Lauren + Nathan – Summer Formals – Grand Teton National Park
These two drove all the way from the east coast to visit beautiful Wyoming and the surrounding states! I was so honored to be a part of their cross country road trip. They were headed to Yellowstone and had planned the trip around the beautiful scenery it provides. But Grand Teton National Park wasn’t on their destination list until I mentioned it. They had never even heard of it, which is crazy, because it’s my favorite place in the world! It’s definitely a place you won’t want to skip.
Book a Session!
I may be biased, but while you’re in the middle of one of the most beautiful locations on earth, book a session with a photographer! You’ll have incredible and unique photos that last a lifetime, and what a wonderful memento to commemorate your adventure. You’ll want to budget a few hundred dollars for a session like this–my average because of travel is around $1,000! Every photographer has different rates, but plan far enough ahead and you’ll be ready to go!
Jenny Lake is a staple to a Grand Teton visit. With the towering Mount Teewinot perfectly mirrored on the calm lake, it’s a sight to see. There are boat tours that take you across the lake during the summer months (mid-May to the end of September) to catch additional trails on the other side. It’s $18 for each adult, so it can get pricey if you have a group, but I say it’s worth it. To see the mountains from the water is a whole other view you can’t get any other way, and it’s a damn good one. Once you dock, there are signs to point you to several different trails with multiple endpoints. My favorite is the trail to Hidden Falls. It’s a gigantic, roaring waterfall tucked back behind the pines. It’s only a half mile walk, so it’s definitely worth it. You can walk all the way around the lake if you don’t want to pay for the shuttles, but it’s about a three mile walk. So, don’t miss the last shuttle or you’ll have to hike out.
Check this link out for more: https://jennylakeboating.com/boat-trips/shuttle-service/
Signal Lake – Signal Mountain Lodge
Signal Lake is another stunning lake surrounded by tall pines, rocky shorelines, and Mount Moran watching from above. It’s a bit further from the mountain range than Jenny Lake, but that means you get a great view of the full range. My favorite hotel for 50 miles is on this lake, and I believe it’s the only hotel within the park. There’s gas stations there, a convenient store with snacks, water, and more, and a full restaurant overlooking the water. Be sure to go early to get outdoor seating for sunset, because they go fast! I actually stayed at this very hotel for my honeymoon back in 2019. 10/10 would recommend. You won’t find a prettier view right outside your door.
The Grand Teton National Park is truly the epitome of the wild, wild west. And with this beautiful wilderness comes dozens of activities for every single season. In the summer, Teton’s busy season, you can find multiple rental locations near Jackson Hole for boats, canoes, and kayaks. River rafting is another fun water sport that many people enjoy (wear a life jacket!), though I’ll admit, it’s not something I’ve ever done. Horseback riding at sunrise or sunset is a hit, and it’s not uncommon to see a line of horses in the meadows looking at the ranges. Camping and RVing is probably one of the best things to do here because of the wide selection of beautiful spots you can find. Hunting is probably the number one autumn activity (excluding the scenic fall colors drives). With so much wildlife not so far from the main roads, hunting is extremely popular here. Look into permit options before you go! Fall is rather early here, starting close to the beginning of September, and by October, expect snow! The park slips into slow season, but it’s one of the most beautiful times to see the Tetons: covered in a thick blanket of white, fresh snow. And with snow comes snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, and hot chocolate by the fireplace. Snow falls late here as well, so Spring can be as late as May, but it’s not unheard of to get snow in June!
Jackson Hole is the closest city to the park, even though it’s still relatively small. There are multiple grocery stores, gas stations, rental gear shops, and more to keep you busy, but keep in mind that everything closes pretty early. Dinner options become scarce, so I always purchase some food to keep at the hotel rooms. Speaking of hotel rooms, these book insanely fast! In 2020 and 2021, I’ve never seen it more busy. Hotel rooms book out several months in advance, and the price has skyrocketed to about $400-$600 per night on average. Ouch! Staying a few miles outside of town can help you spend less if you don’t mind driving more. I personally stay in Rexburg sometimes, about an hour and a half away. The canyon drive is beautiful, and to avoid spending so much on a hotel, I’m willing to drive! Check out the famous Cowboy Bar, which is Jackson’s most popular restaurant and bar. It’s very well-known for its liquor variety and the steak! My husband says it’s a damn good steak, so I’ll take his word for it. If steak isn’t your vibe, grab breakfast at Persephone’s! It’s a fun and well-run restaurant that has many healthy and delicious options for every meal. Oh, and you can’t miss the antler arches–those are known worldwide and is what Jackson is probably most known for.
If you want a gorgeous view of the famous Teton Mountain range without a hard hike, this is the place for you. With plenty of parking and bathrooms readily available, this location is perfect for kiddos and older folks who want to skip the harder hikes. There is a beautiful pond that reflects the mountains and during sunset, it’s one of the best views you can have. The pines are plentiful and the aspens are rich with color in the fall. I’ve seen lots of wildlife, from birds to moose, deer and antelope. It’s an all encompassing spot to enjoy the park.
Mormon Row is a very old barn still standing strong in the fields beyond the Teton range. It’s a beautiful spot to photograph and it’s very easy to get to–you can drive right up to it! It’s rather far from the base of the mountains, so you’ll be able to see quite a bit out there. There’s fields and fields of wild grasses, which welcome herds of buffalo to wander through. If it’s stormy out, this isn’t the best place to see the Tetons because chances are the clouds will hang low on the peaks. You’ll want to be closer to the mountains if you want to see them–but be prepared for any type of weather. It can get rather crazy and unpredictable.
Snake River Overlook
You just can’t go wrong here. In any season, this spot is majestic. It’s high above the valley floor, so you can clearly see the Snake River cut through the fields and reflect the sky. This is probably my favorite sunrise spot, because you get to witness the peaks catch the first light rays. They radiate pink as the sun slowly climbs, so if you want a romantic spot (hint, hint, it’s an epic proposal spot!), this is the place!
The Wild West should stay wild. With natural beauty comes great responsibility. Please take great care to learn how to minimize your carbon footprint and follow the Leave No Trace rules. I included a link at the bottom of the paragraph that includes additional information on what you can do to help keep this place pristine. It’s a rugged and untamed place that has claimed many lives. Don’t let one of those be yours. Respect this natural wilderness for the powerful force it is. Take extra precautions to keep you and others safe. Keep this in mind and you’ll create some of your most treasured memories. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. I honeymooned here, I travel here multiple times a year, I even have it tattooed on me. I respect the hell out of this incredible landscape, and I do my best to ensure I leave it better than I found it (which is hard to do, because it’s so great). This place is still Check out this link to read more on the 7 principles of Leave No Trace: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/leave-no-trace.html