Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park was established as a National Park in 1929. The park includes a large portion of the Teton Range, 50 miles of the Snake River, and many lakes. Encompassing roughly 310,000 acres, the park is home to some of the most rugged terrain in the country.


Grand Teton National Park is located in the northwestern corner of Wyoming, near Jackson Hole. There is actually a road designated leading from Yellowstone National Park to Grand Teton.


Including one of the most rugged mountain ranges in the United States, seven morainal lakes, over 100 alpine lakes, 100 miles of paved roads, and 200 miles of hiking trails, the park has a multitude of activities for visitors. These include:

The Jackson Hole area is also home to the National Elk Refuge. While not inside the national park, the elk herd is an amazing sight. The town of Jackson has a lot of character, and while fairly touristy, it is a fun place to wander around.


All National Park System passes are valid at Grand Teton National Park. Single entry passes, providing access to the park for seven days, are $20 per vehicle, $10 per single hiker or bicyclist, and $15 per motorcycle.


Extreme high temperature: 93 degrees F (34 C)
Extreme low temperature: -46 degrees F (-43 C)
Average annual snowfall: 191 inches (490 cm)
Average annual rainfall: 10 inches (26 cm)

Plants and Animals

Animals indigenous to the area include:
No poisonous reptiles or spiders are known to inhabit the park

The Grand Tetons are host to many plants, including an abundance of wildflowers after snowmelt. Many of these plants are adapted to life above the 10,000 foot treeline. Most trees in the park are coniferous, such as pines, firs, and spruces, although aspen and cottonwoods can be found at lower elevations.


We'll start off the history of the park pretty early, roughly 2.5 billion years ago. The primary rocks which make up the Teton range, mainly igneous and metamorphic rocks including gneiss and granite, were formed around this time. Other geologic formations in the park include precambrian intrusions, sedimentary layers, and deposits of younger rocks.

The mountains themselves were produced by uplift along the Teton Fault roughly 9 million years ago. While this may seem like a long time, geologically this makes them one of the youngest portions of the Rocky Mountains. Due to this the Tetons are a very rugged range, since they haven't undergone much of the weathering and erosion older ranges have experienced. An interesting fact learned in the research of this is that the uplift which produced the Tetons has averaged something like 4.5 inches per hundred years during formation.

The peaks which are located in Grand Teton National Park are as follows, with their elevations above sea level:

History (A little more recent)

While Grand Teton National Park was established in 1929, humans have left evidence of existence as early as 11,000 years ago. Early usage of the area seems to be seasonal, with more permanent occupancy beginning sometime in the 1820s. This was mainly by fur traders, who trapped beaver in the greater Jackson Hole area. While Jackson Hole is not part of the National Park itself, it is the closest area of human habitation, and shares much of the history of the park. Due to a decline in the fur trade, interest in the area waned in the 1830s, but national surveys in the 1860s and 1870s named many features. Settlement began in the late 1800s, consisting primarily of valley ranching.

The precursors to Grand Teton National Park began with the establishment of the Teton Forest Reserve by President Grover Cleveland in 1897. In 1908, the Teton National Forest was created. Between these two forests most of Jackson Hole is considered some sort of public land. As stated earlier, the national park was established by Congress in 1929. At this time, the park was roughly 96,000 acres, including the main portion of the Teton Range and most of the glacial lakes at the base of the range. Interest by John D. Rockefeller beginning in 1926 led to the formation of the Snake River Land Company which purchased 35,000 acres of land in the area in 20 years. Unfortunately, there were accusations of illegal practices in the procurement of the land, and addition of this land to the park was delayed until 1943. At this time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared a 210,000 acre Jackson Hole National Monument through the Antiquities Act of 1906. This sparked state rights controversies, but the monument and national park were merged (along with most of the Rockefeller lands) in 1950.

Personal Experience

I have never actually been inside the national park itself, but I did spend spring break of my freshman year of college in Jackson Hole skiing. The hole is very interesting terrain, as five separate mountain ranges meet there, and there is a relatively flat valley between them. The mountains also seem very abrupt. For instance, Rendezvous Peak, the highest peak of the Jackson Hole ski resort, is less than a mile from the flat of the valley floor. It also happens to have the largest vertical rise of any ski resort in the United States.

I believe my parents spent some time in Grand Teton National Park during their honeymoon, but that's enough information for me. One of the former geology professors at Augustana College in Rock Island (where my parents went to college), Fritiof Fryxell, actually did a good bit of the surveying and first ascents of the Teton range. Add to that the fact that my father took a good number of geology classes in college, and I guess I have a bit of a connection to the area.

Travels with Geology - Grand Teton National Park . April 15, 2002
The Teton Range. . April 15, 2002
Grand Teton National Park Information Page . April 15, 2002
Grand Teton National Park . National Park Service. April 15, 2002

Written for the U.S. national Parks and Monuments quest

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