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What is Grand Teton National Park?

By Steve R.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park attracts more than 2.5 million visitors annually. Established by the US Congress in 1929, the park is governed by the National Park Service and offers 310,000 acres (about 1,255 sq. km) for exploring mountain scenery and wildlife. Featuring a 40-mile (about 64 km) mountain range, the park takes its name after Grand Teton, a peak which stands 13,700 feet (about 4,198) high.

Grand Teton National Park is a popular area for hikers and climbers with its 200 miles (320 km) of trails and eight peaks that stand more than 12,000 feet (about 3,658 m) above sea level. Trails offer access to picturesque lakes, streams, and canyons, as well as camping areas. Hikers can make use of more than a dozen trails that vary from easy to strenuous. Other park activities include biking and kayaking and rafting along Snake River.

As Grand Teton National Park is located south of Yellowstone National Park, animals often migrate between the two parks. Visitors have the opportunity to view and photograph a variety of wildlife at Grand Teton, as creatures great and small reside in the park. The American elk and black bears are two of the most commonly spotted larger mammals in the park. Smaller creatures include weasels, beaver, and spotted frogs.

Bald eagles, along with more than 300 other species of birds, also can be spotted in Grand Teton National Park. At least 16 species of fish have been found at the park, and anglers can set their sights on cutthroat trout or whitefish in Snake River. The park also boasts an array of flora, including 900 species of flowering plants.

From November to April, snow covers the park. Winters can be rigorous, as annual snowfall averages 190 inches (about 490 cm). Temperatures in the winter can reach extremes of -46 degrees F (about -43 degrees C). The lowest temperature ever documented at the park was -63 degrees F (about -53 degrees C). During the winter, visitors can enjoy snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and downhill skiing.

The park's mountainous region was formed millions of years ago from geological turmoil, retreating glaciers, and erosion. The mountain ranges are composed of sandstone, limestone, and volcanic debris. Research indicates that Native Americans began occupying the area more than 12,000 years ago; trappers and explorers came to the area in the early 1820s.

When the park was created in 1929 to preserve the natural beauty of the area, only the Teton range and six glacial lakes were included. In 1950, the park increased to its present size. Congress added national forests, other federal property, and 35,000 acres (141.6 sq. km) of land owned by John D. Rockefeller to the national park.

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