Welcome to the breathtaking wilderness of the Grand Tetons! A place with towering mountain peaks, divine lakes, and plenty of wildlife. If you find yourself with just 24 hours in Grand Tetons, a day trip can still be an exhilarating adventure filled trip. So don’t skip this park even if you’re short on time!
Stunning nature awaits you as you embark on a journey to explore some of the most beautiful landscapes, wildlife and iconic attractions in the United States. After making countless trips to the Grand Tetons, the most being a week-long trip, I can honestly say this is one of my FAVORITE parks in America.
In this comprehensive guide, I will show you how to make the most out of your limited time, ensuring that you experience the very best of the Grand Tetons. From capturing the magical sunrise to encountering diverse wildlife, hiking picturesque trails. Let’s dive into our one-day itinerary and discover the wonders that await you!
Table of Contents
Just a heads up! This post might contain affiliate links which means I could earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
Planning Your Grand Tetons Day Trip
When it comes to making the most of your day trip to the Grand Tetons, a little preparation goes a long way. If you’re not a list person, now is your time to break out your notepad and pen and start! The key to a successful and memorable adventure lies in thoughtful planning and organization. Here are some essential tips to ensure you get the most out of your 24 hours in this paradise.
Check the Weather and Seasonal Considerations
Before you head out, take a moment to check the weather forecast for the day of your visit. The Grand Tetons experience distinct seasons, each offering unique charm and accessibility to the park. Be sure to dress appropriately with layers, considering the temperature fluctuations between early morning and late evening. Additionally keep an eye out for any park alerts or trail closures that may impact your itinerary.
The Grand Teton Mountains can be viewed from well outside of the park, but some of the best viewing sights are inside of the park. This means you will need to pay the entrance fee to get into the park. However, you can purchase an America the Beautiful pass for $80 and get unlimited year-long access to EVERY National Park. You can purchase that here.
Know Your Fitness Level and Time Constraints
The Grand Tetons offer a wide range of activities suitable for all levels of fitness. Consider your group’s abilities and preferences when choosing the activities for your day trip. If you’re traveling with kids or individuals with limited mobility, opt for shorter hikes or viewpoints accessible by car. Time management is crucial during a one-day visit, so plan your activities wisely to make the most of your limited time.
Make a List of Must-See Attractions
Don’t worry, I included this step for you in the blog post. But with so much to see and do in the Grand Tetons, it’s essential to prioritize YOUR must-see attractions. Iconic spots like Jenny Lake, Snake River Overlook, and Schwabacher Landing are musts for any first-time visitor. Research and create a rough itinerary to ensure you cover the highlights while leaving room for spontaneous discoveries along the way.
Plan Your Wildlife Viewing Experience
Wildlife encounters in the Grand Tetons are inevitable including: Bison, bears, elk, moose, and various bird species. Increase your chances of wildlife sightings by knowing their typical habitats, behaviors, and active hours. Remember to keep a safe distance and use binoculars or a zoom lens for close-up views. NEVER approach an animal.
By following these planning tips, you’ll set the stage for an unforgettable day in the Grand Tetons. Now that you’re well-prepared for your trip, let’s dive into the action-packed itinerary.
Best Time to Start Your Day
To make the most of your day trip to the Grand Tetons, setting the right pace from the moment your alarm goes off is crucial. While it might be easy to hit the snooze button, an early start is the key to unlocking some of the best experiences in this national park.
Catch the Sunrise
One of the most enchanting moments in the Grand Tetons is witnessing the sunrise over the majestic peaks. Head out before dawn to reach a scenic viewpoint or lakeshore for an awe-inspiring sunrise. Since the sun rises in the east and you’ll be situated on the west side of the mountains, you can’t go wrong wherever you perch up to see the sunrise.
Beat the Crowds
Starting early is also going to allow you to beat the midday rush of visitors. During the morning hours, the park is relatively less crowded giving you unencumbered views at every location you go before midday. Whether you’re exploring hiking trails, enjoying the serene beauty of Jenny Lake, or photographing wildlife, you’ll have a special time on your own.
Capture Wildlife Activity
While I have seen active wildlife in the Grand Tetons midday, including bears and moose, I have found that wildlife tend to be closer to pull offs and visitors centers in the early morning. This makes wildlife viewing a little easier and special. Please remember that whenever you’re viewing wildlife to stay in your car if the animals are nearby. Moose run 35 mph, can you outrun that?
The Grand Tetons offer a magical experience but the early hours of the day amplify that experience. By starting your trip early, you’ll embark on an unforgettable journey.
Exploring the Grand Tetons Must-See Attractions
Now for the fun stuff! The Grand Tetons are a treasure trove of natural wonders and even in a day you can still experience some of the park’s most iconic spots. Here are some of my favorite spots to visit with only 24 hours in the Grand Tetons.
These are areas that only require a short amount of time, but are sure to capture some spectacular photographs.
Snake River Overlook
The Snake River Overlook provides an unparalleled vista of the Grand Tetons. It is located outside of the park on Highway 191 and is a perfect stopping point for when you’re driving in or out. It’s the perfect spot to capture the full grandeur of the Grand Tetons.
Signal Mountain is also considered to be one of the best scenic drives in the park. Consider driving to the Signal Mountain summit for sunrise or sunset to get mesmerizing views of the teton valley. It’s a great place for wildlife viewing as well.
There are short trails around Oxbow Bend to get visitors closer to the river. Capture beautiful photographs of the Grand Tetons with the river seemingly flowing out from underneath them.
Probably one of the most iconic photo spots in the Grand Tetons, Mormon Row is a must see in your 24 hours in Grand Tetons. There are small trails to walk around on and look at the different houses on the property if that is something that interests you!
Short Length Trails
These are just a few of the short hikes you can do on your 24 hours in Grand Tetons. WIth hundreds of miles of trails, Grand Tetons has much to offer,but if we’re looking to maximize our time and views, here are some of the best.
Schwabacher Landing could go in Short Hikes or Pull-Offs honestly. The short 0.5 mile trail follows along a waterway with spectacular views of the Tetons. It is a popular spot for wildlife as well as for sunrise and sunset. Many people capture the mirror image on the tetons reflected in the water at this stop.
Taggart Lake Trail
If you’re getting to the park early, this would be a great first stop as the parking lot fills up FAST! This short, low-elevation gain hike is perfect for people wanting to do a lake trail. If you’re feeling brave, you can also take a dip here and enjoy the pristine water. We even saw a moose here off in the distance while we were swimming.
Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point
This hike is definitely a time commitment for your 24 hours in Grand Tetons because you will need to take the Jenny Lake Boat across the lake to the trailhead OR hike an additional 2.5 miles either way, but the views are beautiful. Hidden falls is tucked away in between the peaks and you’ll hear it much sooner than you’ll see it. A short climb from the falls, Inspiration Point looks out over Jenny Lake and into the valley. It is short but steep!
If the boat line is backed-up at the trailhead consider taking the trail back. It will usually be much quicker.
Leigh Lake(Short Version)
Arguably one of the most beautiful lakes in the park, Leigh Lake has a short hike version that offers some of the best views with minimal elevation gain. If you get a chance to complete this hike, I would highly recommend it! We also jumped into this lake, it is much colder than Taggart Lake.
Medium Length Trails
For a longer length trail, here are some of my favorites that will take some more time, but will still give you plenty of time to explore the park before or after.
Phelps Lake and Laurence S Rockefeller Preserve
Phelps Lake which is known for “Jumping Rock” is on a beautiful preserve just outside of Grand Teton National Park, in fact there are trails in Grand Teton that connect to the lake. The preserve has a wonderful nature center. I could actually spend hours in this nature center.
The Phelps Lake Trail begins at the preserve and follows the Woodland Trail to the lake and the Lake Creek Trail on the way back. You have the option to hike around the entire lake, but many people who are just going to Jump Rock, hike the trail as an in-and-out.
Taggart to Bradley Lake
Many people choose to extend their Taggart Lake hike to head up to Bradley Lake. This adds an additional 1.5 miles each way.
Hidden Falls via String Lake
String Lake is one of my favorite lakes in the park because it is so beautiful. But there is also a trail from String Lake to Hidden Falls (and Inspiration Point) if you don’t want to take the Jenny Lake Ferry. After viewing the falls, come back to String Lake for a quick swim! It is the warmest of all of the lakes because it is so shallow.
These are just a few of the must-see attractions that await you in the Grand Tetons. While you might not have a ton of time with your 24 hours in Grand Tetons, there is still so much for you to explore. I suggest doing your own research or going to the visitors center as soon as it opens to check out what they have to offer!
Maximizing Your Wildlife Experience
The Grand Tetons are a haven for wildlife, providing numerous opportunities to observe some of nature’s most wild creatures. To maximize your chances of encountering wildlife during your day trip, follow these tips for an unforgettable wildlife experience:
Choose the Right Time for Wildlife Viewing
Wildlife is the most active during the early morning and late evening hours. Plan your day trip to include wildlife viewing sessions during these prime times. Head out early to catch animals at their most active, and consider staying until dusk for a chance to witness twilight activity.
Explore Wildlife Hotspots
Certain areas within the Grand Tetons are known for their abundant wildlife. Moose-Wilson Road, Antelope Flats, and Willow Flats are a few of the common spots for seeing wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled while driving, hiking, or picnicking in these areas. However, the best way to spot these animals is when you notice a large group of cars pulled over looking out in the distance.
Use Binoculars and Zoom Lenses
Wildlife may not always be visible from close distances, this is especially true for the wolves of Yellowstone. Bring binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens to observe animals without disturbing them. This way you can view them from a safe distance while still getting a close-up experience. These are my FAVORITE binoculars to bring on adventures, Nocs Provisions.
Remain Patient and Still
Some of my best wildlife encounters occurred after staying in the same space for a very long time. Find a quiet spot, settle in, and wait for animals to come to you. Avoid making sudden movements or loud noises that could scare them away. If you’re only in the Grand Tetons for 24 hours, this might not be the BEST use of time.
Respect Wildlife and Their Habitat
Remember that you’re a guest in the animals’ home. Keep a safe distance from wildlife and NEVER approach or feed them. Feeding wild animals can lead to harmful consequences. A park ranger even indicated that in 2022 they were forced to kill 17 bears in the park because of their interactions with humans and consuming human food.
Listen for Animal Calls and Sounds
In addition to visual cues, listen for animal calls and sounds that may lead you to their location. Birds chirping, rustling in the bushes, and distant howls and grunts. On one of the hikes I recently did, a group of crows actually gave away the location of a black bear.
Join a Guided Wildlife Tour
If your ultimate goal is to see wildlife, consider joining a guided wildlife tour. Park rangers and wildlife guides can share valuable insights about the animals, their behaviors, and the park’s ecosystem. These tours offer educational and safe ways to view wildlife. Additionally, these tours communicate with each other on where they’ve spotted wildlife so it increases the chances of viewing animals in their natural habitat.
By following these tips, you’ll increase your chances of encountering the incredible wildlife that calls the grand Tetons home. Whether it’s a moose, elk, or bald eagle, these encounters will undoubtedly be some of your favorite memories of your 24 hours in Grand Tetons.
Dining Options for a Quick Day Trip
As you embark on your action-packed day trip to the Grand Tetons, maintaining your energy levels are vital. There are so many places to eat either inside of the park or in nearby Jackson Hole.
Picnic in Scenic Spot
As someone who likes to save money, picnics happen to be my favorite option! There are several picturesque spots within the park such as String Lake, Schwabacher Landing, and the Moose Visitor Center. Consider making a picnic spot part of your outdoor exploration. Make sure to be aware and within arms reach of your food at ALL times. Bears will absolutely take advantage of your unattended food (even if you’re close by) which puts both their lives and human life in danger.
If you prefer a more substantial meal or making your dining experience part of your park visit, consider dining at one of the lodges inside the Grand Teton National Park. Many lodges have on-site restaurants and cafeterias that offer a variety of options to choose from. If you’re looking for a drink at sunset, I would recommend Jackson Lake Lodge’s patio. Their Huckleberry Mojito is DIVINE.
Restaurants in Nearby Towns
I highly recommend taking some time to enjoy Jackson Hole as part of your 24 hours in Grand Tetons. It is about a 30 minute drive from the Moose entrance of Grand Tetons, so it is a time commitment. But their options are unmatched. They even have the iconic Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. One of my favorite places to eat was the Snake River Brewery. It is family friendly and offers amazing food options and great beer.
Remember to plan your dining options according to your preferred itinerary and the activities you have in mind. It might make sense to do lunch in Jackson Hole if you want a quick break after a full morning of exploring before beheading back in the park! Whatever your needs are, there are plenty of options.
Safety Considerations in Grand Tetons
As you embark on your day trip to the Grand Tetons, your safety and the well-being of the park’s ecosystem are of the utmost importance. Nature’s beauty can be awe-inspiring, but it also requires respect and responsibility. Here are some essentials safety considerations to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure in this magnificent wilderness:
Stay on Designated Trails
While exploring the Grand Tetons, stick to designated trails and paths to protect delicate ecosystems and prevent soil erosion. Straying off marked routes can disturb wildlife habitats and plant life. They even have signs throughout the park saying “Grow by the inch, gone by the foot”.
Wildlife Viewing Etiquette
The Grand Tetons are home to a diverse array of wildlife. While observing animals in their natural habitat can be thrilling, it’s essential to keep a safe distance and refrain from approaching and feeding them. Maintain a minimum distance of at least 100 years from bears, wolves, and moose, and 25 yards from all other wildlife. Respect their space and behavior. Never attempt to provoke or interact with them.
Hydration and Sun Protection
Staying hydrated is crucial, especially when engaging in outdoor activities. Carry a refillable water bottle and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Additionally, it can get extremely hot in the Tetons. Bring plenty of sunscreen, wear sunglasses, hats or even a sun shirt. The intensity of the sun’s rays increase in higher elevation areas, so you’re more likely to get a sunburn.
Respect Park Regulations
To ensure the preservation of the Grand Tetons for future generations, follow all park regulations. This includes speed limits, camping restrictions, and waste disposal. Leave no trace of your visit, pack out trash and dispose of waste properly.
Personal Safety and First Aid
Always prioritize your safety during your day trip. Carry a basic first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any personal medications. Be aware of your physical limitations and don’t push yourself beyond your abilities during hikes or other activities. If you’re traveling alone, inform someone about your plans and expected return time.
What to Pack for 24 hours in Grand Tetons
If you’re not sure what to bring on a day hike, check out my hiking guide! Here’s a comprehensive list of items to bring on your Grand Tetons day trip:
Dress in layers to adapt to changing temperatures throughout the day. Consider moisture-wicking and quick-drying materials for comfort during physical activities.
Consider bringing a rain jacket in the event of summer showers.
Wear sturdy hiking shoes or comfortable walking shoes with good traction to navigate various terrains and a pair of sandals if you’re planning on swimming!
Pack sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses to shield your eyes from the sun’s glare, and a wide-brimmed hat for added protection.
Camera and Binoculars
Capture the stunning scenery and wildlife encounters with a camera or smartphone. Binoculars will enhance your wildlife viewing experience.
Use a comfortable backpack to carry your belongings and snacks, leaving your hands free for exploration.
Bring a map or guidebook to help navigate the park and plan your activities. Consider downloading any trails you want to do on the AllTrails App.
Carry a basic first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any personal medications you may need. Also pack some sunscreen and bug spray!
By preparing and bringing these essential items, you’ll be well-equipped for an unforgettable day exploring the Grand Tetons’ breathtaking landscapes and wildlife encounters. Enjoy your adventure and cherish the memories you make in this stunning natural paradise!
Places to Stay in the Grand Tetons
If you’re planning on staying the night before or after your 24 hour adventure in the Grand Tetons there are plenty of options for your stay. Whether you prefer staying inside the park for easy access to nature or want to stay in Jackson Hole, you’ll definitely find an option to meet your needs.
Staying within the Grand Teton National Park offers a unique experience, with nature right at your doorstep. Rustic lodges and charming cabins blend harmoniously with the natural surroundings, providing an immersive wilderness experience. Wake up to stunning views and the serenity of the great outdoors. Be sure to book well in advance, as these accommodations tend to fill up quickly.
Hotels in Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole is a lively town located just south of the park that offers a wide range of hotels and resorts catering to various budgets and preferences. Here, you’ll find modern amenities, restaurants, and shops, creating a vibrant atmosphere after a day in the wilderness. Regardless of if you stay in Jackson Hole, you should still try to find time in your schedule to visit!
For those seeking a home-away-from-home experience, AirBnB and VRBO listings in the Grand Tetons area are worth exploring. You can find cozy cabins, charming cottages, or spacious lodges that offer both comfort and privacy. Many of these rentals are nestled in picturesque locations, providing a tranquil retreat after a day of adventure. Be sure to book early, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure the perfect accommodation for your trip.
The Grand Tetons have a number of different campsite options if you’re looking to continue your outdoor experience.
Whichever type of accommodation you choose, booking in advance is highly recommended, especially during the busy tourist seasons. Each option has its unique charm, providing an opportunity to make the most of your Grand Tetons day trip by relaxing and recharging for another day of exploration in this captivating natural wonderland.
Grand Tetons in 24 Hours
Whether you’re spending 24 hours in Grand Tetons or 1 week, you will be left inspired and desperate to return. The Grand Tetons are unlike any other single mountain range. They offer accessibility to beautiful vistas, amazing wildlife viewing, and pristine lakes.
There truly is something for everyone in the Grand Tetons. You just need to find out what!
If you have any questions about planning your own trip to the Grand Tetons, leave me a comment and I’d be ECSTATIC to help!
Save for Later: