Grand Teton National Park is one of the 10 most visited National Parks in the United States – approximately 3,270,076 people visit each year (2016 stats). It is about 310,000 acres, and it is located 10 miles (16 km) south of Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming. The park protects the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Mountain Range, along with parts of the Jackson Hole valley. On February 26, 1929, President Calvin Coolidge established the park.
Human habitation within the park boundary goes back about 11,000 years, when hunter-gatherer Paleo-Indians used the land in the summer for food and supplies. In the early 19th century, when white men first arrived, the Shoshone tribes lived there. It was popular with fur traders between 1810 and 1840, because of the beavers that lived in the rivers there (before they were almost trapped to extinction of course). Grand Teton National Park is named for Grand Teton, which is the tallest mountain in the Teton Range at 13,775 feet. The mountains were named by fur trappers coming through the area, who called them les trois tétons (the three teats), and of course it stuck, and we Americanized the name.
Geologically, the rocks in the park are some of the oldest in the United States; dated at 2.7 billion years. The Teton range has several glaciers too, and the park contains the upper main stem of the Snake River, which flows north, and eventually flows into the Columbia River.
The area was isolated for so long that the ecosystem is much better protected than some other areas of the U.S., so some of the same species have been found there since prehistoric times. Animal species that are found there include bison, moose, elk, mule deer, marmot, pika, Grizzly bear, black bear, osprey, coyote, cutthroat trout, beavers and river otters. The Teton range is also home to the threatened whitebark pine tree.
Grand Teton National Park is really an outdoor-person’s paradise. There are over 200 miles of hiking trails, many of them back-country trails. There are over 1,000 car camping sites. A paved trail through the park provides easy access to the valley areas by bike or roller blades. You can boat or float the rivers, fish, mountain climb, and cross country ski or snow shoe in the winter. There is enough to keep you busy for awhile…
The park has also preserved a lot of the history from the days when homesteaders lived in the valley and built ranches and small communities. There are several historic buildings throughout the park that you can visit.
We spent two days there, and we did and saw a lot in those two days! I will tell you more about my visit coming up!