Across the United States, there are some incredible places for stargazing; our national parks are among the best – especially out west where there’s less light pollution, lower humidity, higher elevation, and, often, clearer skies. I’ve covered many national parks over the years and provided tips on stargazing in them, including places like Great Basin, Arches, and even Jasper, north of the border. Now it’s time to cover one of the most impressive mountainous parks in the country: Grand Teton National Park.
If you’re considering a Grand Teton stargazing trip, you might have some questions, like “where is the best place for stargazing?” and “what can I do during the day?” If so, you’ve come to the right place; this guide covers all your questions about stargazing in Grand Teton National Park, and probably some you haven’t thought of yet.
So when you’re ready to get out there where jagged peaks meet unbelievably starry skies, read on. You’ll soon be stargazing in Grand Teton and experiencing these epic views of both landscape and the night sky for yourself.
In this post, I promote traveling to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Newe Sogobia (Eastern Shoshone), Shoshone-Bannock, Tséstho’e (Cheyenne), Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in July 2022, and was updated in March 2023.
How to Get to Grand Teton National Park
The first step of planning your Grand Teton stargazing trip is to know how to get to this national park.
The park covers nearly 310,000 acres and has three road entrances: Granite Canyon Entrance, Moose Entrance, and Moran Entrance. Beware that some of these roads are closed or have limited access to vehicles from November to May due to inclement weather.
- Driving from the south: Get on I-15 N and get to Highway 89 to reach the park. From I-15 you can also take 26 East to Highway 31/22 to Grand Teton.
- Driving from Wyoming on I-80: Take 191 North to Highway 89 to the park.
- Driving from the west: Get on I-15 and then onto Highway 89.
- Driving from the east: Take I-80, then Highway 287 N. to Highway 26 to the park.
- Driving from the north: Get on Highway 89 South through Yellowstone, and you’ll find Grand Teton National Park just south of Yellowstone National Park.
You can also fly to Grand Teton. The closest airport is the Jackson Hole Airport, which is actually located within the national park. American, Delta, and United fly into the Jackson Hole Airport year-round with direct flight options available from several major cities in the country.
Other regional airports near Grand Teton are Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).
Where to Go Stargazing in Grand Teton National Park
Unlike other parks, there are hundreds of spots for stargazing in Grand Teton. The park’s vastness and isolation ensure skies remain unpolluted and pristine. Also, the nearby valley of Jackson Hole is federally protected land, which means there aren’t many artificial lights in the park’s surroundings either.
Still, there are some prime spots for stargazing in Grand Teton National Park that you shouldn’t miss on your night adventure.
Virtually all backcountry campgrounds at Grand Teton offer stunning views of the night sky. However, it takes extra planning to go backcountry camping at the park. First, you need a permit. Backcountry permits are limited and are issued on a first-come, first-served basis no more than one day before the start of your trip. You can read more about backcountry planning here.
Teton Crest Trail
For even darker skies venture into the Teton Crest Trail, one of the most scenic hiking routes within the park. The Teton Crest Trail is a high-route trail with an elevation that rarely drops below 8,000 feet. Along the way, you’ll get to enjoy gorgeous high alpine scenery and utmost solitude. There are 11 campsites along the Teton Crest Trail. Once you get your permit and you’ve accessed the trail, all individual sites are first-come, first-serve within each zone for parties of six or fewer people.
Death Canyon Shelf
No matter where you look, the Death Canyon Shelf offers stunning views. Look down and you’ll marvel at the canyon unfolding below you. Look to the front and you’ll see the Tetons rising on the horizon. Look back and you get sprawling views of the valley you just ascended. It sounds too good to be true.
At night, the sky puts on quite a show with thousands of stars illuminating the scenery. Most visitors are familiar with the beauty of The Death Canyon Shelf. Consequently, the process for getting a backcountry permit to camp at the Shelf is highly competitive.
Alaska Basin isn’t inside Grand Teton National Park but in its outside boundaries. To be more precise, Alaska Basin is in the Jed Smith Wilderness. Far from being an inconvenience, the basin’s location has many advantages. Since Wilderness areas do not require overnight camping permits, you can pitch your tent anywhere you want and at any time you want.
Also, the terrain is nearly treeless and sits at a high elevation (over 9,000 feet), which means nothing stands in the way of your telescope and the stars. On a moonless night, you can see between 5,000 and 6,000 stars with the unaided eye in the Alaska Basin.
Where to Stay Near Grand Teton National Park
The beauty of this park calls for a stay longer than just a day. Here’s a list of the accommodation options you can check out when planning your Grand Teton stargazing experience.
Hotels near Grand Teton National Park
Luckily for visitors, there is lodging within Grand Teton National Park. I’ll leave a list of all the accommodation options the park offers but click here to learn about each property’s details and availability.
- American Alpine Club Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch – Located south of Jenny Lake, the ranch offers rustic rooms. Guests need to bring their own sleeping mats and bedding.
- Colter Bay Cabins – Located by the shores of Jackson Lake, the complex comprises 208 snug log cabins and several tent-cabins.
- Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch – Central to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton, it offers log-style lodging units with two queen beds or one king bed. It also offers camper cabins with available rental gear in the campground.
- Jackson Lake Lodge – A full-service resort hotel located in the heart of Grand Teton National Park. It offers 348 guest cottage rooms and 37 guest rooms in the main lodge.
- Jenny Lake Lodge – Rustic yet luxurious, the lodge features 37 adjoining cabins nestled in the seclusion of the surrounding forest.
- Signal Mountain Lodge – Located beside Jackson Lake, the complex offers lakefront apartments with kitchenettes, log cabins with fireplaces, and motel-style units.
- Triangle X Ranch – A premier Wyoming dude ranch inside Grand Teton National Park, it offers excellent outdoor recreation packages.
Camping in Grand Teton National Park
If there’s something Grand Teton National Park has in abundance are campgrounds. All park campgrounds require advanced reservations. Visitors can reserve up to six months in advance via Recreation.gov.
- Gros Ventre Campground – Located in the southeast part of the park, it is the park’s largest campground and the closest to the town of Jackson.
- Jenny Lake Campground – This small campground is a few hundred yards from the east shore of Jenny Lake. No trailers, campers, or generators are allowed.
- Signal Mountain Campground – This campground is in an open lodgepole pine forest near the Signal Mountain Lodge. Some sites lie just above Jackson Lake, and other sites are a short walk from the lake.
- Colter Bay Campground – This large campground is in a lodgepole pine forest near Colter Bay Village. It has spectacular views of Mount Moran and the northern Teton Range.
- Colter Bay RV Park – This RV Park provides full hookups for campers in the park. It is in a lodgepole pine forest near Colter Bay Village.
- Colter Bay Tent Village – Located amidst towering lodgepole pines, Colter Bay Tent Village is a short stroll away from Jackson Lake. The Tent Village includes 66 tent cabins and is open from mid-May to early September.
- Lizard Creek Campground – A rustic campground located in an isolated part of Grand Teton National Park. The campground is 11 miles south of Yellowstone and eight miles north of Colter Bay Village providing easy access to both parks.
- Headwaters Campground – This campground has facilities for both tent campers and RVs. It is only two miles south of Yellowstone and five miles north of Grand Teton.
What to See & Do During the Day in Grand Teton National Park
With such stunning alpine scenery, it is not surprising that hiking is the main activity at Grand Teton National Park. Nonetheless, the park offers outdoor activities for all tastes.
The park has over 250 miles of trails to choose from, with options ranging from short walks to backcountry excursions. Here are the hikes you can do based on their difficulty level.
- Taggart Lake
- Lake Creek – Woodland Trail Loop
- Phelps Lake Overlook
- Lunch Tree Hill
- Heron Pond – Swan Lake Loop Trail
- Taggart Lake – Bradley Lake Loop
- Aspen Ridge – Boulder Ridge
- Forks of Cascade Canyon
- Jenny Lake Loop
- Hermitage Point
- Marion Lake
- Death Canyon – Static Peak Divide Junction
- Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes
- Lake Solitude
- Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop
Boating & Floating
Grand Teton offers various ways for water lovers. The Snake River flows through the park, offering unparalleled wildlife viewing, kayaking, and mild rapids. Visitors need a permit for boating in the river.
Biking is a fantastic experience to explore the Grand Tetons. Visitors can bike across all paved roads in the Grand Tetons as well as the Two Ocean Lake Road and Grassy Lake Road (both gravel). There’s also a multi-use pathway designed for bikes, rollerblades, and walkers, extending from the town of Jackson, north to Antelope Flats Road.
Grand Teton offers world-class fishing opportunities. Visitors require a license to go fishing and they can be purchased one at Flagg Ranch, Colter Bay Marina, Signal Mountain Lodge, or online. While all lakes within the park are open year-round, there are seasonal closures to access them.
Climbing & Mountaineering
Hundreds of visitors come to the park hoping to reach one of its iconic peaks. Both climbing and mountaineering are quite challenging in Grand Teton. So these activities may be better suited for experienced adventurers.
There’s no way you can cover Grand Teton National Park on foot. Luckily, there are numerous scenic drives that give the opportunity to enjoy the park’s wildlife, impressive geology, and flora.
Here’re the scenic drives visitors can do:
- Jenny Lake Scenic Drive
- Moose-Wilson Road
- Signal Mountain Summit Road
- Teton Park Road
Grand Teton is home to diverse fauna, including Grizzly and black bears, bison, moose, elk, and pronghorn. The park allows wildlife viewing in specific areas and follows strict safety precautions. Please, head over to their site to read the requirements.
Here are some top wildlife viewing areas once you know the best way to behave responsibly with them:
- Oxbow Bend: A good area to spot otters, ospreys, bald eagles, American white pelicans, and common mergansers. Moose also roam at the water’s edge. Elk occasionally graze in open aspen groves to the east.
- Timbered Island: This place is gone to small bands of pronghorn antelope. Elk appear at dawn and dusk to eat the grasses growing among the surrounding sagebrush.
- Mormon Row: A popular spot to see bison and pronghorn in spring, summer, and fall. There are also coyotes, Northern harriers, American kestrels, Uinta ground squirrels, and grasshoppers. Sage grouse, sage thrashers, and sparrows also frequent the area.
- Snake River: There are plenty of elk and bison grazing in grassy meadows along the river. You can also see Bald eagles, ospreys, and great blue herons, who build large stick nests within sight of the river. Beavers and moose eat willows that line the waterway.
- Cascade Canyon: Here you can see hundreds of golden-mantled ground squirrels at Inspiration Point. Pikas and yellow-bellied marmots live in scattered boulder fields. Mule deer and moose browse on shrubs growing at the mouth of the canyon.
- Blacktail Pond: The grassy meadows are filled with elk graze during the cooler parts of the day. Several kinds of ducks feed in the side channels of the Snake River. Moose browse on willows growing along the river.
Other FAQ About Stargazing in Grand Teton National Park
In case you still have questions about stargazing in Grand Teton National Park, here’s a short FAQ section that will hopefully answer them.
When is the best time to go stargazing in Grand Teton?
Fall and spring are the best times to go stargazing. If you can be picky about the dates, try to schedule your Grand Teton stargazing trip before or after a New Moon.
Can you see the Milky Way while stargazing in Grand Teton? When?
Oh, yes. Grand Teton offers glorious views of the Milky Way and even the Triangulum Galaxy. You can easily spot the Milky Way on any clear night, but your safest bet is to visit during the Milky Way season, from February to October.
Can you see the northern lights in Grand Teton?
While it’s a rare event, the Northern lights happen two to three times a year in Grand Teton. In case you’re interested, the best locations to see the northern lights will be in northern Wyoming, specifically Cody, Lovell, and Buffalo.
Is Grand Teton National Park open at night?
Yes, Grand Teton National Park is open 24 hours every day, year-round.
Are there guided night tours in Grand Teton?
Wyoming Stargazing, a nonprofit organization based in Jackson, offers Grand Teton national park stargazing tours to explore the fantastic night skies of Jackson Hole. Teton skies also offer year-round stargazing experiences in Grand Teton.
(If Wyoming Stargazing sounds familiar, that’s because they sponsor The Astro Show, a YouTube show about the night sky that I’ve been a guest and co-star on several times!)
Is there a dark sky festival in Grand Teton?
Grand Teton has hosted Night Sky festivals in the past. However, the last one hosted was in 2016 and the park’s website hasn’t shared any news to know if they’ll be organizing a festival for 2023.
Have any other questions about how to plan your Grand Teton stargazing trip? Let me know in the comments!