Family Vacations to Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park (PhotoDisc)

Grand Teton National Park Family Travel Tips

  • Hike to crashing waterfalls for the perfect family picnic.
  • Canoe pristine lakes in the shadow of 12,605-foot Mount Moran.
  • Float the Snake River in search of moose, eagles, otters, and great blue herons.
  • Ride a stagecoach through Jackson.
  • Watch bull riding, barrel racing, and steer roping at the Jackson Hole Rodeo.

Grand Teton National Park's tooth-edged, snowcapped mountains, rising as high as 13,770 feet, fulfill all visions of the rugged and beautiful West. The Gros Ventre and Shoshoni tribes called the 40-mile range Teewinot, or "many pinnacles," a beauty that's surprisingly often bypassed en route to more famous and more crowded Yellowstone National Park to the north. In summer, enjoy hiking quiet trails, floating down the Snake River, and canoeing on pristine lakes, all the while delighting in the dramatic views of glacial peaks and frequent sightings of moose, deer, and elk.

Start your tour at the park's Moose Visitor Center, about 12 miles north of Jackson, where you can pick up a park newsletter listing ranger-led hikes, activities, and children's programs. With young gradeschoolers, drive north from the visitor center along Teton Park Road to Jenny Lake to board the ten-minute shuttle boat across the lake. From there it's a short walk to a picnic spot by a picturesque waterfall. Follow the sound of rushing water about a quarter-mile to Inspiration Point, perched 400 feet above Jenny Lake for a killer photo op, then continue a short way to Hidden Falls, another popular scenic spot. If older kids want a taste of backcountry solitude, follow the trail 3.5 miles to the glacier-rubbed boulders of Cascade Canyon, habitat of the yellow-bellied marmot and golden-mantled ground squirrel.

Wildlife in Grand Teton is never far from view, with beaver, otter, elk, and moose frequently on show along the Hermitage Point Trail, a three-mile loop through the pine forests, meadows, and wetlands surrounding Swan Lake and Heron Pond.

Within view of the area's iconic 12,605-foot Mount Moran, you can canoe String Lake and Leigh Lake, two nearly connected bodies of water, or walk the easy two-mile Leigh Lake Trail for more outstanding scenery and a place where your kids to dangle their feet as they scan for deer and other critters. You can also canoe 15-mile-long Jackson Lake, which dominates the northern part of the park

A float trip down the Snake River, such as those run by Barker-Ewing River Trips, gently weaves you through this landscape, providing ample opportunity for wildlife viewing, especially on dinner trips when animals emerge at dusk to forage. Enjoy the ride as great blue herons glide past and eagles return to their nests in the tall pines. With a keen eye you might even see a moose or two peering out from the forested riverbanks. Choose from half- or full-day scenic floats, capped with a sunset dinner, or settle in for more roiling Class II to III rides through Snake River Canyon.

In Jackson, the Grand Tetons' gateway town, you can book river trips, horseback rides, and mountain-bike tours with a variety of local outfitters. Young kids will like watching the nightly Wild West shoot-out on the town square and taking the stagecoach for a quick run.

When the mercury drops, the entire region is blanketed in Downy-soft, white snow. Tweens and teens can take on Jackson Hole's world-renowned slopes, though keep in mind the majority of the runs are geared toward experts and intermediates. You can also ice skate, go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or take snowmobiling excursions into the backcountry for a fun, high-intensity introduction to the winter wonderlands of the region.

Tip: For more cowboy culture, get a first-hand look at steer roping, barrel racing, and bull riding at the Jackson Hole Rodeo, held Wednesday and Saturday evenings Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Recommended Side Trips: Yellowstone National Park, Cody's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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