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15Jan/14Off

Where to Photograph in Grand Teton National Park

A Photography Guide to the Grand Tetons

Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton National Park

Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park has some of the most beautiful scenery in the U.S. It's a fantastic place for photography. I've written this guide to highlight some of the best places to photograph in the Grand Tetons.

First, it’s worth understanding the layout of the park. The Teton mountains runs north-south. There are two primary roadways around the park, and both run parallel along the Tetons. Both of these roads are on the eastern side of the mountains, so you’ll be looking westward for your photographs.

This guide focuses on the outer road where you can find many of the most iconic and famous viewpoints of the Tetons. It’s a highway and can be accessed all year round. The inner road also has many viewpoints and will be discussed as well, but note that it is closed in winter.

We’ll start our tour traveling south out of Yellowstone National Park into Grand Teton National Park. All through this guide I’ll include links to the various photography sites on Google Maps, so you’ll be able to find any of the locations even if you don’t follow the route below.

The road that heads into the Tetons from Yellowstone is Hwy 89/191/287. As you drive south from Yellowstone into the Tetons on this road, you’ll first pass Jackson Lake. Here you’ll get your first glimpse of the Tetons up close. FYI, Jackson Lake Lodge is along this route, and you can stop into the lobby to gaze through the large picture windows.

To get to the major photography sites, continue traveling south until the highway splits into the parallel roads that I mention above. These two roads form the Teton loop, along which you can stop to take your pictures.

Here’s the split:


View Larger Map

For any of the maps in this guide, you can send the link to your mobile phone and if your phone supports it, you can use GPS navigation to navigate directly to the site.

The outer road (further from the Tetons) is where many of the popular viewpoints are located, so we’ll start there.

   
Oxbow Bend

To reach the first major photography spot, Oxbow Bend, you’ll travel onto the outer road from the split, so stay on Hwy 89/191/287 as it heads east / south and go one mile.

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

The Oxbow Bend viewing area is very easy to see. The area is right off the main road. You may notice many people photographing right from the parking lot, but the best view is a short walk down to the water's edge. After parking your car, walk north a little bit along the road and you'll see foot trails through the long grass where people have made their way down to the water. If you don't see any trails, just blaze your own -- it's a very short walk down to the water. From there you'll have unobstructed views of the mountains and you'll be able to get beautiful reflections.

The photo above was taken at F8 for 1/160th sec, ISO 100 at 75mm (full-frame equivalent).

Oxbow Bend is here:


View Larger Map

   

Snake River Overlook

The next stop is the famous Snake River Overlook. Snake River Overlook is where Ansel Adams made his iconic photograph of the Tetons.

From this overlook, you're facing West so be there for sunrise. When the sun rises behind you in the east it illuminates the Tetons and the landscape below with a wonderful glow.

Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton National Park

Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton National Park

The area where you can set up your tripod for the best shot is not that wide, so get there early so you can get a good spot.

The above photo was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II on a tripod, F11 for 1/4 sec, ISO 100 at 20mm (full-frame equivalent).

To get here, head south from Oxbow Bend. You’ll reach an intersection after three miles -- continue south onto Hwy 26/89/191 and go about ten miles -- you’ll see the parking lot for Snake River Overlook here:


View Larger Map

You can plan what time in the morning to be there by looking up sunrise times here -- just enter the dates you’ll be photographing:

Sunrise / Sunset times for Grand Teton National Park

 
Schwabacher Landing

Just south of the Snake River Overlook about 4.5 miles is Schwabacher Landing. Schwabacher Landing is a stunning area down off the road and actually on the river, so you can get reflections of the Tetons in the water. As with the Snake River Overlook, you'll want to shoot in the morning when the sun is behind you and illuminating the face of the Tetons.

 

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

While there is a dirt road that you used to be able to drive from the highway down to the landing by the water, that dirt road was closed to vehicles when we were there. If that's the case during your visit, you'll need to park along the highway and walk down. It’s not a short walk (about a mile) and while it's not extremely steep, it is long. The incline on the walk back can be tiresome, so be prepared. You may want to bring bear spray as well. Once down on the water, you can walk north along the river for a variety of vantage points.

The above photo was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II on a tripod, F11 for 1/80th sec, ISO 100 at 45mm (full-frame equivalent).

Schwabacher Landing is located here:


View Larger Map

 

Moulton Barn and Mormon Row

To get to Moulton Barn, continue south on the highway about 3 miles until you see Antelope Flats Road. Make a left and follow along Antelope Flats until you come to Mormon Row. Moulton Barn will be to your right, and a few other structures will be to your left.

Moulton Barn, Grand Teton National Park

Moulton Barn, Grand Teton National Park

 

The above photo was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II, F8 for 1/640th sec, ISO 200 at 78mm (full-frame equivalent).

Drive to the right to photograph the famous Moulton Barn, which is located here:


View Larger Map

   

If instead of going right, toward Moulton Barn, you make a left at the intersection, you'll drive a short distance and likely see herds of Bison in the grassy areas on either side of the road. If you can drive so that the Bison are framed by the Tetons in the back, park your car on the side of the road, and capture your images.

Bison, Grand Teton National Park

Bison, Grand Teton National Park

 

The above photo was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II, F9 for 1/640th sec, ISO 200 at 81mm (full-frame equivalent).

The image above was taken here:


View Larger Map

Those are some of the main highlights from the HWY 26/89/191 that is open year-round. Of course there are others, like Cunningham Cabin, so explore.

   
The Inner Road

In addition to the highway, you can also travel the inner road which runs parallel to the highway, but a little closer to the mountains. Starting at the top of the loop, travel west / south onto Teton Park Road:


View Larger Map

There are a variety of photo opps on the inner road, so explore, but I’ll highlight two of the main ones: Signal Mountain and Jenny Lake.
   

Signal Mountain

About 3 miles south of the split, you’ll find the Signal Mountain area, which has a lodge and restaurants. Nearby, you’ll find the road that takes you to the top of the Signal Mountain area, where there are scenic overlooks.

Signal Mountain, Grand Teton National Park

Signal Mountain, Grand Teton National Park

The road to the top can be found here:


View Larger Map

   

Jenny Lake

Continue south for another 14 miles and you’ll reach the beautiful Jenny Lake area.

Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Jenny Lake is here:


View Larger Map

If you continue traveling south, you’ll eventually reach the bottom of the Teton loop, where you can then turn north and travel the highway where all the photo opps in the previous section are located. All along the way on both roads you’ll pass beautiful scenery, so just stop the car, or hike a little, and explore as much as you can. There are so many amazing photography opportunities.

 
Horseback Riding

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can reach some incredible and off-the-beaten-path vantage points by horseback. We took a 3-hour horseback trip with Swift Creek Outfitters / Teton Horseback Adventures and it was incredible. Our ride was the “Big Pulpit Ride” and it took us way up in the mountains into some gorgeous scenery.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

If that seems interesting to you, their website is here:  Swift Creek Outfitters / Teton Horseback Adventures   

 
Grand Teton National Park is an absolutely amazing place to visit. The photo opportunities for landscape and wildlife photography are virtually endless. The park is just small enough so that it’s not overwhelming, but large enough to provide you with an incredibly wide variety of vantage points. Combined with its close proximity to Yellowstone, it is a fantastic photo destination.

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

 

Best,
Paul

I've also created an app for iPhone, Android, and iPod Touch which teaches you photography -- more info can be found here:

Photography Trainer for iPhone and Android

Photography Trainer iPhone app

Photography Trainer iPhone app

 
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