Grand Teton National Park – An American Treasure!

August 2022 – Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is one of our favorite National Parks because of its absolutely breathtaking mountain views. Since we’d been camping in Sun Valley, Idaho, we were more or less in the neighborhood, so we couldn’t resist stopping by the Tetons once again!

We’d gone to Sun Valley in an effort to escape the summer heat, but temps had been hitting the low 90s every afternoon and there wasn’t even a hint of rain. In contrast, the Tetons had been getting wonderful summer afternoon thunderstorms, so we hightailed it over there with hopes for spectacular vistas and cooler air. We got both!

Oxbow Bend Overlook Grand Teton National Park Wyoming Snake River

A full moon sets right before sunrise at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park and the greater Jackson Hole Valley area are located just below Yellowstone National Park, and they encompass a long skinny region that extends for about 50 miles from the north entrance of the Park to Teton Village in the south. Both the highway on the eastern edge of the Park (US-26) and the Teton Park Road, which runs parallel to the highway down the middle of the Park, have numerous named pullouts and overlooks where you can stop for a while to take in the extraordinary scenery.

The Snake River Overlook was made famous by Ansel Adams when he parked his station wagon in that spot in 1942, set up his tripod on the roof of his car, and took a photo of a bend in the Snake River backed by the mountains, an image that he called “The Tetons and the Snake River.” His photo sold for $988,000 in 2020! (Mark says he’d take half as much for any of his, and they’re in color!).

Unfortunately, the National Park Service has allowed lots of tall trees to grow to great heights at that overlook, totally obscuring the view that Ansel Adams captured. However, a similar view can be found nearby at the Oxbow Bend Overlook, and this pullout is a favorite among Park visitors today.

Oxbow Bend Overlook in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Day dawns at the Oxbow Bend overlook.

Grand Teton National Park is beloved by photographers, and as we drove to different stunning overlooks before dawn each morning in hopes of catching a glorious sunrise, we saw lots of headlights zooming here and there on the roads. We also had plenty of company as we stood shivering near other crazy photography buffs that had climbed out of their warm beds in the dark so they could stand outside in the cold and wait for the sun to do its magic.

900 Grand Teton National Park Wyoming sunrise

Crazy photographers climb out of their warm beds and drive all over Grand Teton National Park to catch the mountains waking up!

Bobtail Ponds Grand Teton National Park Wyoming 2

The pink hue slowly creeps down from the mountain peaks at Bobtail Ponds overlook.

Teton Point sunrise Grand Teton National Park Wyoming pink mountain peaks

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Schwabacker Landing is a popular gathering place for photographers before dawn because it offers not only a majestic view of the mountains as their tips turn pink, but a glimpse of their reflections in the glassy water below.

Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Schwabacker Landing is twice as much (mirrored) fun as all the other overlooks!

After sunrise, the sun and clouds played shadow games along the face of the mountains, creating wonderful stripes.

Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming Sun and Shadow

Sun and shadow games at Schwabacker Landing.

This is a great spot to take selfies, and we saw a young couple taking photos of themselves in romantic poses before the exquisite mountain backdrop.

Lovers at Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Romance in the Tetons!

We couldn’t resist getting some selfies ourselves during our stay either, and we found some fun spots to say “cheese” and memorialize our visit.

Happy Campers Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Trying to look our best at 6:30 in the morning!

Happy Campers at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Everyone gets Christmas card photos at these overlooks…what a perfect spot for it!

Grand Teton National Park is very spread out, and lots of people wander from one overlook to another all day long, enjoying a picnic lunch by the side of the road here and a late afternoon snack in a pullout over there. Most overlooks have parking spaces large enough for a few RVs to pull in along with the cars.

We met a German family enjoying a breakfast of meats and cheeses next to their rental RV. Suddenly, the son ran inside and hung out the RV window giving a thumbs up with a huge grin while the dad took a photo of him and the RV in front of the spectacular mountains.

On another morning, as we returned to our truck from where we’d been taking photos, we could swear we smelled a yummy egg breakfast cooking. Sure enough, a young couple had set up a camp stove kitchen on the trunk of their Honda, and they were making a tasty breakfast right there in the parking lot!

Breakfast cooking on the back of a car atGrand Teton National Park Wyoming

We smelled breakfast cooking on the trunk of this car long before we saw it!

Every pre-dawn outing was an adventure, but one adventure went slightly awry…

At the Cunningham Cabin historical site, Mark chose a spot with a great view of the very simple log cabin that had been owned by the homesteading rancher J. Pierce Cunningham in the 1880s while I looked for a spot that would incorporate the wonderful log fence with the mountains rising out of the morning mist.

Unsatisfied with my first composition near where Mark was standing, I decided to take the narrow dirt trail along the fence line a little further. Gawking at the mountains and carrying my tripod over my shoulder, camera attached, my foot suddenly sank into water up to my knees! I toppled over and crashed to the ground, camera first.

In shock, I realized my favorite “go to” lens, the Nikon 28-300, was now broken. It could no longer zoom in and out, and it was covered in mud.

Wiping myself off as best I could, tears stinging my eyes, I gathered my shattered wits together and noticed that the entire field alongside the trail I’d been following was full of irrigation ditches that were about a foot wide and knee deep, and they criss-crossed the trail every few yards.

Fortunately, Mark was happily shooting away, far from shouting distance, so his morning was still intact! After feeling very sorry for myself for a few minutes, I remembered that I’d brought another lens, the Nikon 18-35. Luckily, it was wrapped in a clean microfiber towel, so I was able to wipe down my muddy camera and replace the big broken lens with the smaller wide angle lens.

Throughout all this, the sky was silently turning pink in the distance. With a tear or two still staining my cheek, I reminded myself that even if I couldn’t get the variety of close-in and faraway images I’d wanted, I was still here in this incredible spot witnessing the magnificent awakening of the mountains. Muddy pants, broken lens and all, I was fortunate to be here, and this was a moment to remember for its beauty as much as for my mishap!

Sunrise at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

I thought the beautiful pink show would go on without me but a second lens in my bag let me participate!

* * * * *

As a side note, a young newlywed couple in our extended family nearly lost their lives in a horrific house fire three weeks ago. I thought of them as I stood there. No amount of mud or broken gear could have taken away my gratitude for the blessing of witnessing this sunrise in this sensational setting.

The young woman has been fighting for her life in an induced coma since her husband courageously carried her unconscious body out of the house through the flames. She was just awoken the other day and she managed a smile. She will be in the ICU for another 6 or 7 weeks undergoing many skin graft surgeries. They lost everything in the fire, including their pets.

I know how much it meant to us when readers of this blog reached out to help us after Buddy’s extraordinary ordeal. This young couple has set up a GoFundMe to cover medical bills that aren’t covered by insurance and to try to piece their lives back together again.

* * * * *

Dirty Little Orphan Annie finally came up off the muddy trail to where Mark was standing by the cabin. He was still nice and clean and dry

“Oh my, what happened to you?!” He asked as he rubbed a muddy smudge off my cheek and stared at my sodden shoes.

What could I say? My bedraggled looks were worth more than a thousand words. And so it goes in the wild world of outdoor photography!

Before dawn in the mountains

This was the pre-sunrise composition I didn’t like… But it probably would have been the better choice once the sky lit up and definitely would have saved me a bunch of dirty clothes and a beloved lens!

A while later, our friend and phenomenal wildlife photographer Steve Perry consoled me with stories of dunking his Sony A1 camera in the ocean while photographing baby turtles and dropping his Nikon 300 f/2.8 lens on the pavement at the airport. If you haven’t seen Steve’s channel or read his books or read his web page, they are all truly outstanding and inspiring. He has all the secrets! His latest video enumerates the skills, talents and techniques that the best photographers share.

It’s funny that I don’t recall him mentioning anything about accidents!!

Cunningham Cabin Grand Teton National Park Wyoming3

This tiny “double” cabin is the first building Mr. Cunningham erected on his 160 acres of Homestead land and is what Mark was busy photographing while I stumbled around in the irrigation ditches.

A while later we got another pic of a historic building when we stopped by the old barns and cabins that make up Mormon Row, yet another treasured spot for visitors to Grand Teton National Park.

Mormon Row Barn at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The barns and cabins on Mormon Row make classic pics!

One of the most astonishing things about Grand Teton National Park is the dramatic juxtaposition of the towering mountains and the many ponds, lakes and streams that dot the landscape. In a way, this National Park is as much a place of waterways as it is a place of mountains. Boating is a surprisingly popular activity and there are mooring fields and a marina available for people to keep their boats on Jackson Lake!

Jackscon Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming boats

Ponds, lakes and rivers are a huge part of Grand Teton National Park, and boating is a popular activity!

Powerboat on Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Not a bad spot for an outing on the water!

Boats on Jackson Lake at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

There were lots of boats waiting to be taken out.

There are a few places where you can swim, or at least enjoy a pebbly beach setting, and we found one of these on Jackson Lake one morning. The lake was perfectly still and puffy clouds made a pretty pattern in the sky.

Jackson Lake mirror reflections Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

What a beautiful little rocky beach!

When I got to the water’s edge, I noticed that the rounded beach stones were submerged just below the surface of the water, and the glassy water was bringing out their vibrant colors.

Submerged rocks Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The vivid colors of the beach stones came to life under the placid water.

Mark threw a large stone in the water, and we watched the ripples fan out across the lake.

Ripples at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Making waves.

A group of people came down to the water with a slew of kayaks, and it appeared they were getting a lesson on how to paddle around. In no time they were all on the water in their kayaks and then, after paddling off across the lake, they landed on a distant shore. What a thrilling way to immerse yourself in the Tetons!

Kayak at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

A group of people got a lesson in kayaking while we were there!

A power boat suddenly appeared, zooming across the lake at top speed, and we noticed there was someone water skiing behind it. What a blast!

Waterskier at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

What a place to waterski!!

Glancing at the map one evening, we noticed there was a mountain summit you could reach by car, so the next day up we went. It is called Signal Mountain, although it’s not named for the huge cell tower that blasts a powerful signal at the top!

Wifi tower at Signal Mountain Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Cell tower at Signal Mountain

Signal Mountain was actually the site where a special smoke signal was sent out long ago by a search-and-rescue person to notify his team that he’d found the body of a man who’d fallen into the Snake River.

The view at the summit goes out across a valley, but the view just before the top looks back at the mountains across various inlets of Jackson Lake.

View from Signal Mountain Summit Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

View from just below the summit at Signal Mountain.

There are a million things to do in the Tetons, and one the best is cycling.

The paved bike path which had been only partially completed when we last visited now runs for miles and miles all through the Park, down to the town of Jackson and over the mountains from there to the town of Victor. Some of it is a rails-to-trails route and some has been purpose-built as a walking/biking trail. All of it is an outstanding way to see the Tetons.

Lots of people ride their bikes on the roads too.

RV and bicycle at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The Tetons are beloved by cyclists and hikers as well as photographers and boaters!

One theme in our summer travels this year has been the discovery of free outdoor summer concerts, and when we arrived in Grand Teton National Park we saw a notice for an upcoming free chamber music concert at the Murie Ranch in the Park. Score!

Back in the day, Olauf and Maddy Murie hosted many a long summer afternoon “conversation” with various illustrious visitors on the front porch of their cabin, and it had been the site of several concerts this summer already. All of the concerts were part of the Grand Teton Music Festival which presents performances by small groups and a big orchestra all around the town of Jackson and the Jackson Hole Resort and Grand Teton National Park all summer long!

Like Sun Valley, Jackson is a land of the ultra-wealthy, and like the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, the Grand Teton Music Festival is extremely well funded. After all, rumor has it that the billionaires pushed the millionaires out of Jackson a few decades ago! As something of a playground-while-working for the 0.2 percenters, the Federal Reserve holds an annual summer meeting in Jackson Hole, and it was about to get underway during our stay!

When we arrived at the surprisingly packed lawn in front of the Murie Cabin, it was no surprise to discover that the free concert included free wine and snacks! And this wasn’t just “Everything tastes better on a Ritz” types of snacks. This was stuffed grape leaves, a tray of exotic cheeses, and grapes served inside a pineapple!! The French couple sitting next to me was impressed by the Chardonnay too.

Free snacks at Grand Teton Music Festival in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

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The quartet played Dvorak’s “American Quartet” beautifully, but the highlight of the afternoon was the Q&A afterward.

The Music Festival hostess took questions from the audience that ranged from, “How did you learn to play so fast?” (by practicing syncopated rhythms) to “Where was your instrument made, and when?” (several were French and some dated to the 1800s) to “How many hours a day do you practice?” (8 to 10 when they were studying but less now that they are professionals and perform so much) to “How do you take your instrument on an airplane?” (the cello gets its own seat!) and more.

The musicians were delightful, and it gave the whole experience a very intimate feeling as the audience, hostess and musicians bantered back and forth.

Definitely check out the Grand Teton Music Festival schedule for a performance that suits your fancy when you visit the Park!

Grand Teton Music Festival Quartet Q&A Muries Cabin Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The musicians in the quartet fielded all kinds of questions from the audience after their performance.

As with our previous visits to Grand Teton National Park, we absolutely loved our stay.

Happy campers at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming boats

We have a blast here every time we visit.

And we know we’ll be back again because, in truth, we’ve barely scratched the surface!!

Teton Road Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Teton Park Road at dawn.

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16 thoughts on “Grand Teton National Park – An American Treasure!

  1. Fantastic post! It brings back great memories of my visit to the Grand Tetons to go skiing a few decades ago! Now that I am retired, I can’t wait to go back with my wife who has never been that far West.
    Thanks again for your amazing pictures, and excellent writing!

    • Have a blast there with your wife, Leonard. Now you have LOTS of time to explore all the nooks and crannies of this gorgeous place. It’s such a great park, and taking the gondola up to the top of the skiing mountain at Jackson Hole is a wonderful highlight too (I wrote about that in a previous post on Grand Teton). Thanks for coming along with us on our journey!

  2. Well, I enjoyed the story and pictures once again. Sorry about the lens….I didn’t enjoy that part but glad you are OK. I want you to know that your family members will be in our prayers. I did check out the link and read the terrifying account. I am so sorry.
    Thanks again for sharing the journey…the good and the sad.

    • It’s all a part of life and travel, and we learn from every bit of it, Jeff. The Tetons are spectacular and it was so exciting to be there once again. Thank you for keeping Jessie and Joez in your prayers!

  3. As another RLT fan noted, what a outstanding journal of writing and photography….with the unexpected excitement of the muddy fall. For this easterner, another world….Love, Mom

    • The American West is truly majestic and the Tetons offer some of the best scenery there is. I’m so happy to be able to show it to you almost in real time via the internet and modern digital photography!! xoxo

  4. One of our most favorite areas to visit. Thanks for sharing the amazing pics. We can’t wait to visit there again.

  5. My heart goes out to your young family members, Emily. I hope her upcoming surgeries are successful and her recovery goes smoothly.

    Alan and I spent an extended period of time in Idaho last year and made a pilgrimage to Grand Teton National Park while we were camping in Island Park. Grand Teton has always been one of my favorite Parks. We first visited there when we tent-camped across the country on our honeymoon, then later hiked in the Park with our kids when they were young. On last year’s visit, we, too, packed a lunch and enjoyed it in one of the many parking areas with amazing views. Thanks to you and Mark for sharing all of these photos – they’re simply gorgeous!

    • Thank you for your heartfelt concern, Mary. I’ve felt badly about sharing such sad news, but Jessie has been on my mind constantly. I can’t imagine having that kind of a disaster at such a young age with a new life just starting.

      I love the way you’ve seen the Tetons over the years, Mary, from your honeymoon to hiking with your kids to last year’s lunch stop. It is worthy of whatever kind of visit we can muster, and on this trip we met people of all ages loving their stay in everything from cars/tents to fancy Class A motorhomes, and then, of course, there were those lucky folks who stay in the fabulous cabins and lodges…maybe that will be us someday!!!

  6. Those beautiful photos took me back to our visit to the Tetons a number of years back. We rushed through that park for some reason and did not get to do much photography, hiking, exploring or summer concerting. We must have been on our way to visit someone. Always enjoy vicarious travel through your blog. I didn’t realize there were so many lakes there. We will have to go back. Sorry about your lens, glad you had a spare. Good excuse to go out and get a nice zoom with a constant f4 aperture. You are right about every day being a gift, so sorry about your young family members.

    • It’s great to hear from you again, Liz! It’s so easy to rush through the Tetons…a lot of people do that because they are headed to Yellowstone. But there’s so much to see there… it’s really worth it to set aside at least a few days!! We do have some fixed f/4 zooms, but I love the wide range of the 28-300 because I’m a street photographer at heart and I the adrenal rush of catching the action as it happens, whether is need to frame it at 28mm or 300mm!! Enjoy the rest of the summer. I hope you get out and do some camping and take some beautiful pics!

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