Why You Should Visit Grand Teton National Park in the Off-Season

The Tetons are calling.

Snowy mountain reflection by a river

Spring and fall are some of the best times to go to Grand Teton National Park for a less crowded experience.

Photo by Alla Gill/Shutterstock

Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding area has become a year-round outdoor haven for all ages. The springtime and fall are especially great times to go: From March through May, visitors can see wildlife transition from winter to spring. Yet the fall shoulder season offers wildlife sightings too and is just as beautiful, with bright yellow aspens, surprise snowstorms for early-bird skiers, and all the biking and hiking you could dream of in one of the country’s youngest mountain ranges.

There are endless itineraries for this part of Wyoming. Read on for more tips on seeing the beauty of the area during the shoulder season—and consider planning a trip.

Ski across the terrain

On a peak over the treeline sits Rendezvous Bowl, a rite-of-passage kind of trail at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR). From this peak you have a 360-degree view over the park’s 310,000 acres of mountains, lakes, and plains. These landscapes have inspired explorers like William Henry Jackson, whose photos of the Tetons and Yellowstone encouraged the government to protect the Yellowstone area in 1872.

If you’re feeling brave, drop off the other side of the summit down one of North America’s steepest in-bounds chutes, Corbet’s Couloir. But don’t go down without a waffle from the legendary Corbet’s Cabin. Come springtime, the base in Teton Village especially comes to life during the Rendezvous Music Festival.

Herd of deer on a grass field near glacier mountains in daytime

Shoulder season is the prime time to catch wildlife like elk.

Photo by Pétrin Express/Unsplash

Watch the wildlife

Across the 25-acre National Elk Refuge, thousands of elk travel across a sparkly white canvas of snow. Consider making your own tracks on cross-country skis or snowshoes in April or early May for the best views of the roaming elk migration, wolves, and coyotes. Spring is time for newborn bison calves and the grizzly bears to emerge from their dens, especially as park roads reopen.

Even with some roads closed, there’s plenty of wildlife to see from the park’s main roads. You may see a greater sage grouse perch along one all-season road or resilient moose step through deep snowpacks to wade across the river. And you’ll have front-row seats to the bighorn sheep crawling down the rock cliff after their lambs, which is a special sight for lucky visitors.

“Similar to wolves, anytime you’re able to see bighorn sheep in the park, it’s a treat. For 90 percent of the year they live 10,000 or more feet up in the high country, so you won’t see them unless you’re a climber above the treeline on some sheer cliff face,” Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures guide Mark Byall said.

A person wearing brightly colored climbing gear and a helmet climbs up a rock face at a 45-degree angle.

Via Ferrata can be enjoyed in Jackson Hole from the summer to the fall.

Andrew Schrum

Book a Tour

Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures offers guided wildlife, birding, and photography tours by van, snowshoe, sleigh, or cross-country skis. These expert guides are more like park rangers, leading single- and multi-day tours around Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone.

Ready to kick the adventure up a notch? Check out Jackson Hole Whitewater for some rafting, or follow a guide to try Via Ferrata climbing across suspended bridges.

Jackson, Wyoming, on September 13, 2023: The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is a popular restaurant for tourists in Jackson, Wyoming.

Jackson, Wyoming, on September 13, 2023: The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is a popular restaurant for tourists in Jackson, Wyoming.

Photo by Amy Lutz/Shutterstock

Eat, drink, sleep

In Jackson and Teton Village, restaurateurs Gavin Fine and Roger Freedman started a tradition of two-for-one deals in the fall and the spring that many local eateries now follow: For every one full-price entrée, patrons get a second for $2, with all of the proceeds from the second entrée going to a local nonprofit. Entrées include fresh seafood and plays on local favorites, such as bison tartare at The Kitchen, fresh oysters and more at The Bistro, Il Villaggio Osteria, Code Red (a burrito must), Cream + Sugar’s ice cream, and others.

If you come in March, you can also catch JHMR’s hot-dog eating contest. This year was its first, and hundreds kicked off their skis and boards at the mid-mountain Bear Flats Snack Shack to watch the winner take down seven—yes, seven—”bear dogs,” in French bread buns.

A trip to the Tetons wouldn’t be complete without a stopover at MADE, which sells goods from over 400 local artisans, or before pulling up a saddle stool for live music and dancing at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Surround yourself with historic charm and luxury at The Wort Hotel and its Silver Dollar Grill, or end the day in the outdoor heated pool in the Western chic Cloudveil Hotel.

If you prefer to be closer to Teton Village, try slope-side sanctity at Hotel Terra or Gravity Haus, a mountain chain now popping up in Colorado at Breckenridge, Steamboat, Vail, and Winter Park.

Anna Fiorentino is a storyteller focused on outdoors, adventure, and travel. Her work has appeared in AFAR, National Geographic, National Geographic Travel, Outside, BBC Travel, Boston Globe Magazine, and other publications.
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