Is It Worth Going To Grand Teton National Park In The Winter?

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Yes!  100% worth it.  There you go.  That’s all.  I kid.  I’ll break it down for you a bit more than that.  Short answer: yes.  Long answer: yes, but there are some things to consider before you take the (polar) plunge to visit Grand Teton National Park in the winter.  So read on to help plan your trip a little better.  And trust me, you’ll want to (probably) go after reading this.

It will be snowy

Like, really snowy.  Last winter I think they got between 400 and 500 inches of snow.  That’s somewhere between 33 and 41 feet in case you were wondering.  Some years they get less, some more, but it will be snowy.

I tended to notice a pattern of like, five days of solid snow then a couple sunny days then it would start snowing again.  It wasn’t always like that, but usually, when it snowed, it snowed for a few days.  One good thing about so much snow is that it’s always way prettier with a fresh layer on the trees.  Also, keep in mind that it can be tough driving in deep or slushy snow.

It will be cold

This last winter wasn’t too bad.  It was only below zero a couple days.  It usually stayed above, but that’s always different, too.  Just come prepared and you’ll be fine.  Some things to bring would be a warm jacket and layers to go under it.  If you’re snowshoeing or anything, it can get warm.  Gloves and a spare pair just in case they get wet, warm socks, toe warmers (trust me, the big box is worth it if more than one of you is going), a scarf, and good boots.

The main road in the park is closed

The main scenic road in the park is closed in Grand Teton in the winter.  There are a few miles open on both ends, but it does eventually close.  There are snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails open in those areas though.  Moose-Wilson road in the park is the same way.  Most are closed, but there are like three miles open on both ends.  Some roads can close for a few days if there is a lot of animal activity, like wolves taking down a moose.  That happened last winter.  I don’t think it’s regular, but it can happen.

So are a lot of other roads

Some of the other roads in the area are closed as well.  Most have part of the road open, but there are sections closed and this leads to a lot of backtracking, but that’s just more wildlife spotting opportunity.  Some roads that are closed are:

  • Antelope Flats
  • Gros Ventre Road
  • Moose-Wilson
  • Mormon Row
  • All Yellowstone roads (if you plan on going up that far)

But like I said, these all have sections of the road that are still open in Grand Teton National Park in the winter.  You just can’t go all the way on them hence a lot of backtracking.  You can take a drive through the National Elk Refuge though!

But there is some of the best skiing in the US

You’ll probably be staying in Jackson Hole on your trip and they have some of the best skiing in the US.  Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Snow King are great places to start.  And if skiing doesn’t sound good, you can give snowboarding a shot.  And if both of those sound awful, Snow King has snow tubing as well.  You could spend a day or two on the slopes between searching for wildlife in the Tetons.

And killer snowshoeing views

And if everything above just sounds terrible, or you just want to try it, you can rent snowshoes in town and spend a day snowshoeing at the base of the Tetons, around Gros Ventre, or up at Flagg Ranch.  This is the kind of activity you’ll really want those toe warmers for, believe me.

No matter where you go, it’s going to have killer views of the snow-covered Tetons or any of the other surrounding mountains.  Plus, snowshoeing is actually really fun and a surprisingly good leg workout.  Just make sure not to get too close to the tree trunks.  I got stuck by one.  Also, make sure they’re on tight.  One of mine fell off once and my entire leg sunk into the snow and I had to get help out to put the shoe back on.

It’s cold walking around town

If you want to walk around town to do a little shopping and gallery hopping, it will be cold.  Again, use those toe warmers!  But it’s still worth it.  There’s so much cool art and fun little shops.  You can’t go to Jackson and not wander around town, just be careful of ice on the roads and sidewalks.  Here is an awesome guide to downtown Jackson.

But there are way fewer tourists

There are way fewer people to scramble around the sidewalks with when you visit Jackson and Grand Teton in winter.  There are still a good number of people in the winter, but compared to the summer, it’s crazy how much less busy it feels.  It’s definitely a perk traffic-wise and when it comes to escaping the cold and browsing in the shops.  It’ll make finding hotels easier, too.

And tons of wildlife to be seen

I saw like, no wildlife here when I visited in the summer.  Like, none.  Just a few elk in Yellowstone.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t wildlife.  There’s tons of it.  We just saw almost all of it in our time in Grand Teton in the winter.  We saw about a zillion moose, a billion bison, a ton of bighorn sheep, a few coyotes, three bears, and one wolf.

We even saw five baby bison and a momma and baby moose in one spot!  We watched them for like fifteen minutes.  It was the coolest.  We saw a couple of moose wandering around town, too.  One tip for spotting wildlife: look for brown blobs in the bushes and other cars pulled over.  Definitely bring binoculars for those far away critters, too.

Tips for visiting in the Grand Teton National Park in winter:

  • Make sure to rent a car that you feel comfortable driving in the snow.
  • Pack the right clothes.  Warm things and layers are best.
  • Early morning and sunset are both good times to see wildlife, but you can really see it all day, just know where to look.
  • Don’t get too close to the wildlife.  Moose might look silly, but they can be mean.  You can get out of your car to take pictures and walk around, just don’t get too close.  The park website says to stay 300 feet from bears and wolves and 75 feet from all other wildlife.
  • Bears will probably be asleep for the winter, but if you’ll be backcountry snowshoeing or anything, consider bringing bear spray anyways.  It’s not necessary but always made me feel better in case I came across a pack of coyotes or wolves or something.
  • Don’t use the bear spray indoors.  Really, don’t.
  • It may be cold, but you still need to stay hydrated.

Have you been to Jackson and the Tetons in the winter?  Do you want to go?  What is your favorite thing to do there?

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