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Grand Teton National Park: Everything You Need To Know Before You Go

Grand Teton National Park features some of the most powerfully evocative landscapes in the entire United States.

The rugged granite peaks of the Teton Range are an extension of the Rocky Mountains splicing through the middle of the country. The Teton Range is also the youngest, and subsequently most beautiful, of all of the mountains running through the Rockies.

With six crystal clear lakes reflecting the nearby range, the entire scene feels more like something out of a painter’s imagination than something tangible. The Grand Tetons jut nearly 7,000 feet straight up into the air, even while the surrounding landscape appear relatively flat.

Catching a sight of the Teton Range during sunrise or sunset is truly a sight to behold, but there’s plenty more for visitors to do in the national Park.

There are dozens of hikes winding through the serene landscape with the chance to see some of the region’s iconic native critters, like beaver, pikas, otters, and moose.

You’ll also find plenty of swimming opportunities within the park, but you might have to brace yourself—the water is extremely cold year-round! There are also scenic cruises on the water, kayaking on some of the park’s rivers, water skiing, and guided fishing trips.

With so much to see and do, this crown jewel in Wyoming offers a little bit of something for everyone. It’s a popular destination for RV adventurers looking for new thrills and breathtaking sights.

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know for RV camping in and around Grand Teton National Park!

The History of Grand Teton National Park

Although Grand Teton has some of the youngest mountains along the Rocky Mountain Range, they are actually some of the most ancient rocks found in any U.S. national park.

In fact, the mountains are so old that many of them are dated back to the Miocene era, more than 12 million years ago. However, the metamorphic rocks that make up the mountain range were formed even longer before that, about 3 billion years ago. The geologic history itself is something to be marveled at.

When humans arrived on the scene, the Teton Range had long matured since it rose from the Earth’s crust. Paleo-Indian peoples began to inhabit the Teton area somewhere before 9000 BCE and up until about 500 years ago.

At that time, the valley around the Teton Range was much colder and more alpine than the semi-arid climate found today. When European-American colonist began to enter the region, they encountered some of the eastern tribes of the Shoshone people. 

A number of stone enclosures can still be found along the peaks of the Teton Range, which archeologists believe were used by some of the mountain-dwelling Shoshone during vision quests.

In the early years of colonial exploration, the surrounding valleys around the Teton Range were primarily used for profitable fur trapping. By the 1900s, as settlement increased in the area, multiple geological surveys were conducted by the U.S. government to identify any sources of mineral wealth.

Although no economically viable forms of wealth were found, multiple dam projects began to lead the region further down a path of commercial exploitation. 

After years of debate, Congress finally approved a bill that President Calvin Coolidge would later sign, establishing Grand Teton National Park on February 26, 1929.

Getting to Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is just like most other national parks in terms of its entrance fee. The $30 park pass is good for single non-commercial vehicles and is good for seven days.

Since the park is far too large to explore entirely on foot – at 485 square miles – it’s best to use your car or RV to reach the trailheads you want to explore.

One of the greatest things about Grand Teton is that it borders Yellowstone National Park. For that reason, planning a RV trip out to this region can yield an adventure with two national parks for the price of one vacation.

Grand Teton National Park has three different entrance stations. The Moose entrance to the south is where you’ll enter from if you’re staying in the nearby town of Jackson, Wyoming. The Moran entrance to the east is great if you’re coming from the east end of the country. Finally, the Granite Canyon entrance to the southwest is ideal if you’re coming from Idaho or Utah, but it is a longer and more scenic route into the park.

From Salt Lake City, Utah, the drive is about 280 miles and will take just under five hours. The fastest route is to follow I-15 N into Idaho and then zig-zag across the state. You’ll want to take US-30 E to ID-34 E, then US-89 N to US-191 N. This route will lead you to the Granite Canyon entrance.

From Denver, Colorado, it’s just under an eight hour drive, at nearly 500 miles. The best route is to follow US-287 N out of the city to I-80 W. From there, you’ll be able to eventually hop on US-287 N which will eventually switch over to US-26 W. This road will ultimately lead to the Moran entrance on the eastern end of the park.

If, by chance, you are already within Yellowstone National Park, there is no entrance station when you head south into Grand Teton.

RV Camping near Grand Teton National Park

There are several campgrounds in and around Grand Teton National Park that accommodate to RV campers.

Within the park, there are five campgrounds available for RVs: Gros Ventre Campground, Signal Mountain Campground, Colter Bay Campground, Colter Bay RV Park, Lizard Creek Campground, and Headwaters Campground.

Gros Ventre Campground, Colter Bay Campground, and Headwaters Campground allow RVs up to 45 feet, while Signal Mountain Campground and Lizard Creek Campground allow RVs up to 30 feet in length. 

Colter Bay RV Park is the only location available with pull-through sites and no maximum restrictions on RV length. It is also the only campground within the park with reservable sites and full hookups.

Each of the other campgrounds within the national park only have a small number of sites for full hookup or electric hookup. The majority of the sites are your standard dry setups with fire pits, potable water, picnic tables, and bear boxes.

Grassy Lake Road off of the John D. Rockefeller, Jr Memorial Parkway also has 20 dispersed campsites available. These sites are free of charge and available first come, first serve after the first of June, although there is no potable water in this location.

Additionally, U.S. citizens who are 62 and older with a Senior National Park Pass do not have to pay entrance fees at any of the national parks. The pass also grants a 50 percent discount for RV sites within park-run campgrounds.

In-park campgrounds offer a greater deal of access to hiking trails, boat ramps, and evening ranger programs during the summer. However, there are also several private campgrounds outside of the park which accommodate to RVs. These private campgrounds have a lot more to offer regarding campground amenities and a closer proximity to restaurants and bars.

The best options for private RV campgrounds are found nearby to the town of Jackson. As an added benefit, Jackson is also where you will get most of your grocery shopping done.

Jackson Hole Campground offers direct mountain views and old growth shade trees, with access to full hookup sites and no restrictions on maximum length. The Virginian RV Resort also has full hookup sites, Wi-Fi and clean showers. Both of these RV campgrounds are close to restaurants, movie theaters, and shopping centers, in case you need a day outside of the park.

The Snake River Park KOA might also be a good option for you to consider. It is located 16 miles south of the national park on the Snake River. Full hookups are available, but there are only back-in RV sites. This campground also offers white-water rafting trips, if you’re feeling extra adventurous.

Attractions at Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park has a plethora of activities for visitors of all types. Depending on the length of your stay, and your preferences for adventure, you’re sure to find something that gets your excitement going!

In almost every destination within the national park, you can see the Teton Range looming high above the horizon in the distance. That’s part of what makes Grand Teton so magical.

At the very center of the park, Jenny Lake attracts tons of visitors every day. Fortunately, there is plenty of room to spread out around this 1,191 acre body of water. Although the water can be frigid in the summer months, it can be a great place for a quick cooldown, or a relaxing evening on the sandy shoreline. There are also plenty of marinas for dropping in a boat for an afternoon of water sports.

Find your way onto Mormon Row and you’ll have a chance to witness two of the most photographed barns in the entire world! These historic barns have withstood the test of time in the quiet valley at the foot of the Teton Range. If you wait around until the right time of day, you should be able to catch the mountains vibrantly glowing behind the delicate barns in the valley.

If you’re in for an exceptional hike, plan on navigating up to the Snake River Overlook for some exceptional views of the river and distant mountains. Vistas of Snake River show its winding path careening through the valley all the way up to the base of the Teton Range. This incredible sight is also where the famous American photographer, Ansel Adam’s, snapped one of his most iconic shots at Grand Teton National Park.

For a peaceful morning hike, head out to Schwabacher Landing to catch a glorious view of the mountains during sunrise. In the early hours before the winds pick up, the body of water at Schwabacher Landing perfectly reflects the epic mountain scenery in the distance. The 1.8-mile hike there is easy and rewarding, and you’re almost certain to see some gentle wildlife surrounding the freshwater landscape.

If you’re just looking to explore the various areas of the park, that’s okay too! U.S. Highway 89 runs through most of Grand Teton National Park, between the southernmost border of Yellowstone and the town of Jackson. There are plenty of pull-off spots with scenic views along this road.

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about the history and geology of the area, the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center is a great place for learning all there is to know about the Teton Range and the Jackson Hole valley. There is even a high-definition movie about the park, multiple ranger-led programs, and an incredible collection of local Native American artifacts.

It’s nearly impossible to include all of the possibilities that Grand Teton National Park has to offer, but hopefully these will give you a great head start on planning your adventure.

The Grand Tetons: A Glorious National Park 

There is truly something magical going on at Grand Teton National Park.

Perhaps there’s just something about the water, or it’s the way the light falls on the jagged façade of the rugged mountains. Maybe it’s something the animals know, or it’s blowing in the wind.

The six crystal clear lakes in the park all reflect the Teton Range with such glorious images that the entire thing almost seems too good to be true. As if the entire region were delicately crafted with one purpose in mind: to continually draw attention back to the mountains. Always the mountains.

If you haven’t already planned an RV trip out to Grand Teton National Park, now may be a better time than ever. The magnificent mountain vistas are calling!

So what are you waiting for?

Planning a RV trip for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks can be one of the most rewarding trips you’ve ever decided to take. 

We hope this article has helped you on your way to this awe-inspiring national park.

Looking for other National Parks to visit? Check out our National Park checklist