Have a Perfect Day Trip to Grand Teton National Park with Our Detailed 1-Day Itinerary
When we recently decided to stop at Grand Teton National Park on our way to Montana, I knew I wanted to spend an entire day in the park, bookended with a night in Jackson Hole on each side. One day in Grand Teton National Park would be totally doable, I figured.
After all, the park isn’t that big, covering just 310,000 acres (compare that to Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres!).
But…I was wrong. It turns out that trying to figure out how to put together a 1-day itinerary for Grand Teton National Park when I didn’t know much about it was crazily overwhelming.
Even my sister who had just been in Grand Teton National Park a few years ago wasn’t much help. “I just stayed in the Jenny Lake area,” she recounted. “But a bear came right through my campground so that was cool…and kinda scary.”
Well, I wanted to see more than just Jenny Lake! (Though a bear would be cool; specifically Grizzly 399!) But I couldn’t figure out exactly what there was to see. There was Mormon Row…and Jackson Lodge…but there aren’t the mega-sites like I was used to hearing about in Yellowstone. Then I stumbled upon the 42-mile drive.
And everything about planning my Grand Teton and Jackson Hole trip got easier!
Still, I couldn’t do it all. So here’s what I figured out for the perfect one-day in Grand Teton National Park itinerary.
Where to Start Your One Day in Grand Teton National Park Itinerary
I recommend starting at Mormon Row.
Tip: If you’re spending the night in Jackson Hole before your day in Grand Teton, I recommend going here the night before instead so your day in the park isn’t sooo long. Try to time seeing Mormon Row the night before for sunset. That’s what we did and it was absolutely breathtaking.
But you know what’s just as good as a sunset? (And some would say better in Grand Teton?) Sunrise.
So if you aren’t able to make it to Mormon Row the night before, get up early, and get there by sunrise to start your day in Grand Teton National Park.
Luckily, this is easy to do if you’re staying in Jackson Hole since Jackson is just 20 minutes from Mormon Row, while Wilson (where we stayed) is just another 10 minutes away.
WHERE TO STAY: BENTWOOD INN
Bentwood Inn is located in Wilson and is one of my favorite places I have ever stayed. The lodge is beautiful and the innkeepers are lovely and so knowledgeable in the area. Coleman, one of the innkeepers, even gave us a great tip on where to see moose. (*Read on for that moose advice at the end of this article!)
Bentwood Inn is a bed and breakfast in a fabulously remodeled wood-beamed lodge. I was traveling with my mom and two daughters (ages 4 and 6) and I don’t normally like to stay in bed and breakfast inns with kids, but this one seemed different.
First, it’s quite large. Second, the innkeepers are located onsite, but it’s not their home; the inn is owned by investment partners. Third, the room we stayed in was so cool and was off in a corner of the hotel where I knew we’d be able to stay quiet enough. We booked the Family Room, which had a loft area and it was perfect.
The breakfast was amazing and changed each day. After our long day in Grand Teton National Park, we returned to the lodge and got to enjoy wine and snacks during the evening happy hour; they brought juice for the girls and we hung out in the little alcove with games. I got a great deal through Booking.com, which was much cheaper than going direct. There was some confusion with daily resort fees being added since there were four of us, not two, which wasn’t included in Booking.com, but the innkeeper was quick to reply and sort it out.
—> Click here to view prices on Booking.com for Bentwood Inn.
Here are some pics of the Inn and then keep scrolling for the rest of my One Day in Grand Teton National Park Itinerary!
More Places to Stay Around Grand Teton National Park
If Bentwood Inn is already fully booked or you want to stay closer to downtown Jackson, use this handy map below. With it you’re able to search for and compare both hotels and vacation rentals around Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. I included a few points of interest for popular Jackson Antler Arch in downtown Jackson plus Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park to give you a better idea of where each accommodation option is located.
Next Stops After Mormon Row on Your Grand Teton 1-Day Itinerary
After Mormon Row, head back to the main road and begin traveling north toward Jackson Lake and Jackson Lodge. On your way, there are some epic turn-off points you won’t want to miss.
Here’s where you’ll want to stop before you get to Jackson Lake:
What’s cool about the Albright View stop is being able to see all the major peaks of Grand Teton National Park with an informational board that names all of them.
It’s a good spot to acquaint yourself with the peaks you’ll be continuing to see from different angles as you continue your loop drive around the park.
Schwabacher Landing requires a short walk to get to its famous photo spot, but it’s worth the extra steps.
On a pleasant day (i.e. no rain), the reflection of the Tetons in the river is an absolutely stunning picture.
This is one of my favorite spots in Grand Teton National Park. I love the remoteness of the cabin and its valley views behind it with the mountains jutting up in the background.
The cabin has two separate living spaces connected by a breezeway. You can walk into each room and under the breezeway to truly get a better sense of what it was like to live there in the late 1800s. The cabin itself was built in 1888 by John and Margaret Cunningham, hence its name.
Oxbow Bend is one of the best places from which to see Mount Moran, an impressive peak that towers over the river from this vantage point.
Next Up On Your Grand Teton Day Trip Itinerary: Jackson Lake
At this point, after Oxbow Bend, it’s time to get off the 42-mile drive (aka the Main Loop) and head up to Jackson Lodge.
This is a great place for a rest, bathroom break, lunch, or snack, and to admire the lovely rustic architecture of the lodge. Also, take time to walk along the lake a bit and take in the scenery.
Some Things to Know About the 42 Miles Drive
Quick break in the itinerary to give you some tips on the best time of year for the 42-mile drive.
The western road of the loop (Teton Park Road) is closed from November 1 to April 30 each year.
During that time, the only way to access the sites off the inner road of the 42 Mile Drive is to snowshoe, hike, or cross-country ski (which is only permitted to do from mid-December through mid-March.
Biking is also allowed from November 1 until the road is covered with snow, which may happen sooner than you think!
While Teton Park Road is accessible between May to October, the lodges may not be open during shoulder season. So don’t count on being able to eat at Jackson Lodge, Signal Mountain Lodge, or the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. Check what’s open before you arrive.
If you’re going in July or August, you can safely assume most things will be open, but it’s still good to double-check in case of worker shortages, natural disasters, etc.
If you’re heading up to Yellowstone, this is where you’d keep heading north. You’d soon leave Grand Teton National Park behind, do a brief jaunt through national forest land, and soon find yourself at the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
- Read More: Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park
But you’re trying to see as much of Grand Teton National Park in just a day! So after exploring Jackson Lake and the Lodge for a bit, don’t go toward Yellowstone. Instead, you’ll get back back onto Hwy 191 heading south and then make a right onto Teton Park Road, also called the on Inner Road of the 42-mile loop. On this road, you’ll begin heading down toward Jenny Lake.
Side Note: If you’re doing a day trip to Grand Teton National Park from where you’re staying near Yellowstone National Park (such as West Yellowstone or Cody), you’ll want to enter via the north entrance to Grand Teton. Try to get there early and head straight to Jenny Lake, which we’re about to cover in this article, to beat some of the crowds there, and then continue this loop south, take a lunch break in Jackson if you’d like, and then head back north by Mormon Row and back onto Jackson Lake and north to Yellowstone.
On your way to Jenny Lake, you’re going to see lots of turn-outs. Unless you’re a photographer, you can skip several of these since they’re basically similar views but from different angles. Which can be cool, of course! But when short on time in Grand Teton, I recommend limiting your pull-offs and stops and saving your time for magical Jenny Lake.
More on Jenny Lake in a minute. First though, here are the pull-outs I think you should stop for on the drive from Jackson Lodge to Jenny Lake:
Signal Mountain Lodge
If you decided not to do pull off the main loop to check out Jackson Lodge, then Signal Mountain Lodge is a good place to stop for a break from the car and a bite to eat. Trapper Grill has good eats with a deck overlooking Mt. Moran.
Tip: Don’t confuse this with Signal Mountain Summit Lodge, which is a winding, bumpy road to a viewpoint that you probably won’t have time to do in just a day.
Mount Moran Turnout
Pull off here for another view of Mount Moran seen from the west side. If you’re running behind and saw Mount Moran at Signal Mountain Lodge, you may want to skip this stop.
Cathedral Group Turnout
This is an excellent spot to stop and get a gorgeous view of the three tallest mountains in the Teton range: Grand Teton (the tallest!), Mount Owen, and Teewinot. There are info boards detailing which peak is which in case you’re not sure.
If you’re into geology and earthquakes, then this is a good place to take some extra minutes and read the info signs about how to identify the Teton Fault Scarp, which is where the Teton Fault Line is.
Famous Stop on Your Day in Grand Teton National Park: Jenny Lake
Now it’s time to cover popular Jenny Lake, which is a highlight for most visitors to Grand Teton National Park.
It’s a short distance from the Cathedral Group Turnout to Jenny Lake Visitor Center.
HOWEVER, in the summer months, this journey may take you quite a while since there are usually traffic jams leading into Jenny Lake during peak travel times in Grand Teton National Park.
Because of this, you may want to reverse this itinerary (if you saw Mormon Row the night before) and start your day at Jenny Lake so you can get there before the crowds. Though sunset in Jenny Lake is truly lovely. So decide what’s best for you!
Tip: You can also go there in October when there’s hardly anyone there and the weather is still (usually nice) and there are fall colors, though amenities and boat tours might not be open.
Once you’ve parked at Jenny Lake, take some time to look at the exhibit and info boards by the gift shop, then follow the trail down to the lake where you’ll soon be greeted with views like this…
From the lookout here, you can walk down easily from the side to access the water. I also recommend walking up the stairs you’ll see to your right when looking out on the lake. These lead to a pretty viewpoint with a bird’s eye view of the lake.
Walk as far as you have time for, or just find a piece of beach to sit on and enjoy that epic, famous view.
The other must-do activity in Jenny Lake, if you’re there during peak season, is the shuttle boat ride across the lake (additional fee applies).
This is an incredibly scenic way to see the lake. It’s also the easiest way to get to the popular Hidden Falls natural attraction, which is an easy 1.3-mile hike from where the boat drops you off. Otherwise, it’s a 2.4-mile hike each way around the lake to get there and back
Last Stops on Your 1-Day Grand Teton Itinerary
Head a little bit south of Jenny Lake and you’ll come to the Teton Glacier turnout. I recommend pulling off here to get a look at one of the few glaciers in Grand Teton National Park.
Less than ten minutes south of the Teton Glacier turnout is another great place to stop in order to see the quaint Chapel of the Transfiguration. This is a tiny little log wood chapel framed gloriously by the mountain peaks.
And that’s it! Your day trip around Grand Teton National Park is done. Unless…
Where to See Moose Outside Grand Teton National Park
*Now for that aforementioned moose spotting tip! If you’re like us during a recent visit and don’t see moose during your day in Grand Teton National Park (even though it sometimes sounds like they’re supposed to be everywhere), here’s the tip we got from the innkeeper at Bentwood Inn: he told us to drive around the neighborhoods of Wilson where you can often see moose just lounging about in people’s front yards.
This tip helped us not to just see one moose, but a whole family!
We made a few turns by the creek with no luck, and we were starting to wonder if we were too late (moose are more active in the early morning and it was late morning by this point) when suddenly mom pointed out that the car ahead of us was stopped. “I think they see something,” she said.
We got closer, and sure enough, it was a moose…a huge moose! Crossing the road right in front of us. And then we realized it was following another large moose…and a baby! The trifecta. We were thrilled!
So don’t despair if you don’t see a moose in Grand Teton National Park, you might just see one wandering around a local neighborhood. 🙂
Hope you enjoy your day in Grand Teton National Park!