There's something about Grand Teton National Park's towering snow-capped peaks set aglow by the sun's golden-hour rays that gives me all the feels. The best part? There are TONS of pull offs on the two main highways that offer some of the best "big teats" views this park has to offer, most of which were made famous by the one and only landscape photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams.
Check out my favorite drive-up photo spots in GTNP!
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Grand Teton National Park at a Glance:
Location: Jackson Hole, WY
Best time to visit: Mid-May to Late September
Entrance Fees: $35 for private vehicle; $70 for an annual pass; $80 for America the Beautiful Pass (highly recommend)
Native Lands: Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead, Gros Ventre, Nez Perce
Size: 310,000 acres/485 square miles
Established: 1939 as a National Park
Activities: Hiking, fishing, boating, climbing, horse-back riding
Visitor Center: Colter Bay Visitor Center (open); Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center (closed for COVID); Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve Center (closed for COVID); Jenny Lake Visitor Center (currently closed); Jenny Lake Ranger Station (closed for COVID); Flagg Ranch Information Center (closed for COVID); Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center (closed for COVID)
Photography Packing List
Camera bag I'm a Wandrd kind of girl! It's water resistant with tons of pockets, including side camera access, with a laptop sleeve, a separate upper compartment for whatever hiking gear you want to bring along, and so much more. Freaking love this thing.
Cleaning kit Afternoon thunderstorms are to be expected, so you'll want something to clean up those rain droplets now and then!
Memory cards There's no time for deleting "bad" photos on a mountaintop because you ran out of memory. Pack a couple extra memory cards in your backpack just in case!
Extra batteries Long exposures suck the juice out of your battery as fast as it takes to suck the juice out of a Capri Sun. Pack a few extras to be prepared (and bring along some way to charge your batteries in your car if you can!) Pro Tip: Don't mess around with the off-brand batteries. Tried that once, don't recommend.
External hard drive Keep your photos on both your SD card and uploaded onto an external hard drive as backup. The last thing you want is for your memory card to randomly corrupt and to loose all of your hard work! *Cue the sobs. The Lacie Rugged hard drive is my favorite–rumor has it you can run over it with a car and it'd be fine!
Quick Tips for Landscape Bangers
Don't forget your tripod!
Low light makes it tough for even the steadiest of hands to capture a crisp handheld photo. Tripods are game changers!
Go at sunrise if you can! If you didn't watch sunrise in GTNP, did you even go? These massive peaks turn a gorgeous pink, red, and yellow during sunrise, and that's something you don't want to miss.
Don't have an external shutter release? No problem, use a two-second timer to eliminate shake from pressing the shutter!
Try shooting manual if you can. Here are some sample settings to play around with to snag a rad landscape shot:
Keep your ISO below 500 to eliminate noise/grain
Set your Aperture to f/10 or higher to keep all elements in focus
Adjust your shutter speed as the sun continues to rise
Forget about jpeg. You want all these images to be shot in RAW.
Add some foreground
Including grass, trees, leaves, or something in your foreground gives your photos a little depth, which the human eye often finds more intriguing.
Things to Remember on Any Adventure
Wear a mask!
Think of it as your new everyday adventuring essential (just like your first aid kit, water, and comfy wool socks).
Pack in, pack out.
Let's keep nature natural, the grizzlies eating berries, and the park clean and pristine.
Don't forget you're in bear country!
Keep bear spray on hand at all times (especially for early morning shoots), and be mindful of your food storage. When you're out and about, it's okay to keep a snack or two in your backpack, but all other food should be locked away in your car or secured in a bear canister for safe keeping.
Stick to the roads/trails.
Venture off the beaten path, but never forge your own trail. Sticking to pre-established trails keeps the surrounding environment as natural and wild as possible (and lessens risk of injury). And as GTNP's backcountry guide states, one missed step could destroy a tiny 100-year-old plant!
The Sweet Spots:
1. Oxbow's Bend
An Ansel Adams favorite, Oxbow's Bend is a pullout on highway 89/191 between Jackson Lake Junction and Moran Junction. The water is totally calm in the early hours of the morning, which makes for a rad reflection of Mt. Moran in the curved river bend below. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife!
Wildlife sightings: Bison hang out in the field to the left and pelicans frequent the river here.
2. Schwabacher's Landing
This is supposed to be one of the most epic places to capture the Tetons reflecting in the super calm river below, but we were totally fogged in the morning we walked down the short trail to the water's edge and only got a tiny glimpse of the peaks (see above). *Sigh. I hope you have better luck!
Wildlife sightings: We saw a pair of Sandhill cranes!
3. Mormon Row Historic District
This is such a sweet photo spot, but it's also an interesting piece of colonial history. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as Mormons, sent groups to the Salt Lake Valley to homestead in the 19th century. Mormon Row was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. It's a gorgeous dirt-road drive – AWD recommended for some deep potholes, but not required.
4. Snake River Overlook
This scene from another Ansel Adams banger can be found in a pullout on highway 26 smack in between Elk and Moose.
Wildlife sightings: Bison love to hang out in the field pictured above!
5. Signal Mountain
Also an epic place to see wildlife, this is where you'll want spend sunset. You'll get a view of the entire valley, and on a short offshoot trail to the right of the first pullout, you'll find the Tetons.
Wildlife sightings: Bear and elk like to hang out here!