The gateway to Grand Teton National Park
is the small but busy resort town of Jackson
, which provides all necessary facilities, found mostly south of the historic but rather cramped center, where the roads are narrow and lined with many cafes, bars and Western gift shops. US 191/89 exits the north edge of town and is soon crossing empty countryside, bordered by a small mesa on the left side (Gros Ventre Butte), and an unbroken swathe of tall yellow grass on the other. This marshy land is part of the National Elk Refuge
, and the pullouts along the road are usually full of people looking intently for the animals, though the elk are not often in sight as the reserve extends several miles northeast, beyond a range of low hills.
The Tetons are not properly visible from Jackson or the first few miles of US 191, but come fully into view once past the national park boundary, where the highway rounds the edge of the hills and crosses the Gros Ventre River. A road forks off to the east, reaching a 360 site NPS campground on partly wooded land close to the river, then continues to Lower Slide Lake - a recently created feature, formed by the Gros Ventre Slide
in 1925, when heavy rain and a minor earthquake caused a huge amount of rock to slip from the northern slopes of Sheep Mountain, completely damming the river for nearly two years.
Maps of Grand Teton National Park: overview
Moose Junction and Antelope Flats
The main road passes Jackson Hole Airport
- not surprisingly this is the only commercial airport in any US national park - and arrives at Moose Junction
, at the south end of Teton Park Road
, the most scenic route in the park. The Grand Teton National Park headquarters and the Craig Thomas Discovery Center are located near the intersection, beside the Snake River, and also one of the NPS entrance booths; there are none along US 191 as this is a major cross-state route so can be driven without payment. The next junction is with the Antelope Flats Road
, a lesser-used route across treeless sagebrush flats, where bison, elk, pronghorn antelope and mule deer are often seen. The road reaches a T junction near the edge of the park, with both forks leading to free camping places in the neighboring Bridger-Teton National Forest
- most popular is the left road, which after 2 miles passes several sheltered places at the edge of woodland. The sites have uninterrupted views across Jackson Hole towards the mountains, a view especially pretty at sunrise on a cloudless morning. Another junction on the Antelope Flats Road is with Mormon Row
, a dirt track lined with a dozen or more long disused wooden houses and barns, built by settlers in the late 19th century. The weathered, angular planks and the rich colors of the wood contrasting with the grey-green sagebrush plains and the distant jagged peaks of the Tetons make this location particularly photogenic.
The highway continues north across similar sagebrush landscape for 15 miles, running quite close to the Snake River past one short trail (to Cunningham Cabin
, an 1890s homestead) and various pull-outs for viewing the Tetons to the west, though there is not much else of interest until Moran Junction
, where US 26/287 forks east, towards Dubois and Lander. US 191 turns northeast, through a national park entrance station and meets another junction, with Pacific Creek Road
- leading amongst other places to a picturesque picnic area/trailhead
at the edge of Two Ocean Lake
. Not far beyond the junction, at Oxbow Bend
the highway overlooks a slowly moving, semi-abandoned meander of the Snake River, curving through a flat marshy area. The pullout is a good place to look for wildlife such as beaver, muskrat, elk and moose, though there are no paths into this area.
At Jackson Lake Junction
, US 191 meets the north end of Teton Park Road
, shortly followed by Willow Flats Overlook
, an elevated viewpoint of a big expanse of tall grass, reeds, marsh and sagebrush close to the edge of Jackson Lake. Two trails
start at nearby Jackson Lake Lodge
- one crosses the flats towards Colter Bay and the other
leads eastwards to two lakes, one quite small (Christian Pond), the other much larger (Emma Matilda). The lodge sits just off the road on a low, wooded hill, offering various services including accommodation, a gas station, restaurant, and horse rentals.
The last major site along the highway is Colter Bay Village
, on wooded land right by the shore of Jackson Lake, at the end of a side road. Besides several easy trails
to ponds, meadows and promontories by the shoreline, the village is also home to most of the park's facilities - it has a 350 site campground, a restaurant, lodge, boat launch, marina, visitor center, gas station and Indian arts museum. Half a mile or so of the shore may be reached by road, allowing easy access to lengthy sections of clean, stony beaches, with views of the lake, its islands, and the Tetons directly opposite.
After another boat launch site (Leeks Marina
), US 191/89 comes closer to Jackson Lake and runs right along the edge for a while, past three picnic areas before moving back into the forest, leaving the national park and entering a separate NPS preserve designated John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway
, which contains just one visitor location at Flagg Ranch
(campsite, lodge, general store and NPS information station), and a side track to Grassy Lake Reservoir
. This leads, after a few miles through the trees, to over a dozen free campsites, equipped with rest room, tables & bbq grills, and some overlooking the Snake River - convenient places to stay when visiting both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone
, a few miles north. The parkway commemorates philanthropist and conservationist John Rockefeller, who helped in the early stages of the development of several national parks, including Grand Teton.