Grand Teton National Park seems rather straightforward for visitors, no? You stop at any one of the pullouts along U.S. 191/89/26 and gaze up at this gray massifs. Well, if that's all you do, you'll miss out on a lot.
Here are five aspects of enjoying the park in spring, summer, or fall you definitely should consider:
* Climb that mountain! While it might seem imposing, climbing the Grand Teton actually is not out-of-the-question if you're in good shape. The resident guiding companies will teach you the basics of climbing and safely lead you to the summit. It requires one day of climbing school, and if you pass then two days on the mountain. But when you gaze down on the Jackson Hole Valley below and look north over the surrounding crags to Yellowstone National Park, you'll know you're someplace special.
* Hoist a pack and head for the high country. The Teton Crest Trail ranges only about 40 miles, but oh those miles! Traced out against the backdrop of jagged peaks and wildflower-filled basins, this trail will drain your camera's memory with its incredible vistas. Michael Lanza, a contributor to the Traveler and northwest editor for Backpacker magainze, calls the Teton Crest Trail an "American Classic," and rightly so. If you're curious, read his blog about backpacking on the spine of the Tetons.
* Spend some time at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. Immerse yourself in studying conservation, sit back with a book in front of the fireplace if there's a chill in the air, or spend some time exploring the 8 miles of hiking trails. They'll provide you with sweeping views of the Teton Range, a view down towards Phelps Lake, and offer an option for a long hike into Death Canyon. For added insights, on summer days join a ranger at 9:30 a.m. for a 3-mile hike along the Lake Creek Trail through forest and meadows to the shore of Phelps Lake. (Reservations suggested: 307-739-3654)
* Flee the camping crowds. The Lizard Creek Campground on the northern end of Jackson Lake is the best place to enjoy some peace and quiet from the world of industrial campgrounds with their hundreds of sites. At Lizard Creek you'll have your choice of 60 sites scattered amid spruce and firs, with the lake always within site.
* Explore Mormon Row. Here, on the east side of U.S. 191/89/26 you'll have much more solitude as you explore this historic area that was homesteaded in the late 1800s and early 1900s by 27 families. Here you'll find the most-photographed barn in Wyoming, the Thomas Alma Moulton barn. You'll also come along the Chambers resident, a log cabin built on land Andy Chambers acquired in 1912. through the Homestead Act. The entire Mormon Row area was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Aside from the rich history to be found, this side of the park features quite a bit of wildlife in pronghorn antelope and bison.