Grand Teton finds itself on so many “top 10 national parks” list I’ve literally lost count. Since COVID had us changing travel plans (like everyone else), my fiancé and I decided to road trip out west. We stopped at multiple parks, including three days at Yellowstone, sunrise at Great Sand Dunes, and sunrise Badlands. Can you tell I like sunrises? Anyway, back to the point. The Teton mountain range was incredible, and I’m already ready to go back. But for a first timer, I think I’ve got a great 3 day Grand Teton itinerary. I also have a great packing list if you need help there too.
The Short Version
- Day 1 – Visit key photo spots
- Day 2 – Cascade Canyon Trail beyond Jenny Lake
- Day 3 – Hang out at Phelps Lake
The Long Version
Day 1 – Photo Spots
Day 1 of our 3 day Grand Teton itinerary we spent driving around and hitting some of the more famous photo areas. We came from Yellowstone so drove down into the park. Here are the places we stopped at specifically on day 1:
- Oxbow Bend
- Serious view goals
- Schwabacher Landing
- More incredible views
- Snake Overlook
- This overlook allows you to see the mountains with more of the winding look of the Snake River
- Mormon Row
- Old Mormon barns can be found here that are nestled up at the base of the mountains with an incredible backdrop. We heard that sunset and sunrise here were incredible, but just went when it was convenient along the day.
To be completely honest, we pulled over probably 50x throughout our drive this day. Whether it was to get out of the car and either see amazing views or a family of bears, be prepared to pull over at a moment’s notice.
We stayed at this Airbnb in Wilson and it was adorable. The hosts had put out cleaning materials and any possible toiletry we needed. I highly recommend staying here.
For dinner, we walked to a sushi restaurant just a couple minutes away and sat outside on their patio. I ordered the surf and turf roll, while Kyle ordered the beef teriyaki. If I were going to order just one of those items, it would be the beef teriyaki. It was incredible.
After we were full from dinner, we headed home and got a good night’s rest for our early day the next day.
Day 2 – Our Longest Hike Ever
Standard procedure for popular hike trailheads at Grand Teton is that parking lots fill up by about 9:30am. Add the fun extra layer of COVID into the equation – where there is no overflow parking because they’re limiting people on trails – and you need to get there even earlier. So, for day 2 of our trip, we arrived to our trailhead at about 7:30am to ensure we’d have decent parking and this is what our day looked like:
- Arrive to String Lake parking lot at 7:30am
- Hike around the lake from String Lake to the Jenny Lake ferry arrival spot
- Hike up to Inspiration Point. You can choose to go to either Inspiration Point or Hidden Falls, because the trail forks out here. There’s definitely opportunity to do both, we just kept on going from Inspiration Point and ended up being too tired to circle back up to Hidden Falls.
- This was probably the most strenuous part of the hike as far as vertical gain, and it really wasn’t that bad. But we definitely broke a sweat here.
- From Inspiration Point, we followed the Cascade Canyon trail. This was another 7 miles round trip from Inspiration Point, and it is a stunning trail.
- You do not need to hike all the way to Cascade Canyon itself. While it’s pretty, it is not as pretty as the hike there, in my humble opinion.
- For the record, it’s hard to say anything on this hike isn’t pretty because it’s all absolutely stunning. But if the hike there is a 10, Cascade Canyon itself is probably an 8.5.
- Along this way we saw two moose and lots of cute little critters.
- You can keep going on from Cascade Canyon to other trails if you want to, but we were getting tired because we had been hiking for about four or five hours at this point. We decided to head back down the way we came.
- Once we got back to the Jenny Lake ferry dropoff, we went back along the String Lake route and on this we actually encountered two bears. We saw one large black bear and one young grizzly. We didn’t really expect to see bears here but it makes sense since you’re along the water, so make sure to have your eyes peeled.
- Once we made it back to our car, we were honestly dead. We had hiked 16 miles and were exhausted. Our PLAN was to change into swim attire and go swim and boat on String Lake, but we were honestly just too wiped. So we headed home, but I would recommend this if you’re not as exhausted as we were.
- Honestly, we stopped at a market, got some cheese and crackers, and went home.
- THINGS WE WOULD HAVE DONE IF WE WERE ALIVE:
- Walked around and gotten dinner somewhere in downtown Jackson Hole
- Gone to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
Day 3 – Phelps Lake Lounging and “Hike”
Since we had hiked 16 miles the previous day, we were in no mood to do that again. This was also our last full day in Grand Teton, so we wanted to check out something gorgeous and then chill out there for awhile.
- Arrive to Phelps Lake trailhead at about 9:15am
- We were the LAST CAR to get a spot. The ranger told us how lucky we were because one car had done a sunrise hike and was leaving as we arrived. He said the next car in line would likely have to wait until noon to park and start hiking. When I say get to the trailheads early, that’s why.
- Overall, this was an incredibly easy hike. There was little to no elevation gain, and I think we hiked around the lake a total of five miles. It’s about one mile from the parking lot to the lake itself, and then from there you go as far as you want.
- There is a large jumping rock that, as the name states, allows you to jump into the water. We didn’t end up hiking all the way since it was a few more miles and the water was cold, but it is accessible from here.
- Hang out at Phelps Lake with a couple of beers for a few hours and just enjoy the view.
- Head back to car and leave to head back to the Airbnb and get ready for dinner.
- Dinner at The Granary
- I HIGHLY recommend this. They had just reopened due to COVID and the precautions they put in place I very much appreciated. The tables were distanced. Reservations got you your table. The staff was masked. And not to mention THE VIEWS. I mean, this is one of, if not the most beautiful restaurant view. Just, wow.
- Oh, also the food was great. I guess that matters too. But seriously the views.
- If you leave dinner early enough you can make it to one of the bars in the downtown area for a night cap, but they close pretty early so we ended up enjoying our dinner and heading home afterward.
And there you have it. The 3 day Grand Teton itinerary from our summer road trip is yours to enjoy or modify.