How to Make the Most of Your Grand Teton Expedition
The captivating mystique-Grand Teton has a unique allure to many mountaineering enthusiasts. It is located in Northwest Wyoming within the Grand Teton National Park.
The Grand Teton is part of the Teton Range which is a series of the Rocky Mountains found in North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch from southern Alaska to northern New Mexico. This central massif comprises of other principal summits like Mount Owen, Mount Wister, Teewinot, Middle Teton, South Teton, Buck Mountain and Static Peak.
The Grand Teton forms the highest point in the Teton Range and is Wyoming’s second highest peak standing at 4,199m after the Gannett Peak.
Grand Teton National Park Photo by Ken Lane
Geology and formation
The Grand Teton is a fault block mountain. About 9million years ago, the Teton fault was formed with the thinning and stretching of the earth’s crust. The fault’s west block rose to form the Teton Range while the east block along the fault line slid downwards to form the valley known as the Jackson Hole.
Mountains tend to appear ageless but similar to humankind, they go through the natural processes of aging. The stages of birth, youthfulness, maturity and old age are common with all mountains. They eventually disappear with time as destructive processes act on them. These processes may appear slow to us, and may even go unnoticed but they have definitely been operating over eons of years.
The Grand Teton being at the youthful stage is constantly exposed to these destructive processes that carry debris away and continually sculpture its rugged features.
Grand Teton Climate
The Grand Teton experiences a semi-arid type of climate. From November through to January, snow dominates making them the wettest months. On higher altitudes, snow thickness averages 450 inches annually while in the valleys, snow averages 191 inches annually.
The highest recorded temperature is 34 °C while the lowest recorded temperature is −54 °C.
Since temperatures fluctuate frequently at higher altitudes depending on the weather patterns, you should be prepared to expect the temperatures to plummet with at least 10°C to 15 °C at any given time.
January is the coldest month with an average of −3 °C and July is the warmest month with an average of 27 °C.
Precipitation averages slightly over 21 inches annually with January having the highest amount of rain and July the lowest.
Climbing Grand Teton
For many rock climbers and mountaineering enthusiasts, the Grand Teton is a popular destination because most routes are accessible by road. The well-marked trails and established summit routes are additionally magnetic.
Most climbers are essentially left to determine their own skill level while being keen on not exposing themselves to unnecessary risks.
For beginners and those less familiar with the routes, I suggest you contact guide services who provide climbing escorts and instructions to the summit. Exum Mountain Guides is known to be the best service provider when it comes to mountaineering in the U. S.Jackson Hole Mountain Guides is equally among the finest. These two companies have a concession in the park.
Few things to note before you summit:
You can reach the rangers on (307) 739-3343 for summer conditions, and for winter conditions (307) 739-3309.
- Check weather conditions for the route you intend to use. The Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers has an online site that is constantly updated during the climbing season with condition reports. This will help you pare down the right equipment.
- Inform a friend or relative on your return date such that they can alert the necessary people in case you are overdue. Remember to carry a cell phone with you as much as this is highly dependent on whether reception will be available.
- All routes lie in the alpine environment so expect temperatures to change from normal to sub-freezing with storms, snow and dangers of rock fall.
- The two classic routes to the summit of the Grand Teton are the Exum Ridge and the Owen Spalding. So pack your equipment according to the route you choose.
- Make sure you are well hydrated before and during the climb to help acclimatize better.
- Start your hike early to the Lower Saddle regardless of whether you intend to pull an overnight stay or not.
- Keep monitoring the weather and be prepared to abort the mission if the weather seems to take a turn for the worst. Lightning strikes have killed several climbers.
- Also plan to be done with the summit by noon to avoid thunderstorms.
- You will need two 60m ropes, trekking poles, helmet, rock shoes, mountaineering boots, crampons, water, ice-ax, tent and sleeping bags for an overnight stay and extra clothing.
How long does it take to climb Grand Teton?
The Grand Teton summit is roughly 2 miles but it climbs 2700 ft. For experienced climbers and those in peak physical condition, the mountain can be summited in a day, about 6-8 hours round-trip.
However, if you want to spend more time with this peak and enjoy it to the maximum, you can space out your climbing time to 2 or 3 days.
When is the best time to climber and Teton?
The summer season begins in June till early September which is also the climbing season. July is the most popular month as it is the driest and warmest month, however, it is prone to afternoon thunderstorms. So plan an early start and be off the summit before 1 pm latest.
Any permits, passes or reservations needed?
You will not require any permit to climb the Grand Teton but you will be required to acquire one only if you will staying overnight. The permit is acquired at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.
Many campgrounds have a first come-first served approach, however, they may require reservations for group camping.
Since the Grand Teton is within the Grand Teton National Park, you will be charged an entrance fee of $35 for a private vehicle, $30 for a motorcycle and $20 for a hiker or biker. All permits are valid for 7 days.
Boating and floating permits can be acquired at Colter Bay visitors center or Moose Jenny Lake.
Accommodation on Grand Teton
Camping on Grand Teton
The Grand Teton National Park offers 5 campgrounds with no need for a reservation unless you are planning a group camp. Jenny Lake has a campground with 49 sites which fills up very fast as it is only meant for tents.
Other campgrounds include Flagg Ranch with 175 sites, Signal Mountain with 86 sites, Gros Ventre with 360 sites, Colter Bay with 350 sites and Lizard Creek with 60 sites. If you want a full RV hookup, Flagg Ranch and Colter Bay got you covered with over 100 sites.
One of the best camping options before your climb would be the American Alpine Club Climbers’ Ranch. You don’t have to be a member to stay here. It offers rustic accommodation at a fee of only $20 per night. Just bring along your bedding and mattress. Showers and cooking areas are provided.
You can reach them at (307) 733-7271 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain climbing routes
The Lupine Meadow trailhead is the starting point for most mountain routes. This will lead you the Garnet Canyon and after 1.7miles or so, the trail will come to a fork. Stay on your right for another 1.5 miles which will bring you to another fork. If you choose to use the Exum Ridge or Owen Spalding routes, turn left and proceed for about 1.1 miles. At this juncture, you will find the Platforms campsites at 8,960ft.
As you continue upwards to Meadows, you will come across the Upper Morraine campsites and the Lower Saddle headwall will appear above it. From the Lower Saddle, there are at least 38 routes to the Grand Teton summit. Most climbers prefer the Exum Ridge and Owen Spalding routes.
If you choose the Owen-Spalding route, while descending the upper portion trend towards your right till you reach a slab, then proceed left to the rappel station. Hike back to Lower Saddle after rappelling to the gully.
If you decide to you use the North Face routes or to climb via the East Ridge, your trailhead approach will still be from the Lupine Meadow only that you will turn right at the second fork where the Amphitheatre Lake lies.
Grand Teton Hiking Trails
Lake Solitude-this is a tough hike but it offers the best and most scenic views of wildlife, lakes, the park’s largest waterfall, and the mountain slope.
String Lake Loop-I recommend this trail if you want something less physically straining or demanding. This route offers scenic views which include a reflection of Grand Teton in the Spring Lake. Have an early morning start for you to enjoy this beautiful glimpse.
Cascade Canyon-it is one of the most popular trails in the Grand Teton. Moreover, you will be treated to a view of the Teewinot Mountain that is near the canyon’s mouth. The Canyon trail is also known for its wildflowers and if you are lucky you can spot some wildlife.
Static Peak Divide-this is an extremely challenging hike trail but it offers epic scenic views.
Amphitheatre Lake-this is the best trail to a mountain lake in the park. While standing on the eastern shores of this subalpine lake, you will be treated to the views of the Grand Teton, Teewinot Mountain, Disappointment Peak, Mt. Owen and the Middle Teton.
Taggart Lake-this is considered the easiest trail and consequently one of the most popular in the park. Spectacular views of Grand Teton can be fully enjoyed from this trail.
Garnet Canyon-it is also among the easiest trails in the park. You will enjoy viewing the Grand Teton with its majestic nature and Middle Teton’s molten dike that you will definitely find fascinating.
- In case of an emergency call 911
- Grand Teton National Park: 307-739-3300
- Grand Teton Nation Park (for those with impaired hearing):307-739-3400
- Emergency Management Teton Wyoming: 307-733-9572
- John’s Medical Centre: 307-733-3636
- John’s Medical Centre(ER): 307-733-7250
- Teton County Sherrif:307-733-2331
Flora on Grand Teton
Grand Teton and its environs are home to over 1000 plant species. Soil conditions, slope, elevation, and moisture are a key determinant to where certain plants grow.
On the Jackson Hole valley that has loose rocky soil, the silvery-green sagebrush is quite diverse.
Grasses, willows, wildflowers, cottonwood, and sedges grow along the Snake River because of their moisture-loving characteristics.
Lichens, longleaf phlox, and mosses grow in the alpine zones.
Fauna on Grand Teton
There are over 61 species of mammals found in the Grand Teton National Park including the gray wolf. Carnivores like the Grizzlies with the American Black Bear being quite common, coyote, marten, river otters and Canadian lynx have also been spotted roaming the great lands too.
Rodent species include muskrat, chipmunks, squirrels, snowshoe hare, porcupines, beavers, and bats.
Over 300 bird species have been recorded including the trumpeter swans, American wigeon, harlequin duck, blue-winged teal, eagles and calliope hummingbird and Other birds also prey include red-tailed hawk; osprey, and American kestrel and peregrine falcon have been spotted there too.
Four reptile species have been spotted as well including the garter snake and rubber boa. One lizard species-the sagebrush lizard has been recorded.
Hiking with Kids
There are numerous hiking trails with beautiful sceneries to explore with your children around the Grand Teton. Most of the things have been incorporated in the next section.
Things to do
This can be a fun climbing activity for yourself and your children too. Exum Mountain Guides are well known for their popular program for families. They can also customize the day’s activities as per your wishes. It normally takes place at the Hidden Falls. One of the prerequisites for signing up is that a family must have a kid under the age of 14 years.
You can reach them on 307-733-2297 for prices and bookings.
Be prepared to get soaked with your children at the Snake River rapids in Jackson Hole and Whitewater rafting is also a sure thrill. I suggest you arrange your trip with one of the guiding outfits in the area like Sands Whitewater. Consequently, the cost ranges between$80 and $100 for adults while the kids rate is slightly reduced. Please note that children under the age of 6 years cannot participate in this activity.
This rustic pool is a 112-degree natural hot spring located in Jackson Hole. In fact, why not allow your kids to splash and swim here while you relax your sore muscles after a tough climb?
The cost is $8 for adults and $5 for children.
Visit the Granite Hot Springs
Yaay! Go and feel more Western at the Jackson Hole Rodeo by participating in bull riding, calf roping, bronc riding and also barrel racing too. Sounds fun, right? It is normally open from 8 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Rodeo shows are normally presented throughout July and August on Friday evenings and the cost is about $35 and $5 only less for children.
Wild, Wild West Rodeo!
Want to have a feel of the tradition and texture of the West? Get on the back of a horse and also enjoy a ride on one of the very well-mannered and trained horses at Jackson Hole. Ignite the cowboy/girl within!
Take a horseback trail ride
How cool is this! Jenny Lake sits as a pearl necklace shining and lacing the base of the Grand Teton. At a small fee, the short boat ride will give you a different perspective of the Teton and you also can choose to hike to Inspiration Point where you are treated to a gorgeous view of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole from atop!
Ride a boat across Jenny Lake
Float or fish in the Snake River
Snake River at Grand Teton photo by Ken Lane
The calm and mild section of the Snake River comes with amazing things to offer. In fact, just like lazily floating on a raft with a goofy guide cracking jokes and you may most likely be paired with another family. Moreover, you and the kids can make a friend or two on-shore and can also choose to fly-fish instead, no?
Basically, this visitor center offers great human and climbing history, the geology of the region and an awesome display of wildlife. The kids are free to touch and pick the antlers and horns displayed which can be quite fascinating as well.
The Moose Visitor Centre
Moreover, the Grand Teton National Park has paved bike paths so it shouldn’t be difficult for you to enjoy some good exercise while communing with nature. The paths normally come to an end at the parking lot of the stunning Jenny Lake. Though, you can rent a bike in the small town of Moose or better still, from Jackson town at a small fee. And while at it, drop by Dornan’s-the locals’ favorite pizza joint and grab a slice for me!
Go bike riding
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