The Perfect Week Itinerary for Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks
Have you always wanted to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National parks but haven't known where to start? Well, AniGraham Travels has your back! We spent a week in the Tetons and added a day in Yellowstone as they are only 30 minutes away from each other! This itinerary is Teton heavy as that is where we spent most of our time.
Arrive in Grand Teton National Park!! There are several airports to fly into to gain access to the park. We elected to fly into Salt Lake City as the flights were cheaper, we got a direct flight and there were more rental cars available at good prices. It is approximately a 5 ½ drive from the airport to the park, however, it is a beautiful drive! If utilizing this option, it is best to land as early as possible in SLC so you aren't having to drive to the park in the dark, which can be dangerous with the wildlife. Other airport options include flying directly into Jackson, Wyoming, which is located 15-minutes from the park. These plane tickets are typically much more expensive and rental car options are limited; however, it does save driving time! Another option is flying into Idaho Falls, which is a 2-hour drive to the park. These plane tickets were also expensive.
Whichever airport you choose to fly into, make sure to try and pick a fight time that allows you to drive to the park during daylight and to stop in Jackson to pick up some final supplies. It is also much easier to set up camp in the daylight as opposed to the nighttime.
Why not start of your trip off with one of the most popular hikes in the park?! Jenny Lake is a staple in Grand Teton National Park and is nestled right at the base of the Teton mountain range. The Jenny Lake loop trail head is located by the visitor center and is a beautiful 7.1-mile loop that takes you all the way around the lake. The hike is flat and has a gradual elevation gain of 1,040 feet over the entire hike. Along the way, you can take a detour to Moose Pond, where we saw a moose, Hidden Falls for lunch or hike to Inspiration Point, which offers panoramic views of the lake. If this is a hike you are interested in, be sure to arrive to the Jenny Lake parking area early as it fills up by mid-morning. Also be sure to hike with bear bells and bear spray as the trail is frequented by bears and we had the pleasure of seeing a black bear at the end of the hike.
For us personally, we also tackle a long hike every national park we visit so we have an active recovery day prior. For Day 3, we highly recommend visiting Phelps Lake. A very important thing to note is that the parking lot is very small, and rangers always manage it. The parking lot operates on a one in, one out method meaning if all the parking spaces are full, you will have to wait for someone to return to their car so arrive early. We really liked this system as it limited foot traffic on the trail and our wait was only about 20 minutes. The full loop hike is a moderate 6.4 miles with an elevation gain of 1,060 ft. Since this was a rest day for us, we elected to hike 2 miles in to find a nice place right on the lake to relax and eat lunch before hiking 2 miles back. However, if you are not trying to rest your legs, the full loop is a great option. For the afternoon, we headed into Jackson, had a few beers at Snake River Brewing Company, looked at some shops and had dinner at Hand Fire Pizza, which we highly recommend!
If you plan to do a longer hike, a couple of days into your trip is a good time as you have had ample time to become acclimated to the altitude. While there are so many great long hikes to choose from, we decided to tackle Lake Solitude through Cascade Canyon, which is just under 15 miles. Lake Solitude is one of the more remote lakes of Grand Teton National Park and reaching it is no easy feat. The National Park Service rates this hike as a strenuous, out and back hike with 2,670 ft of elevation gain. The trail starts at the Jenny Lake Ferry, which is important because if you don't take the ferry, your hike is 20 miles. Be sure to check the ferry schedule as the times will differ depending on the season and arrive in time for the first or second ferry. Once across the lake, you will tackle a steep .9-mile ascent up to Inspiration Point, which offers beautiful views of the lake. You will continue 3.7 miles through Cascade Canyon, which is gradual, mild incline. At the end of the canyon, you turn right, and it is 2.7 miles to the lake. These 2.7 miles are tough as the terrain is very rocky with a lot of inclines, however, completely worth it! Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy the lake but be mindful of the ferry times and give yourself enough time to get back and catch the second to last one. I say second to last one because if that one is full, you will get a seat on the last one! The hike does get more remote, and you may be the only one on the trail at times so be sure to hike with bear spray on your belt and bear bells. While on this hike, we saw multiple moose and a grizzly.
After a 15-mile hike, we were beat, so Day 5 centered around taking it easy. We slept in as long as the heat on our tent would allow us and then ventured out and made breakfast. We walked from our campsite to the rocky beach of Jackson Lake to spend a few hours in the sun and swimming. After several hours on the bank of the lake, we headed back to camp, showered (for the first time in days) and then headed into Jackson for some shopping and dinner. Shopping included some jewelry from JC Jewelers and a printed-on canvas Grand Teton photograph from Mangelsen Images of Nature Gallery. Even if you don't plan to purchase anything, both galleries as well worth the visit! For dinner, we indulged at Liberty Burger, some of the best burgers in Jackson!
No trip to Grand Teton National Park is complete without at least a day trip to Yellowstone National Park, which is only a 30-minute drive north. Yellowstone is a massive park, so it is important to be realistic about what you can see while in the park. The Northern Loop was too far of a drive and was significantly impacted by the flooding, so we centered out trip around the Southern Loop. First stop on the Southern Loop was Old Faithful, which is the most predicted and most famous geyser in the park. The visitor center is great and is packed with information, including when the next predicted eruption is. From there, continue south to Black Sand Basin, which is home to some spectacular geysers of just about every color. The pinnacle for us was Grand Prismatic Spring, which is the huge, multicolor spring that goes hand-in-hand when you think of Yellowstone. Our final stop on the Southern Loop was Yellowstone Lake and Thumb Geyser Basin. This was a really cool final stop as there were geysers in the actual lake!
Day 7 was the final day in the park, and we decided to visit some of the tourist highpoints that we had yet to see. First on the list was Mormon Row, which is home to the most photographed barn in the country. While it is mainly a tourist attraction, it is still really cool to see and it makes for the perfect picture with the Tetons in the background. From there, we stopped at Schwabacher Landing, which is where we had purchased a photographer of earlier in the trip. Lunch included delicious burgers at Signal Mountain Lodge, which is located at the base of the mountain and on the coast of Jackson Lake so lunch with a view! After that, we headed back to camp to pack up all that we could as we had to leave early the next morning. Our final highlight of the trip was watching the sun set behind the Tetons from the top of Signal Mountain. While you can hike to the top, it is advised to drive as bear activity is high at dusk. On the way up the mountain, we saw a huge black bear and a herd of elk!
Day 8 was a bittersweet goodbye as we woke up early to pack up camp and head back to Salt Lake City to fly home!
Grand Teton National Park will always have a special place in our hearts. While the park is smaller, do not discount the amount of time you can spend here! I know personally, we could have stayed another week.