10 Reasons Why Grand Teton National Park Is Worth Seeing

Morning clouds over Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

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Grand Teton National Park spans approximately 310,000 acres across northwest Wyoming and is located just 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park.

The rugged mountains and sweeping landscapes at Grand Teton provide ample corridors for great migrations, whether it's bison, pronghorn, or elk, while the park’s crystal clear lakes offer opportunities for fishing, boating, and other watersports.

Discover what makes Grand Teton National Park—an environment characterized by spectacular scenery and wildlife—totally worth the visit.

The Park’s Highest Peak Rises Over 13,000 Feet

The tallest peaks in Grand Teton National Park

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At 40 miles long and 9 miles wide, the active fault-block mountain range known as Teton Range is the signature feature of the park.

While the range’s highest peak, Grand Teton, has an impressive elevation of 13,775 feet above sea level, the park contains eight other peaks that rise over 12,000 feet in elevation as well.

The Teton Range Is Believed to Be the Youngest Mountain Range in the Rockies

Perhaps the park’s most iconic feature, the 40-mile Teton Range is the youngest range in the Rocky Mountains and also includes some of the youngest mountains on Earth.

According to the National Park Service, the Tetons have been uplifting for less than 10 million years, as opposed to the Rockies, which are between 50 and 80 million years old, or even the Appalachians, which are over 300 million years old.

The Rocks in the Park Are Some of North America’s Oldest

Although the Teton Range is considerably younger, much of the metamorphic rock that makes up a majority of the mountain range is an estimated 2.7 billion years old.

The rocks were formed when two tectonic plates collided, the intense heat and pressure transforming sediment and separating different minerals into lighter and darker stripes and layers.

There Are 11 Active Glaciers

Teton mountain reflections in water

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Each year, winter snow accumulates on Grand Teton National Park’s peaks, adding to already compacted snow to form icy glaciers. About half of Grand Teton’s 11 small glaciers are found in higher elevations in a part of the mountain range known as the Cathedral Group.

Unfortunately, summer snowmelt is beginning to outpace winter gains, causing the glaciers to retreat due to factors like climate change—some of these glaciers have lost so much ice volume that they are no longer considered active glaciers.

North America’s Largest Waterfowl Lives Inside the Park

A trumpeter swan flies over Wyoming

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The trumpeter swan is the largest native waterfowl found in North America and one of the region’s heaviest flying birds.

Partial to large, shallow freshwater ponds, these birds were almost driven to extinction in the 1930s before conservation protection helped populations rebound.

Trumpeter swans are often observed in pairs and typically mate for life.

The Smallest Bird Species in North American Lives There, Too

The calliope hummingbird is also commonly found around the park’s blooming scarlet gilia flowers and near willow shrubs. These birds are known as North America’s smallest species of bird, weighing an average of under a tenth of an ounce.

Grand Teton National Park’s Pronghorns Run Faster Than Any Other Land Mammal in the Western Hemisphere

Pronghorn in Grand Teton National Park

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Although dozens of other mammals call Grand Teton National Park home, the pronghorn is definitely the fastest. In fact, the antelope-related species is the fastest land mammal found in the Western hemisphere, capable of reaching speeds of 60 miles per hour.

Migrating southeast as the winter months approach each year, these animals also have the second-longest terrestrial migration in North America—up to 150 miles!

In the Summertime, the Park Hosts the Largest Elk Herd in North America

The group of elk that spend their summers in Grand Teton National Park is part of the Jackson elk herd, the largest known elk herd in North America. Each year, they migrate between the park and the National Elk Refuge to the southeast.

Most of Grand Teton’s Trees Are Conifers

A lodgepole pine seedling grows in a fire recovery area in Wyoming

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A majority of the trees inside Grand Teton National Park are cone-bearing (conifers), like lodgepole pines. These trees sprout specially designed serotinous cones that open only when heated by fire; as such, many of them are located in areas that are regularly burned by forest fires or even controlled burns. After they’re exposed to high heat, the cones drop a large number of seeds into the newly exposed soil.

It Took Decades to Establish Grand Teton National Park

The property was originally established in 1929. By the 1940s, the National Park Service was attempting to expand the original park, but some Jackson Hole residents didn’t support the idea of more federal control over the landscape.

In 1943, a group of hundreds of cattle ranchers led by actor Wallace Beery protested after President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order to create the Jackson Hole National Monument (which would later become part of Grand Teton). As tourism grew in the area, however, the local population gradually warmed up to the idea.

View Article Sources
  1. "Park Statistics." National Park Service.

  2. "Geologic Activity." National Park Service.

  3. "Glaciers and Glacial Features." National Park Service.

  4. "Trumpeter Swan." Audubon Society.

  5. "Path of the Pronghorn Turnout." National Park Service.

  6. "Trees and Shrubs." National Park Service.