This site uses affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
(with MAPS and PHOTOS)
The 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Grand Teton National Park.
Here is everything that you need to know!
Plus, check out my post: 11 Top Things to Do in Grand Teton (For Every Budget!)
42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE WITH 24 BEST OVERLOOKS
15. Potholes Turnout
MAP OF THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Image Credit: National Park Service
WHAT IS THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
The 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive is a loop that consists of two roads: HWY 191/89/26 – OUTER ROAD (one road, just shares three numbers) and Teton Park Road – INNER ROAD.
WHERE DOES THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE START
There are three entry points to get to the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive.
- Moose Junction – from Jackson drive north on HWY 191/89/26 to Moose Junction and start there.
- Moran Junction – you can also come from Dubois in the east via the Togwotee Pass.
- Jackson Lake Junction – if you are coming from Yellowstone to the north, you will enter the loop at the Jackson Lake Junction.
WHERE SHOULD YOU START THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
My recommendation is to start the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive in Grand Teton National Park counter clock-wise beginning at Moose Junction going on HWY 191/89/26 (outer road).
In my opinion, driving the outer road first, will give you a great panoramic picture of Grand Tetons and the long, flat plains stretching in front of them. While driving on Teton Park Road (inner road)second, will get you closer to the Tetons and give you a different perspective.
Don’t have time to read it now?
Why not save it to your Pinterest board for later!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO DO THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE
Hands down, start your 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive as early in the morning as possible.
First of all, early morning is the best time for wildlife viewing! Second, the Tetons face east, so, if you start early in the morning, then will be rewarded with fabulous views of the mountains glowing in bright golden color (weather permitting).
In addition, dusk is perfect to drive through the loop as well. Wildlife is usually out and the light is great for photos.
To sum up: early morning (dawn) and evening (dusk), known as the golden hour or the magic hour, are the best times to do the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive.
The entire 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive can only be done between May 1st and October 31st. Teton Park Road (inner road) is closed to all vehicles every year from November 1st to April 31st. HWY 191/89/26 (outer road) is open year round (weather permitting).
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED TO DO THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
- If you drive the 42-Mile Scenic Loop without making any stops, and you just want to see the changing scenery from the comfort of your vehicle, then it can be easily done within 1-2 hours.
- If you want to stop at every turnout or overlook indicated on the above map, walk around, take photos, observe wildlife, soak in the views, then you will need at least 8-10 hours to finish the entire loop.
HOW CAN YOU DO THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE
- Drive Yourself
First of all, you can fly to Jackson Hole Airport and then rent a car and drive yourself. I like this option the best, because it gives you a total flexibility where you stop and how much time you are going to spend at each place.
- Take a Tour
There are a lot of half-day tours from Jackson or Teton Village. First of all, an advantage to this option is that the guides know the best photo spots and places to see wildlife. Second, you do not need to drive. You can just relax and chill for half a day. However, you do not have the flexibly of exploring each stop at your own pace. Also, I need to mention, that there are private full-day tours as well. Honestly, I think these are the best! You do not have to drive, yet, you have the flexibility of where you stop and for how long.
WHAT TO BRING ON THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Grand Teton National Park is a photographer’s dream! If you are like me, you will be taking hundreds, if not thousands, of photos. The scenery is just breathtaking and constantly changing. I have Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Digital Camera that I bought a couple of years ago and I really like it.
2. Spare battery for camera
Make sure to have a spare battery for your camera. I think there is nothing more frustrating like knowing that you still have half a day ahead of you, yet your camera’s battery is gone.
If you are taking photos during the golden hour (shortly after sunrise or before sunset) when the light is softer, a tripod is essential for long exposure shots. Also, I like a tripod since it gives me more stability when taking closeups of wildlife.
If your camera does not have a good zoom, then binoculars is a must. I know that luck will be on your side and you will see a moose and a bison, and hopefully a black bear and what to treat to see them up close.
WHAT TO SEE ON THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE
On the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive in Grand Teton National Park you will see stunning views, historical sites, geological features, and animal habitats, plus lots of wildlife (fingers crossed!).
I am recommending that you check out the map at the top of this post. It lists 24 points of interest. I know that it is a lot! So, if you are short on time, at the end of this post, I listed my absolute four must-do stopping points.
Are you planning to do some hiking in Grand Tetons? Make sure to check out my post: 11 Easy Hikes in Grand Teton National Park (with Maps and Photos)!
WHERE TO STAY IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Are you searching for places to stay in Grand Teton National Park?
Here are my recommendations where to stay in Grand Teton National Park with prices for every budget including lodges and campgrounds!
THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK WITH 24 POINTS OF INTEREST
Dornans is a privately owned patch of land within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park. The land has been owned by the same family for almost a century.
Dornans offers a variety of services from food and beverage to lodging and canoe rentals.
Dornans is a great first stop on the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive. You can stop for a quick bite or grab something to go.
However, my recommendation is stop on the way out of the park and have dinner and a drink while admiring the stunning mountains. The views are just awesome! The deck of Dornans Pizza and Pasta House offers the view of the Tetons that is simply off the charts.
MOULTON BARNS ON MORMON ROW
I am sure you have seen the pictures of the famous Moulton Barns on Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park.
These are the most photographed barns in the world! And justly so!
The view of the flat land with the barns sitting on it and the Tetons towering in the distance is stunning.
By the way, there are two barns that are the famous ones, so make sure to photograph both of them. The T. A. Moulton Barn has a triangle roof and the John Moulton Barn has a 4-sided roof.
Make sure to explore the other buildings on the row to get an idea what the 19th century frontier life was like.
Do not miss the house of John and Bartha Moulton. It is painted in pink color.
Also, check out the Thomas Murphy Homestead. It is a large barn at the far north end of the Mormon Row.
If you missed sunrise, then, if at all possible, come back to this area. Early morning sunlight (weather permitting) shinning on the wooden planks of the barns beautifully complements the shadows of the mountain range.
BLACKTAIL PONDS OVERLOOK
First of all, if you are wondering why this overlook is called Blacktail, then here is the reason: Blacktail Ponds Overlook is named after blacktail deer that is now known as mule deer named for its ears, which are large like those of the mule. They frequently visit the area.
Second, it is a perfect location to catch the sunrise and the first rays of sun as they begin to light up the peaks and work its way down the mountains. But, the sunsets are breathtaking at this spot as well, so make sure to come back.
Blacktail Ponds Overlook is famous for frequent wildlife sightseeings. Here, you can catch the views of all five animal habitats.
If you look to the west, to the mountains, there, small animals like marmots and pikas live.
Below, in the forest habitat, mule deer and black bears could be spotted.
Next, look at the meadows, here elk and bison can be seen. And, in the sagebrush areas, you might see the sage grouse and pronghorns, as well as ground squirrels.
Moreover, check out the wetlands created by the river, here you might see beavers, and, moose can be spotted here as well.
Now, do not forget to bring your binoculars! Make sure to scan the entire area. You will be surprised by a variety of wildlife in this area.
GLACIER VIEW TURNOUT
Glacier View Turnout is a great spot to see the remains of Middle, Teepee, and Teton Glaciers formed during the Little Ice Age.
WHAT IS THE LITTLE ICE AGE?
The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period. Although, it was not a true ice age, the term defined a period extending from the 16th to the 19th century.
The NASA Earth Observatory noted three particularly cold intervals in 1650, 1770, and 1850. All cold intervals were separated by slight warming.
Schwabacher Landing is one of my favorite spots in Grand Teton National Park. So, of all the spots in the park, do not miss Schwabacher Landing. Here, you will see absolutely picture-perfect reflection of the Tetons in the still waters of Snake River.
Do not miss the turn to Schwabacher Landing! It is easy to just drive by it. So slow down and be on the lookout for the sign. If you are following my directions and doing the loop counter clock-wise, then the sign will be on your left, right after Glacier View Turnout.
Image Credit: National Park Service
Once you make the turn, continue for about 1 mile. Unfortunately, it will be just a dirt road, so slow down and watch out for potholes.
There are two parking lots, so stop by the check out the view from both locations.
Also, take a few short walks along Snake River. This might be your lucky day and you could spot a moose. There is also a beaver dam and plenty of birds.
TETON POINT TURNOUT
Next on the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive is Teton Point Turnout. It is a great spot that offers awesome views of the mountains and glaciers with Snake River framing the view.
It is a very popular spot to watch a sunset as well.
SNAKE RIVER OVERLOOK
Snake River Overlook was the shooting location for Ansel Adams’ famous 1942 black-and-white photo.
Now, the tree growth obstructs the view of Snake River. However, no matter that the view of the river has changed since 1942, it is still on of the most iconic views of the Tetons.
WHO WAS ANSEL ADAMS?
Ansel Easton Adams (1902 – 1984) was an American landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white images of the American West. He helped found Group f/64, an association of photographers advocating “pure” photography which favored sharp focus and the use of the full tonal range of a photograph.
Art critic John Szarkowski wrote, “Ansel Adams attuned himself more precisely than any photographer before him to a visual understanding of the specific quality of the light that fell on a specific place at a specific moment. For Adams the natural landscape is not a fixed and solid sculpture but an insubstantial image, as transient as the light that continually redefines it. This sensibility to the specificity of light was the motive that forced Adams to develop his legendary photographic technique.”
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Cunningham Cabin Historic Site offers great views of the Tetons and an opportunity to explore a bit of history of the early settlers.
The cabin was built by John Pierce Cunningham who arrived in Jackson Hole in 1885.
Cunningham Cabin is a double-pen or dog-trot style building. It has a log cabin on either side of the breezeway or dog-trot, all under one common roof. One cabin was used as living quarters, and the other as forge.
The breezeway provided a cooler covered area for sitting. The combination of the breezeway and open windows in the rooms of the house created air currents which pulled cooler outside air into the living quarters.
ELK RANCH FLATS TURNOUT
The Elk Ranch belonged to Josiah David Ferrin known as ‘Cattle King of Wyoming’. He owned the largest ranch in Jackson Hole with 2,000 cattle on 400 acres. However, in 1928, an agricultural depression made him sell the ranch to the Snake River Company.
Today, the grassy fields remind us of the herds of cattle that once roamed this land.
OXBOW BEND TURNOUT
Oxbow Bend Turnout is another one of my favorite spots on the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive in Grand Teton National Park. Needless to say, it is a very popular spot for photographers to gather and wait for that perfect light.
Oxbow Bend Turnout provides a perfect view of Mount Moran.
In my opinion, if you can come back here at sunrise, you will get awesome photos of Mount Moran reflected in Snake River.
JACKSON LAKE DAM OVERLOOK
Jackson Lake is a 400-foot deep natural lake with dam added to it.
The dam was constructed in the early 1900’s making it one of the tallest dams in the United States at that time. Unfortunately, the dam failed in 1910.
The Bureau of Reclamation completed a concrete dam raising the level of water by 39 feet.
During the 1980’s, Jackson Lake was drained and the dam was reinforced to withstand a 7.5 magnitude earthquake.
Jackson Lake Dam Overlook is a great spot to capture the views of the mountains across Jackson Lake.
CHAPEL OF THE SACRED HEART
The Chapel of the Sacred Heart is a small log chapel that overlooks the southeastern shores of Jackson Lake. It dates back to 1937. It was built with the funds donated to the Catholic Extension Society, an organization that builds and supports remote churches.
Make sure to take the trail that leads from the chapel to the shores of Jackson Lake. It is a perfect spot to snap a few photos of Doane Peak, Eagles Rest Peak and Mount Moran with their mirror images reflected in the water.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN LODGE
It is worth to make a quick stop at Signal Mountain Lodge, if you are ready for some lunch! You can just grab some snacks or have lunch at one of their on-site restaurants with the views of the Tetons in the background.
This rustic resort was started in the 1920’s as a fishing camp. Not much is left of the original resort though.
Today, Signal Mountain Lodge is a full-service establishment. It features variety of accommodations ranging from one-room cabins to two-story buildings with lodge-style rooms.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN SUMMIT DRIVE
Image Credit: National Park Service
After stopping at Signal Mountain Lodge head to the observation area at Signal Mountain Summit.
First of all, turn left off Teton Park Road into Signal Mountain Road. Next, drive for about 5 miles to the summit where there is an observation area.
Once you reach the observation area, you will be rewarded with sweeping vistas of the Teton Range, surrounding valley, the flat plains, Jackson Hole and Snake River.
By the way, there are two parking lots. I always head straight to the second one and then, I make my way down. Also, if possible, come back here at sunset the views are off the charts!
Signal Mountain Road is a narrow two way traffic road with no painted lines and lots of curves that create poor visibility of incoming traffic and even wildlife. However, it is in good condition and well maintained. Please make a note that trailers and RV’s are prohibited on this road.
Potholes Turnout is your next stop on 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive in Grand Teton National Park.
Potholes, also known as kettles, are depressions in the glacial outwash plain. A pothole forms when a chunk of ice breaks off a retreating glacier and stays on the plain. Later on, the sediments that are carried by meltwater cover the ice chunks. Eventually, the ice melts leaving a depression.
When you look at the plains stretching in front of Grand Teton Mountain Range, you can see a lot of the potholes or depressions. Most of the time trees take root in these depressions since lots of moisture gets trapped in them.
MOUNT MORAN TURNOUT
Mount Moran Turnout is a great place to catch the spectacular views of Mount Moran dominating the park’s northern skyline.
Mount Moran reflects all the geologic forces shaping the Teton Range:
- it was formed by a massive block of metamorphic gneiss
- it was cut by dikes of igneous granite and diabase
- it was capped by sedimentary sandstone
- it was/is flanked by glaciers
It is a fascinating fact that he sandstone caps the summit of Mount Moran. That sandstone is the remnant of 510 million years old beach that stretched for hundreds of miles.
MOUNTAIN VIEW TURNOUT
Mountain View Turnout is an awesome spot to see the breathtaking Teton Range with Grand Teton towering over the rest of the peaks.
WHY IS IT CALLED GRAND TETON?
In terms of etymology for the mountain’s naming, the most common explanation is that “Grand Teton” means “large teat” or “large nipple” in French (téton), named by either French-Canadian or Iroquois members of an expedition led by Donald McKenzie of the North West Company.
Unsubstantiated claims exist that the mountain was named after the Teton Sioux tribe of Native Americans, even though this tribe lived about 200 miles (320 km) away in the Dakotas, not Wyoming.
Moreover, in terms of etymology studies, the Teton Sioux tribe’s name is stated as being “not related” to the Grand Teton.
CATHEDRAL GROUP TURNOUT
Next stop on the 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive is Cathedral Group Turnout.
Cathedral Group refers to three peaks:
- Teewinot Mountain
- Grand Teton
- Mount Owen
At Cathedral Group Turnout, you can see these peaks towering above Cascade Canyon. Hands down, it is one of the most spectacular views on the Teton Range.
JENNY LAKE DRIVE AND OVERLOOK
Jenny Lake Drive and Overlook is definitely one of my favorite drives and spots in Grand Teton National Park.
My recommendation is to park in the parking lot by Jenny Lake and then, walk all the way to the shore of Jenny Lake. That way, you will get an unobstructed view of the mountain range.
If at all possible, consider coming back here at sunrise. It truly is a magical sight to see the Cathedral Group reflected in the waters of Jenny Lake.
CASCADE CANYON TURNOUT
Cascade Canyon Turnout is a great place to get closer to the Tetons and be directly in front of the Cascade Canyon.
If you are up to it, you should check out Cascade Canyon Trail. It is one of my favorite hikes in Grand Teton National Park. The canyon was formed by glaciers which retreated at the end of the last glacial maximum approximately 15,000 years ago. If you are not up to this long hike, make sure to check out some of the easy hikes in Grand Teton National Park.
TETON GLACIER TURNOUT
Next, make a stop at Teton Glacier Turnout.
Teton Glacier is the largest glacier in Grand Teton National Park. Did you know that in 1971, the glacier was approximately 3,500 ft (1,100 m) long and 1,100 ft (340 m) wide. Between 1967 and 2006, Teton Glacier lost approximately 14 to 20 percent of its surface area, a reduction from 64 to 53 acres (26 to 21 ha).
WINDY POINT TURNOUT
Get another look at the Teton Mountain Range from Windy Point Turnout.
Check out the interpretative sign that details how the glaciers 3,000 feet thick once filled this valley.
CHAPEL OF TRANSFIGURATION
It is worth to stop by the Chapel of Transfiguration to take a few pictures of the chapel with the mountain range behind it.
The Chapel of Transfiguration is a small log chapel that was built in 1925. If you happen to be there at the time when the chapel is open, then step inside and take a few pictures of the Teton Range through the large window that is located behind the altar. It frames the Teton Mountain Range beautifully.
MENOR’S FERRY HISTORIC DISTRICT
Menor’s Ferry was a river ferry that crossed the Snake River near the present-day Moose.
The site was homesteaded by Bill Menor in 1892.
His homestead included a five-room cabin, a bar, and a store, plus a shed and an icehouse.
Menor operated the ferry until 1918 selling it to Maud Noble, who continued to operate it until 1927 when a bridge was built near Moose.
INTREPID SCOUT’S POINTERS FOR THE 42-MILE SCENIC LOOP DRIVE IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
That is quite a list, right?
What if you only have time to stop at a a couple of locations? No problem!
Here are my absolute 4 must-see points of interest on 42-Mile Scenic Loop Drive:
- Moulton Barns on Mormon Row
- Schwabacher Landing
- Snake River Overlook
- Oxbow Bend
Above all, be safe! Always use the designated turnouts to pull over and take photos. Do not stop in the middle of the road. If you finish your loop drive late in the evening and end up driving in the darkness, be very cautious driving. Drive slow and be on the lookout for animals crossing the road or jumping on the road.
Also, to give you more ideas, check out my two posts:
Did you find this useful?
Why not save it to your Pinterest board!
Now, it is your turn, I would like to hear back from you!
Are you planning your trip to Grand Teton National Park?
Please let me know! Drop me a quick comment right below!
Also, click on any of the images below to get inspired and to help you with the planning process with your trip to Grand Teton National Park!