The Grand Teton Park roads provide one of the most delightful tours of the region, taking visitors on the now famous 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive through the park’s iconic features made famous by American photographer Ansel Adams.
Be sure to give yourself five to six hours to enjoy the sights and magnificent vistas along the way so bring your camera a god pair of binoculars. Thankfully, the park has created pull-outs on the sides of the road where you can stop to take pictures and watch the park’s wildlife without disturbing other drivers. Throughout the loop, the park has installed signs that provide information about the natural features and wildlife in the area. Take your time to drive the entire loop and you’ll be rewarded with incredible views, clean mountain air, and bison, deer, elk, and bald-headed eagle sightings.
There are three access points to the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Road – the Teton Park Road which follows the base of the Teton Range from Moose to Jackson Lake Junction, the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive follows the east shore of Jenny Lake and provides spectacular views of the peaks, and the Signal Mountain Summit Road which climbs 800 feet to allow panoramic views of the Teton Range, Jackson Hole valley and Jackson Lake.
Although visitor favorites include Jenny Lake, and the side trip up Signal Mountain, you’ll enjoy the following highlights for viewing wildlife on your drive:
Oxbow Bend – Slow-moving water provides habitat for fish such as suckers and trout that become food for river otters, ospreys, bald eagles, American white pelicans and common mergansers. Look for swimming beavers and muskrats. Moose browse on the willows at the water’s edge, and elk graze in open aspen groves to the east (one mile east of Jackson Lake Junction.)
Timbered Island – This forested ridge southeast of Jenny Lake is home to herds of pronghorn antelope, the fastest land animal in North America, and elk that leave the shade of Timbered Island at dawn and dusk to eat the surrounding grasses.
Mormon Row – Bison and pronghorn can be seen grazing in spring, summer and fall along Mormon Row and Antelope Flats Road. Also watch for coyotes, Northern harriers, and American kestrels hunting mice, Uinta ground squirrels, and grasshoppers. Sage grouse, sage thrashers and sparrows also frequent the area (east of US Highway 26/89/191, one mile north of Moose Junction.)
Snake River – Elk and bison graze in grassy meadows along the river. Bald eagles, ospreys and great blue herons build large stick nests within sight of the river. Beavers and moose eat willows that line the waterway (Jackson Lake Dam south.)
Cascade Canyon – West of Jenny Lake, you’ll find mule deer and moose browsing on shrubs growing at the mouth of the canyon, golden-mantled ground squirrels at Inspiration Point, and pikas and yellow-bellied marmots living in scattered boulder fields.
Blacktail Pond – Old beaver ponds now support grassy meadows where elk graze during the cooler parts of the day and moose browse on river willows. Also, several kinds of ducks feed in the side channels of the Snake River (half-mile north of Moose on US Highway 26/89/191.)