Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park sees more than 3.4 million visitors each year

Grand Teton National Park is home of the tallest mountain in the Teton Range. The park’s historic Jackson Hole and reflective piedmont lakes teem with endemic wildlife, with a backdrop of craggy mountains that rise abruptly from the sage-covered valley.

Geology

Over billions of years, natural forces including earthquakes, glaciers and erosion have shaped this magnificent landscape

The Teton Range towers over the valley of Jackson Hole, providing dramatic alpine scenery and drawing millions of visitors to Grand Teton National Park each year. Over billions of years, natural forces including earthquakes, glaciers and erosion have shaped this magnificent landscape.

Metamorphic & Igneous Rocks – Ancient Core

The Teton Range contains some of the oldest rocks in North America, similar to those exposed in other major mountain ranges of the western U.S., including the Bighorns, the Gros Ventre and Wind River ranges.

A 2.7 billion-year old metamorphic rock called gneiss makes up much of the Teton Range. These rocks were formed when sea floor sediments and volcanic debris were buried up to 18 miles deep as two tectonic plates collided. The intense heat and pressure at these great depths changed or metamorphosed the sediments into today’s rocks, separating different minerals into lighter and darker layers. Watch for the zebra-striped layers as you step over rocks on your hike.

Molten magma began squeezing into cracks in the gneiss 2.5 billion years ago, and it cooled and crystallized to form igneous granite. This speckled rock with its interlocking crystals is harder than gneiss, and it forms the highest peaks in the central Teton Range, including the Grand Teton and Middle Teton. Other peaks, such as Teewinot and Mount Moran, show stripes of darker and lighter gray where the granite cross-cuts the gneiss.

Roughly 775 million years ago, the region stretched north to south, cracking the deeply buried gneiss and granite and forming a series of vertical, east-west trending cracks. Basaltic magma squirted into these cracks and cooled to form dikes of an igneous rock called diabase. One of these dikes that slices through the face of Mount Moran is 150 feet wide—if the exposed part of the dike melted, the magma would fill Jenny Lake three times over! Black diabase dikes are also visible from the Teton Park Road on the east face of the Middle Teton and the southeast flank of the Grand Teton.

Sedimentary Rocks – Drape the Core

Above the igneous and metamorphic core are layers of sedimentary rocks that wrap around the Teton Range and are eroding from the eastern side. For example, a small island of remnant sandstone tops the summit of Mount Moran! These sediments were laid down when global sea levels rose, first depositing beach sands (the Flathead Sandstone that caps Mount Moran) and continuing with limestones deposited in shallow seas and mudstones that were a deeper ocean floor. These seafloor rocks preserve a variety of fossils, including trilobites, stromatolites, corals, and shells of other organisms.

Mountain Building

The Tetons are one of the youngest mountain ranges in North America. They have been uplifting for less than 10 million years, making them “adolescent” mountains, as compared to the “middle-aged” Rockies (60-80 million years old) or the “elderly” Appalachians (more than 300 million years old). Erosion has had much less time to work in the Tetons, comparatively, so their jagged peaks remain standing high.

The mountains uplift one earthquake at a time along the 40-mile long Teton fault, a north-south trending crack in the earth’s crust. As the region stretches in an east-west direction, this stress builds to a breaking point when it generates an earthquake, lifting the mountain block skyward while dropping the valley floor. On average, the fault moves 10 feet in each earthquake: six to eight feet up and two to four feet down. In the 10 million years since the fault began moving, the total offset is approaching 30,000 feet. As a quick estimate, the Flathead sandstone on top of Mount Moran is 6,000 feet above the valley and that same layer is buried roughly 24,000 feet below the valley floor on the east side of the fault.

Teton Fault

The Teton fault is still active and capable of generating a magnitude 7.0-7.5 earthquake. The best place to view the fault is the Cathedral Group Turnout on the Jenny Lake Scenic Loop. The fault scarp is along the mountain front, visible as a steeper slope that breaks through more gently sloping glacial deposits. This offset represents up to a dozen earthquakes occurring since glacial ice melted from the valley about 20,000 years ago. Geoscientists have dated the two most recent earthquakes at 4,800 and less than 8,000 years ago.

Glaciers

Pleistocene Ice Age glaciers sculpted the Teton landscape over multiple glacial advances, which widened V-shaped river canyons into U-shaped glacial canyons, bulldozed depressions filled by lakes today, sharpened high peaks, and filled the valley floor with outwash debris. The most recent advance, known as the Pinedale, lasted from roughly 50,000 to 12,000 years ago. Many hikers access the park’s high country by traveling up glacial canyons such as Cascade, Paintbrush, Death Canyon and Granite. Look for features like glacially polished bedrock as you hike through these areas.

In an earlier glacial advance, about 200,000 years ago, larger ice sheets flowed off the Yellowstone Plateau through the Jackson Hole valley, almost reaching Hoback Junction and burying the valley with more than 2,000 feet of ice. These glaciers left behind outwash plains of gravel and cobbles that are now covered in sagebrush. Glacial meltwater carried away the fine sands and silts that would have retained moisture and allowed topsoil to form; sagebrush is well adapted to dry soils, so it now covers these outwash plains. Conversely, conifers cover moraines, which mark the borders of former glaciers. Glaciers carry boulders, cobbles and gravel as they flow and grind up rocky material to the consistency of flour. As glaciers melt constantly at their terminus, they deposit this rocky debris as ridges called moraines. The fine-grained material help soils form and retains moisture, allowing trees to grow. Look for moraines ringing glacial lakes such as Jenny, Taggart and Jackson, as well as some isolated moraines such as Timbered Island.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/nature/geology.htm

Native American History

Home of the Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead, Gros Ventre, Nez Perce and others

People first ventured into this valley as glaciers receded. The earliest evidence of humans in this area dates back at least 11,000 years. By the time Europeans arrived, tribes such as the Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead, Gros Ventre, Nez Perce and others were harvesting the valley’s seasonal riches. Native people came to hunt animals, gather plants and collect rocks and minerals. These mountains also held spiritual meaning for American Indians, a connection that endures today.

Indians camped near rivers and lakes to hunt wildlife and harvest roots and berries, often roasting camas root in underground pits. Both wildlife and plants were essential to their diet. With the coming winter, Indians often left the valley for milder locales as did most of their prey. Read more about park archaeology.

How to get there: American Indians mainly camped in the northern part of what is now Grand Teton National Park. A great place to view camas is an open meadow located at an undesignated turnout on the North Park Road (highway 89/197/287). The turnout is located north of Leeks Marina on the right-hand side. An interpretive wayside exhibit marks its location.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/historyculture/ind.htm

Park History

How Grand Teton became a National Park

Richard and Jenny Leigh

Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh, a British expatriate and fur trapper, arrived in Teton Valley, Idaho with his Shoshone wife Jenny in 1863. The Hayden Expedition of 1872 named Leigh and Jenny lakes for their assistance, breaking from the tradition of naming landmarks after expedition team members. Jenny and their six children died of smallpox in 1876. Later, Beaver Dick expressed his grief in a letter to a friend: “i am all alone and i keep doing at some thing from day light to dark every day. i am very lonsome.”

John Colter

Little is known about John Colter. He may have passed through the valley in 1807 over Teton Pass after he split off from the Lewis and Clark Expedition from Fort Manuel. In 1931, a farmer plowing a field unearthed a stone inscribed “John Colter” on one side and “1808” on the other side near Tetonia, Idaho. It is not clear if Colter actually carved this stone or not. Read more about the Colter Stone.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/historyculture/trap.htm

Attractions

The best things to do in Grand Teton National Park

Wild & Scenic Rafting the Snake River. …
Jackson Lake Cruise with Breakfast or Dinner. …
The 42 Mile Scenic Loop Drive. …
Horseback Rides. …
Hiking. …
Ranger & Naturalist Programs. …
Fishing. …
Wildlife Viewing

Vegetation

Over 1000 species of vascular plants grow in Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding area.

Over 1000 species of vascular plants grow in Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding area. Soil conditions, availability of moisture, slope, aspect, and elevation all determine where plants grow. Plants that require similar conditions are often found growing in the same area. These associations form various plant communities. It is useful to divide the plants of Grand Teton National Park into the following communities: sagebrush flats, riparian corridors and wetlands, forests, and alpine areas.
The valley floor of Jackson Hole is comprised of loose rocky soil that allows water to percolate through easily. Silvery-green big leaf sagebrush blankets the valley. Although at first glance it appears that only sage grows on the flats, this area is remarkably diverse.

Moisture-loving plants find suitable growing conditions along the Snake River, its tributaries, and other wetland areas. Narrow leaf cottonwood and willows, both of which thrive in wet areas, grow along the watercourses, creating ribbons of bright green across the landscape. Wet meadows provide the conditions suited to grasses, sedges, and wildflowers.

The canyons, mountainsides, and ridges formed of glacial debris, called moraines, contain soils capable of holding moisture. These conditions support the growth of trees. Conifers dominate these areas, coloring the slopes a dark green.

Although they appear gray and lifeless, the high alpine reaches of the park support plants specially adapted to the harsh growing conditions found there. Wind, snow, lack of soil, increased ultraviolet radiation, rapid and dramatic shifts in temperature, and a short growing season all challenge the hardy plants that survive here. Most plants adapt by growing close to the ground in mats like the alpine forget-me-not.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/nature/plants.htm

Animal Life

Grand Teton National Park’s 310,000 acres lie at the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

It seems that wildlife is never far away in Grand Teton National Park. High in the mountains, a yellow-bellied marmot whistles a warning as a golden eagle soars above. Searching for insect larvae, a black bear rips into a rotten lodgepole pine log. On the valley floor, a herd of bison graze as a coyote trots through the sagebrush, looking for a meal. Along the Snake River, an osprey dives into the water with talons extended, rising with a cutthroat trout. In a nearby meadow, a moose browses the tender buds of willows that grow in this water-rich environment.

Animals relate to and shape the environment in which they survive; they are also interconnected. Some of these relationships are obvious, while others are much less so. These relationships and connections cross park boundaries. Grand Teton National Park’s 310,000 acres lie at the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem encompasses over twenty million acres and is considered one of the few remaining, nearly intact, temperate ecosystems on Earth. The animals inhabiting Grand Teton National Park depend on this vast area for survival, residing in and migrating to different areas depending on the season.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/nature/animals.htm

Hiking Trails

There are so many incredible hikes in this park! Here’s a few of our favorite

Aspen Ridge – Boulder Ridge
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Front-Country Hiking
Duration: 2-3 Hours
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Of Day: Day, Dawn, Dusk
A rocky mountain canyon sits across a calm lake.
Travel through aspens and boulders as you travel to Phelps Lake on this moderate loop trail.

Bearpaw and Trapper Lakes
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Front-Country Hiking
Duration: 4-5 Minutes
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: String Lake
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Of Day: Day
A pond surrounded by grassy shores.
Hike along the shore of Leigh Lake for panoramic views of Mount Moran.

Christian Pond Loop
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Front-Country Hiking
Duration: 1-2 Hours
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: Jackson Lake Lodge
Season: Spring, Summer
Time Of Day: Day
A trail in a marsh area.
Christian Pond is an easy loop trail through a marsh habitat.

Death Canyon – Static Peak Divide Junction
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Backcountry Hiking
Duration: 4-6 Hours
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: Death Canyon Trailhead
Season: Summer, Fall
Time Of Day: Day
A mountain canyon full of trees.
Travel into the Teton Range on this strenuous day or overnight hike to Death Canyon.

Emma Matilda Lake
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Backcountry Hiking
Duration: 5-6 Hours
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: Two Ocean Lake
Season: Summer, Fall
Time Of Day: Day
Wildflowers with a lake in the background.
Hike around Emma Matilda Lake for wildflowers and views of the Teton Range.

Flagg Canyon
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Front-Country Hiking
Duration: 2-3 Hours
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: Flagg Ranch
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Of Day: Day
A female hiker walks along a wooded trail by a river.
Explore the northern stretch of the Snake River on this easy hike through Flagg Canyon.

Forks of Cascade Canyon
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Backcountry Hiking
Duration: 5-8 Hours
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: Jenny Lake
Season: Summer, Fall
Time Of Day: Day
A river runs beside a rocky trail in the middle of a mountain canyon.
Travel deep into the Teton Range on this hike through Cascade Canyon.

Garnet Canyon
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Backcountry Hiking
Duration: 4-8 Hours
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: Lupine Meadows Trailhead
Season: Summer, Fall
Time Of Day: Day
Middle Teton rises out of the center of a snowy canyon.
Travel to the heart of the Teton Range on a strenuous hike into Garnet Canyon.

Grand View Point
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Backcountry Hiking
Duration: 3-4 Hours
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: Jackson Lake Lodge
Season: Summer, Fall
Time Of Day: Day
Mountains and a lake as viewed from a high vantage point.
Hike to Grand View Point for panoramic views of the Teton Range and Jackson Hole.

Hermitage Point
Parks: Grand Teton National Park
Type: Front-Country Hiking
Duration: 4-5 Hours
Reservations: No
Pets: No
Location: Colter Bay
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Time Of Day: Day

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/hike.htm

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