake
The lakes in Grand Teton National Park are cold. So, cold that we have deemed this activity “the Polar Bear Plunge” Challenge. The Polar Bear Plunge involves changing into your swimwear, having your towel on the ready. And charging into a cold mountain lake from the shoreline. The challenge is not complete unless you dunk your entire body (including the head!) under the cold waters of Jackson, Jenny, Leigh, String, Phelps, Bradley, or Taggart Lakes. Remember to check on the conditions of the lake with a park ranger or your guide before taking on this challenge. These lakes can feel heavenly (albeit freezing) on a hot summer’s day. They can also be deadly in the winter or its shoulder seasons. When the heat is getting to you, it’s time to test your family’s toughness with the Polar Bear Plunge!
Now that you’ve been given these ideas for family friendly fun, it’s time to plan your family adventure vacation! Check out our Wyoming vacations and we’ll explore and activity or two from the list above! If you just can’t decide, give your friendly Austin Adventures Travel Consultant a call. They can help you figure out what family friendly adventure will work best for your family.
See you in the Tetons!