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





Teton Range

The centerpiece of the park is the majestic fault-block mountains of the Grand Teton Range. This beautiful range features up to a dozen peaks higher than 12,000 feet. However, the characteristic which makes them so memorable is their abrupt rise, without intervening foothills, to altitudes 7,500 feet above the floor of the valley.

The Teton Range, while spectacular, is not a particularly large range of mountains. It is about 40 miles long and 15 miles wide. The name for the range was originally provided by trappers from the Hudson Bay Company who called the major peaks (the South, Middle, and Grand Teton) "Les Trois Tetons", or The Three Breasts, as they believed the mountains resembled that part of a woman's anatomy.

As befitting their rugged appearance, the Tetons are the youngest mountains in the Rockies, thrust up by the movement of the earth less than 10 million years old. They provide a youthful, vibrant look, a result of the powerful glacial forces which have sculpted the great escarpment.

Although the mountains are the youngest of the Rockies, the rocks which are exposed by eastern face of the range are extremely old, formed 3 billion years ago-2/3 as old as the earth itself--and upraised, of course, by the powerful geological forces.

The Tetons are formed of granite. The rock is therefore very hard and not prone to slides. For this reason, the mountains are very attractive for mountain climbers, and the Tetons are one of two principle climbing centers--with the mountains in the environs of Yosemite Valley--in America. Not only is the rock very hard, but the Teton peaks provide a wide variety of climbing experiences and requires only a short journey to the beginning of the climb.

The rugged appearance of the mountains is the result not only of carving and gouging by glaciers, but also from the effects of temperature changes and the resultant expansion and contraction of soil and rock. During glacial times the ice was as much as 2000 feet thick.

The "mountains without foothills" seem to rise directly from the valley. They fall more gradually on the western slope down into the Idaho's Teton Basin. Because of their nature and the abrupt rise, the peaks of the range appear to be higher than they actually are.

The valley to the east of the mountains is known as Jackson Hole. The term "hole" was used by mountain men to denote high altitude broad, flat valleys surrounded by mountains, as is the case here. This hole was named after David Jackson, a trapper whose favorite trapping ground was this valley.The valley, and the mountains, lie just west of the continental divide. South of the valley lies the Hobach and Snake River ranges, while to the east lie Gros Ventre and Washakie ranges.

Sagebrush covers much of the ground in Jackson Hole east of the Teton Range and the lakes. Interestingly, the valley has actually dropped more than the western, mountain side of the fault has risen, but it has been filled by rock debris from glaciers and their meltwaters. The Snake River flows through the sagebrush and grasslands, providing a lush environment for the growth of trees and plants.

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