In late summer of 2022 I paid my first visit to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Being a photographer and a lover of nature - this trip was a dream come true. My visit to Grand Teton was one amongst many National Parks that summer - Yellowstone, Arches, Mesa Verde and Badlands. But the Tetons - by far - were the most photogenic for me. I drove cross-country from Massachusetts - first stopping at my buddy's wedding in Minnesota then spending about two months on the road.
I took this trip to Grand Teton in September and stayed about two weeks total - bouncing back and forth between Colter Bay and Gros Ventres Campground. To grab some iconic photos I feel there are several essential spots one most stop - which will be included in this post. This was also my first utilizing the new Canon R5 - surprisingly using the RF 100-500MM more than anything for mountain and nature shots.
In this post I will include a brief photographic timeline of some of my favorite shots and spots throughout the park. I must say that this is a busy park - so plan ahead - and plan to do some hiking if you want to avoid some of the crowds. I absolutely fell in love with the Tetons - and I hope that this post will encourage you to check them out for yourself one day - as I’m sure you will too.
My journey into the park had me coming down from Yellowstone. I came in as the sun was setting and got some beautiful shots in and around Yellowstone. By the time I reached my campsite at Colter Bay it was dark and the stars were shining bright, it was a beautiful night to setup camp and get acclimated. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the surrounding scenery. I climbed into my tent and went to sleep - waking up early the next morning for my first official day in Grand Teton.
I was really too excited to cook anything - so I grabbed my camera and went straight for the path at Colter Bay that led to the beachfront. I had wandered over here the night before - but I couldn’t believe the sight I was about to see. I must say, as a lover of mountains - I’m a New Englander born and raised - the Whites and Adirondacks are cool - and they’re home - but nothing in the country can really compare to out here. I had been to Mount Shasta and some cool spots in California - but the Tetons are a beast in their own.
Getting to the beachfront of Jackson Lake I was amazed at the sight before me - and started snapping photos. These shots were taken on my RF 100-500MM.
Well now it was time to explore the park a bit. I must say I had come with the intention of this being more of a photography trip to the park than a hiking/backpacking trip. Primarliy because this was my first time here and I was traveling solo - I really just wanted to get acclimated with the area - and give my new R5 a little bit of use. I headed back to camp - got ready for the day - and started out towards Jenny Lake area in my car. As I was leaving Colter Bay I happened to see this stunning view in my rearview mirror - so I pulled over and snapped this pic:
The next couple weeks included bouncing back and forth between Colter Bay and Gros Ventres - a few rainy days were thrown in there which botched my photography efforts. I must say that Gros Ventres is my more favorite campground - primarily because you can get a beautiful view of the Teton Range dependent on where your campsite is. I visited the town of Jackson a couple times - which being a music and artsy type person - I found very cool. I also crossed Jenny Lake a few times and hiked into Cascade Canyon - which is now the favorite hike of my life to date.
One highlight of this photography journey were the horses at the Cottonwood Creek Overlook. There is a walking/biking trail that runs adjacent to the meadows so I assume they are quite acclimated with people - which is probably why they were so friendly!
I wonder what these two were thinking:
Here is one of my favorite shots from my entire trip at the Tetons - which was snapped at the Cottonwood Creek Overlook.
Up next for great photography spots is the iconic John Moulton Barn. This area of the park is known as Mormon Row and had many farmsteads in the early 1900s. The John Moulton Barn is located at the old farm bearing the same name - the surrounding meadows are beautiful and contain little streams that were hand-dug for irrigation systems. The barn is an iconic photo stop while in the Tetons - and the sun casts a magical glow on the wood in the morning.
Of course we must not forget the Snake River Overlook - made famous by Ansel Adams in his iconic 1942 photograph. The Snake River Overlook was always packed with people - I even met some cool other photographers while attempting some astrophotography at night. Below I paid homage to Ansel Adams by attempting to re-create his iconic image in his footsteps:
Stunning sunset on the Snake River:
Then there were my hikes into Cascade Canyon. I was lazy and took the boat shuttle across Jenny Lake to the trailhead - although I had a great time kicking back and appreciating the views on the ride. I went into the canyon three times during my stay in the Tetons - and each time I found it more amazing and beautiful than before. Jenny Lake in and of itself is breathtaking. The water is crystal clear and cool - and the towering peaks in the background make for a swim unlike any other.
Being a New England hiker who had never yet been to Wyoming or Colorado - or any good spots in the Pacific Northwest - I had never experienced the wonder and majesty of a high peak. The Black Hills of South Dakota are a good old stomping ground - but still not crazy high peaks.
Please do not get me wrong - my neck of the woods is FILLED with beauty - but the West just hits different. And my hike into Cascade Canyon was my first real taste of that. The journey to Cascade Canyon can either begin by hiking around the perimeter of Jenny Lake - or taking a boat shuttle for the sum of $20 roundtrip (if I remember correctly). The hike begins by following a cool river - which gives you the option to trail off a little and catch this sweet waterfall.
The trail then continues on and begins gaining in elevation - wrapping around a little cliff-face and bringing you to an exposed area with a view of Jenny Lake and the surrounding areas - known as Inspiration Point.
This little dude was asking for some of my lunch - at least he wasn't a Grizzly !
Coming into the Canyon for the first time - unreal for me! I paused for a moment and played my Native American flute on one of those rocks beneath the towering peaks.
Some of the best views from inside the Canyon - pictures can do no justice.
I even saw a Moose! On two separate occasions within the Canyon. (Of course I didn't have the 100-500 with me).
View of Teewinot Mountain from Jenny Lake.
To sum it up - the Tetons are amazing! I could post pictures all day long. From my highlights of Cottonwood Creek, Jackson Lake, Mormon Row, Snake River Overlook, Jenny Lake, and Cascade Canyons - I say you have to experience them for yourself to feel the true magic. But they are all good starting points for a memorable trip to Grand Teton National Park. The town of Jackson is worth a visit too. I hope to return and see what other wonders I can discover within this beautiful landscape.