Five ways to beat the crowds in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks
There’s no place better than Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the summer, and people know it. While visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks should top your list of Jackson Hole summer activities, you’ll have to share these special places with millions of other people as the parks continue to see record numbers of visitors. But with a little planning, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to get up early, you can still find some solitude. Here’s how to do it.
Go early or stay late.
Traffic peaks in the parks between about 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. It’s worth the early alarm to get through the gates a couple of hours before the rush. Or consider an evening trip into the parks. Jackson Hole in the summer offers long hours of daylight and you can maximize it to find solitude. You’ll find popular spots quiet, if not empty, in the off hours. Plus, you are more likely to see wildlife. Animals are most active in the early mornings and evenings. And there’s no better place to catch sunrise or sunset.
Get off the pavement.
There’s an old saying in Yellowstone National Park that 97 percent of visitors use only 3 percent of the park. While this hasn’t been fact-checked, you will find more people on the roads than on the trails. Both Grand Teton and Yellowstone offer a range of hiking and walking options from well-maintained trails and boardwalks, to long or steep trails that offer epic adventure. Talk to rangers in the parks for recommendations and the latest information on trail conditions and closures.
Take the less traveled trail.
Getting off the pavement is just the start in escaping the crowds. If you’ve never been to Yellowstone, you should visit Old Faithful. But if you’ve already seen the iconic geyser erupt, look for less popular spots. In Grand Teton National Park, most people head to Jenny Lake to hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. These are beautiful spots, but you’ll be sharing the trail and the views with throngs of others. Check with rangers for recommendations and trail conditions for some less popular places. There are plenty of sites that offer beautiful views and a little solitude.
Get in and on the water.
You can be just feet from the roads and feel a world away when you get on the water. Float trips offer stunning scenery, exceptional wildlife viewing and a knowledgeable guide to tell you about the area. Fishermen and women can find peace in the rivers of Yellowstone. As traffic crawls by, they can relax and focus on their cast. (Just make sure you get a park fishing permit).
Signing up for a wildlife tour to get away from people might seem counterintuitive. But Jackson Hole wildlife tours offer a chance to explore the area with a guide who often has insider info on the best time to hit popular sites and secret spots for wildlife viewing.