An ethereal mountain landscape where jagged peaks tower more than a mile above the Jackson Hole valley, Grand Teton National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming just south of Yellowstone National Park and just north of the town of Jackson. Visitors can reach the park through U.S. 191.
The park’s mountain range is very popular among climbers, hikers and photographers. The Tetons are a prime example of fault-block mountain formation. When the earth’s crust cracked along a fault millions of years ago, the Tetons rose into the sky. The exposed crystalline rocks give these mountains their dramatic appearance in any season. The Grand Teton rises to 13,770 feet above sea level and 12 other peaks reach above 12,000 feet elevation.
The floor of Jackson Hole tells the story of glacial outwash – sand and boulders carried out of the Teton Mountains and the Yellowstone Plateau by glaciers and deposited on the valley floor. Interesting saucer-like depressions, called potholes, dot the outwash plain. These are thought to be the result of huge chunks of buried glacial ice melting leaving the ground above suddenly without support.
Sixty species of mammals, over 300 species of birds and a half dozen game fish call the Jackson Hole area home. The American elk (wapiti) is the most common member of the deer family in the park. During the summer, the elk range high in the mountains in search of food. When winter comes, they descend to the floor of Jackson Hole. Many migrate to the National Elk Refuge just north of the town of Jackson.
Grand Teton National Park offers hiking, camping, climbing, boating, kayaking and numerous photography opportunities. A road winds through the park, but the best way to experience the park is to take one of its shorter trails.
Grand Teton’s History
Located at the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Rockefeller Parkway connects Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The late conservationist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made significant contributions to several national parks including Grand Teton, Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains, and Virgin Islands.
In 1972 Congress dedicated a 24,000 acre parcel of land as John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway to recognize his generosity and foresight. Congress also named the highway from the south boundary of Grand Teton to West Thumb in Yellowstone in honor of Rockefeller.
The parkway provides a natural link between the two national parks and contains features characteristic of both areas. In the parkway, the Teton Range tapers to a gentle slope at its northern edge, while rocks born of volcanic flows from Yellowstone line the Snake River and form outcroppings scattered atop hills and ridges.
Grand Teton National Park administers John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.
Nature and Beauty
Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park protects stunning mountain scenery and a diverse array of wildlife. Rising more than 7,000 feet above the valley of Jackson Hole, the Teton Range dominates the park’s skyline. Natural processes continue to shape the ecosystem against this impressive and iconic backdrop.
The elevation of the park ranges from 6,400 feet on the sagebrush-dominated valley floor to 13,770 feet on the windswept granite summit of the Grand Teton. Between the summit and plain, forests carpet the mountainsides. During summer, wildflowers paint meadows in vivid colors. Crystalline alpine lakes fill glacial cirques, and noisy streams cascade down rocky canyons to larger lakes at the foot of the range. These lakes, impounded by glacial debris, mirror the mountains on calm days. Running north to south, the Snake River winds its way down the valley and across this amazing scene.
Long, snowy, and bitterly cold winters make the climate of Jackson Hole unforgiving. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Grand Teton National Park was –63°F, and snow often blankets the landscape from early November to late April. Brief, relatively warm summers provide a respite from the rigors of winter and a time of renewal and rebirth. In cooperation or competition, the plants and animals adapt to this harsh climate and dramatic elevation change as each finds ways to survive.