Some places in this world make you realize how small you are. Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is one of them.
Its namesake peak, Grand Teton, towers at 13,775 feet tall, while others in the Teton Range top 12,000 feet, according to the park.
Scenic Jackson Hole valley sprawls below with a wide array of wildlife to see and wilderness to explore.
It’s easy to see why so many people visit the park, one of the most popular in America.
Here’s what travelers should know about Grand Teton, the latest national park in USA TODAY’s yearlong series.
What is so special about Grand Teton?
“The thing that is so special about Grand Teton (is) of course the mountains,” said C.J. Adams, public affairs specialist for the park. “We call them the mountains of imagination because when you close your eyes and picture mountains, you picture something like the Tetons.”
“The views are spectacular,” added Valerie Gohlke, public affairs officer for Grant Teton, who also praised the park’s pristine lakes and Snake River.
What activities can people do at Grand Teton?
With all those picture perfect views, photography is very popular. "This park is where I fell in love with photography and whether that's taking pictures of scenery, taking pictures of wildlife, that's one of my favorite things to do," Adams said.
The park is also a haven for hiking, climbing and biking. Gohlke noted there are 250 miles of trails and “a multiuse pathway through the park that's phenomenal.”
Visitors who prefer to drive from place to place can take a scenic drive through Grand Teton. “It’s one of the best places in the country for that,” Adams said.
How many days in Grand Teton is enough?
Visitors can get a taste of the roughly 310,000-acre park in a day, but Adams recommends staying “as long as you can.”
“I've been in the Tetons for about a decade now, and there (are) still things on my list that I want to see,” he said. “It could take a lifetime to explore.”
Do you need reservations to enter Grand Teton National Park?
No, but visitors arriving by car will need to pay a vehicle entrance fee of $35. It’s $30 for motorcycles and $20 for visitors arriving by foot, bike or ski, according to the park.
Reservations are required for campgrounds, and permits are required for backcountry camping.
What is the best month to visit Grand Teton?
The most popular time to visit is May through September, but Adams and Gohlke’s favorite time of year in Grand Teton is right now.
“If you see an aspen tree with a white bark with banana yellow leaves against the blue sky, it's breathtaking,” Gohlke said of the fall colors.
“Typically the third week of September into October is kind of when those colors begin into peak, and wildlife are a little bit more active as they begin their fall migrations,” Adams said. “Then the spring can be great. It's the time when the all the baby animals are being born throughout the ecosystem, and wildlife is beginning to migrate into Grand Teton National Park.”
Visitors should note that while the park is open year-round, some roads, most visitors facilities and all campgrounds are limited or closed each November through April, according to the park. The latest closures and conditions are available on the park’s website.
What kinds of animals are in Grand Teton?
“Elk, bison, wolves, fox, moose, raptors, river otter, beavers, deer – the list is endless,” Gohlke said.
She and Adams noted that where and when wildlife show up are unpredictable, but there are definite opportunities for viewing.
“I was on a hike yesterday and saw a black bear,” Adams said. “Then on my drive to work, which is only 2 miles, I saw a big herd of elk this morning.”
What is the closest big city to Grand Teton?
There aren’t really any big cities near the park. The nearest sizable town is Jackson, Wyoming, which has under 11,000 residents according to the U.S. census. Jackson is the town, while Jackson Hole refers to the larger valley.
The nearest airport, Jackson Hole Airport, is actually inside the park. The airport notes it’s the only commercial airport in the country that's entirely inside a national park.
“Some folks fly into Jackson,” Gohlke said. “Some folks fly into Bozeman (or) Billings, Montana, and then Salt Lake City, which is a farther drive but oftentimes you can get cheaper flights.”
How far apart are Yellowstone and Grand Teton?
Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are relatively close together, but not as close as they may appear at their borders.
The distance between Grand Teton’s Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center and Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Visitor Education Center is 86 miles, which would take just over 2 hours to drive. Both parks have multiple visitor centers.
“A lot of the time, people will combine both parks because we're so geographically close together,” said Gohlke, who worked at Yellowstone for years. She urged travelers to plan ahead. “There's just so much to see and do in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone that I really think your best bet is to come in with a plan.”
What Native American tribes lived in the Tetons?
Twenty-four tribes have historic ties to the Tetons, according to the park.
Each summer, the park hosts an American Indian Guest Artist Program at Colter Bay Visitor Center, inviting Indigenous artists to share their art and culture with visitors. This year’s program runs through Oct. 2.
“Every single time is a phenomenal experience to be able to share that with them and for them to have ceremonies and tribal celebrations on their Native lands,” Gohlke said. “It's a pretty spectacular experience when we get to collaborate with the tribes.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grand Teton National Park is what you imagine when you think mountains