Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming, U.S.A.
A Surreal, Almost Spiritual Geologic Wonder
Less lofty and snowy than many other American mountain ranges, the dozen peaks of the Teton Range still win America’s geologic beauty pageant as the most photogenic of them all. Often referred to as the Grand Tetons (though “Grand Teton” properly refers only to the highest of the twelve), they are so divinely proportioned that early 19th-century French-Canadian trappers gave them their lasting nickname – which translates, straightforwardly enough, as “the big breasts.”
Craggy, glacier chiseled, and rising up to 7,000 feet above the flat floor of Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Valley (itself about 6,400 feet above sea level), they’re the youngest mountains in the Rockies and comprise a relatively small park area of 310,000 acres – one-sixth the size of neighboring Yellowstone. Not even the slightest foothill blocks your full frontal view, making it easy for even nonpros to get that Ansel Adams photo shot.
At the foot of the range, glacial advance gouged a string of deep, cold, sapphire-blue lakes, of which Jenny Lake is one of the most beautiful and therefore most popular and visited. From here you can set off on the impressive Cascade Canyon Trail or to the cascading Hidden Falls and impressive Inspiration Point. With 230 miles of trails, Grand Teton National Park is made for hikers.
The largest lake, Jackson Lake, is 15 miles long, with cruises to Elk Island and along its western shore, where the mountains begin. Guided float trips let you meander down a calm stretch of the Snake River from Deadman’s Bar to Moose. The 45-mile loop drive from Moose via Moran Junction presents much of the same spectacular scenery, but without leaving terra firma.
The popular Jenny Lake Lodge, one of the nicest and best-sited of the park’s accommodations – and one of the most expensive in the entire national park system – originated as a dude ranch accommodating the Eastern effete who came to rough it for a few weeks. The elegant lodge is often booked a year in advance for those who don’t care to rough it at all. Above all else, don’t miss dinner in the lodge’s timbered dining hall.