Five Can’t-Miss Locations in the Teton Range

Most of you are reading this because you love mountaineering. Sure, the Teton Range has some of the best climbing and hiking in the country—but that’s not all this beautiful landscape has to offer. The Range has hidden waterfalls, stunning lakes, and one-of-a-kind places to spot wildlife. Below, we have detailed our five favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations for when you want a break from scrambling up the rock face.

 

  1. Antelope Flats Road—This is one of the best places to spot wildlife. Antelope Flats Road leads to Mormon Row, the famous location of the Moulton Barn. Most of the path is gravel and dirt, but drivers can find several parking areas to take pictures as they traverse the plains. The most commonly-spotted animal is buffalo, but if you see one, don’t get out of your car; take as many pictures as you’d like, but do your best to keep the animal calm. Though the buffalo in this area may be more accustomed to people, they may still charge if they feel threatened.

 

  1. Taggart Lake—If you’re new to the Range, this is an excellent first hike. The easy trail will take you through some of the best lakes and views the Teton Range has to offer. Additionally, hikers often spot moose and bears along the trail. Though this is a relatively busy hiking area, the lake itself is huge; you’ll be able to spread out and enjoy the solitude once you reach water. At just three miles round-trip, this is a family-friendly loop—and perfect for cross-country skiing in the winter.

 

  1. String Lake—This lake offers some of the most stunning views of the Teton Range. The water is shallow and warm while the bottom is sandy and safe. If you’re looking for a break from the high-adrenaline thrills of mountaineering, rent a kayak or paddleboard and spend the day up here. The best lounging spots are on the trail up toward Leigh Lake—generally around a half of a mile away from the parking area.

 

  1. Schwabacher’s Landing—Another favorite among wildlife viewers, Schwabacher’s Landing offers incomparable views, a gorgeous body of water, and opportunities to see beaver, moose, and bear. A tiny trail, just past the US-191 turnoff for Moose/Jenny Lake, will bring you down to the water. From there, follow the river to a large beaver pond. Don’t forget your camera!

 

  1. Jenny Lake Scenic Drive—Sometimes, you want to take a break from the climbing, jump in the car, and drive around with the windows down. For those days, there’s the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive–a one-way road snaking around Jenny Lake. This is the best place to snap photos of Jenny Lake with mountains in the background. The scenic road is accessible from the Moose Entrance Station; about ten miles north, you’ll see a road to North Jenny Lake.

 

The Holocene History of the Teton Range

Climbing and mountaineering foster a sense of love and appreciation for nature. Understanding the history of this titanic range is part of its lure; knowing where these towering peaks come from is necessary for a wholly fulfilling climbing experience.

 

Humans have inhabited the Tetons for more than 11,000 years. The first humans were migratory hunter-gatherers who spent summer months in Jackson Hole and winter months in valleys west of the Teton Range. White American explorers first entered the region in the very early 19th century. They encountered the Shoshone people, who lived in the mountains of the greater Yellowstone region. At the same time, the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed well north of the Grand Teton region, bringing fur trade as they travelled to the Pacific Ocean. One map suggests the expedition entered the Teton Range from the northeast, crossing the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass or Union Pass.

 

John Coulter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, broke off early from the group in order to engage in fur trading. He is widely considered to be the first “mountain man,” and he stayed in the area for the profitable fur trapping. The region was known for its high number of beavers and other fur-bearing animals. This industry formed the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in the mid-1802s, which was overseen by David Edward “Davey” Jackson—one of the area’s many namesakes.

 

The first U.S. Government-sponsored expedition was the Raynolds Expedition of 1860. They were charged with exploring the Yellowstone region, but encountered difficulties in crossing mountain passes due to snow. Shortly thereafter, Yellowstone National Park was established (1872), and by the close of the 19th century, conservationists were advocating to expand the boundaries to include the Teton Range. After congressional approval, President Calvin Coolidge signed the executive order establishing Grand Teton National Park in February of 1929.

 

Mountaineering Terminology 101

As with most adventure sports, mountaineering comes with its own language. From essential gear names to types of terrain, it is imperative to have your fundamental terms memorized before embarking on a trip—especially if that trip is in the Tetons. Below are a few important terms to prepare for your first few days on the wall.

 

Anchor—This is the point at which the rope is secured to snow, ice, or rock, providing protection against a fall. Any individual anchor point must be able to hold a fall.

 

Approach—The nontechnical section of a climb that leads to the technical part.

 

Belay—A safety technique wherein a stationary climber provides protection by means of ropes, anchors, and breaking devices or techniques. This is meant to help and stabilize the ascending or descending partner.

 

Boulder—A climb on a difficult but short rock pitch. A potential fall is of minimal consequence.

 

Cairn—A pile of rock or wood used to mark a particular route.

 

Carabiner—An aluminum device (of various shapes) with a spring-loaded gate. Climbers must thread the climbing rope through the carabiner to connect to protection or to provide connections with an anchor.

 

Edging—A climbing technique wherein the edges of the climbing shoes are used to stand on small footholds.

 

Free climb—A climb using only one’s hands and feet; without artificial aids.

 

Free solo—A free climb without a belay rope.

 

Headwall—The upper section of a mountain where the terrain is steeper.

 

Pitch—A section of climbing between two belay points.

 

Scramble—Easy, unprotected climbing.

 

Scree—Small, loose rocks. This is difficult to ascend.

 

Mountaineering vs. Rock Climbing Terminology

Given that mountaineering includes navigating and surviving mountainous conditions–as well as rock climbing–it’s no surprise that this is an incomplete list. Our glossary of mountaineering terminology is still a work in progress. Looking for more information specifically about the terminology of rock climbing? Here’s a good video you can watch: