About the Site
Grand Teton National Park  


Park History

Teton Range

Grand Teton Peak

Mt. Moran

Scenic Turnouts

Jackson Lake

Other Lakes

Snake River

Oxbow Bend

Signal Mountain

Main Lodges

Other Buildings

Willow Flats


Park Features


Fall Foliage





Although not one of the largest, Grant Teton National Park is one of America's most spectacular and scenic national parks. The park, which includes some 310,516 acres, features the Grand Teton mountain range, arguably North America's most spectacular.

The centerpiece of the park is unquestionably the spiked peaks and sheer escarpment of the Teton Range. The park includes some 37 named peaks, 20 of which exceed an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The park also contains a number of beautiful lakes which lie at the foot of the mountains, such as Leigh Lake which is shown below. 230 miles of trails surround the lakes, lead into the mountains, and run through many other areas of the park.

The park has become famous and is very popular, with over 3.5 million visitors in a year. It is located approximately 11 miles south of Yellowstone, and many visitors take the opportunity to experience the wonders of both parks.

For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.

Below is a view of the Snake River from the Snake River Overlook, often visited by photographers and those who appreciate the magnificent scenery of the river and the mountain range.

The park also has some unusual characteristics for a natural area. It has an airport inside its border, its largest lake has been dammed, and it is the only natural park which allows sport hunting within its boundaries.


Geological History. The fabulous mountain ramparts which can be seen in the park are the result of powerful and long-lived geological forces. Along a northwest fault (the Teton Fault) which runs though the Jackson Hole area the earth fractured, possibly starting with an ancient earthquake. The area east of the fault moved downward and the earth west of the fault began moving upward. Eventually, the western section tilted toward the west and towered above the other section. This was carved by glacier, weather, and other forces into the dramatic peaks which are seen today.

Human History There is evidence that there have been a human presence in the valley as long ago as 12,000 years when early hunter/gatherers arrived in the area. In more recent times, indigenous peoples of the west apparently did not maintain a year round presence in the valley, because of the severity of the weather during the winter. However, a number of Indian tribes--Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Gros Ventre, and Crow--apparently visited Jackson Hole for hunting, gathering plants, or other purposes. The "Sheepeater" Shoshone people were especially frequent in the area. Interestingly, there is evidence that there was minimal or no Indian presence from about 1640-1811, but rather served as a "neutral zone" between tribes of the area.

The first white man to visit the valley is believed to be mountain man John Colter. The Jackson Hole area lies west of the continental divide, and thus was not part of the Louisiana Purchase at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Colter was a member of the "crew of discovery" but was permitted to return to the wilderness to trap beaver before the Lewis and Clark party returned to civilization. Colter traveled extensively in the Wyoming area, and it is believed his travels took him through the valley of the Tetons.

There is some controversy about whether Colter in fact visited Jackson Hole, as he provided no map or other unquestionable confirmation of his visit today. Interestingly, an artifact known as the "Colter Stone" was found in a farmer's field west of the Tetons in 1931 by a farmer and his on, and it may well have been carved by Colter and left in 1808. This would provide verification that Colter did see the Tetons. This artifact is on display in the visitor center at the park.

A plaque commemorating Colter can be found near the marina in Colter Bay on Jackson Lake.

If Colter did not visit the area, the first white men to see the Tetons may have been a group of trappers in the Andrew Kenny party in 1810. In 1824 a party of trappers led by Jedediah Smith entered Jackson Hole. In subsequent years the area was frequented by a number of famous adventurers, explorers, and mountain men such as Bill Sublette, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, and Jedediah Smith. These men explored and basically filled in the map of the wilderness of the western United States. Jackson Hole served as an important crossroads for these men and the western fur trade.This colorful area ended with the collapse of the fur industry in the early 1840's, and the valley was seldom visited by white men for about three decades.

Official visits began decades later. In 1860, the first survey expedition, commanded by Captain W. F. Reynolds, was undertaken. It was guided by famed mountain man Jim Bridger. In 1872, a government mapping survey was undertaken. This party included the famed landscape artist Thomas Moran.

Also significant was the visit in the 1870's by reknowned landscape photographer William Henry Jackson. Jackson visited the area with the famous Hayden Survey party in 1872. His magnificent photographs made large numbers of Americans aware of the spectacular scenery in the area.

The first white settlers reached the area in the 1880's and engaged in activities such as ranching and farming, the remains of which can be seen below in the Blacktail Ponds area.The first settlers, in 1884, were John Holland and John and Millie Carnes. The town of Jackson itself was platted in 1897.

In 1908, the first dude ranch--the JY Ranch--was established by Louis Joy in Jackson Hole on Phelps Lake. This development brought additional numbers of affluent visitors from the east to the area, and that attraction and activity has continued since that time.

The impression the first sight of these mountains creates in most people probably immediately suggests the necessity for preserving their beauty in their natural state, but the road toward preservation was anything but direct.

The unique nature of the area generated sentiment beginning in the late 1800's there was for setting aside and preserving the Tetons, adding them to Yellowstone National Park. This was never done. However, in 1891 the area was incorporated into the Yellowstone Reserve, and in 1897 the Teton National Forest was created. In 1917-1918 proposals again were advanced to extend Yellowstone National Park some ways to the south.

In 1923 a group of citizens who wanted to set aside portions of Jackson Hole met, although sentiment for creating a national park was far from unanimous. In favor of the national park were area businessmen, dude ranchers, and the local newspapers, while opposed to it were cattlemen, sportsmen, and Forest Service employees. Finally, the national park itself was finally created on February 26, 1929.

The original park contained only the Tetons themselves, some of the lakes, and just a bit of additional land. The total size of the park at creation was 150 square miles. Most of the Jackson Hole area was not included in the park, although some thought it was important to preserve the larger area. One of these was philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Beginning in 1927, and operating anonymously through a land company he set up, Rockefeller bought some 32,000 acres in the valley.

However, there was considerable opposition to enlarging the national park, particularly among local residents. As an interim step, in 1943, Franklin Roosevelt declared much of Jackson Hole as a national monument, which could be done by executive order and which didn't require congressional approval. A firestorm of protest resulted, But, finally, in 1950, the lands of Jackson Hole National Monument were added to Grand Teton National Park proper, tripling the size of the park. The park currently encompasses 309,994 acres, about 485 square miles.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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