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Best of the Tetons

Shadow Mtn Moon Set

Outside the Park: Alternative Places to Visit, Hike, Fish, and Photograph

Foliage Wide Shot Oct2

On October 1, 2013, all National Parks were closed to the public as a result of the budget showdown in Washington. The closures included both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone Park, but it has also included part of the National Elk Refuge. I created this page to help people find alternative places to visit during the uncertain time of the government shutdown. As of October 17, 2013, the Parks are open again!

Even when the Parks ARE OPEN, there are areas in the region I think are worth considering. Some even have views of the Tetons and some might even be superior choices to the overly visited spots in the park.

Shadow Mountain

Shadow Mtn Map

Located on the Bridger-Teton National Forest along the East boundary of the park. Shadow Mountain is almost always good during the fall. You can get a variety of vista views of the Tetons. The road can be driven in a passenger car unless it has been raining a lot. The road is a bit rough. You can get access to Shadow Mountain by following the East Boundary Road north past the Scherwing Studio and turning right. Stay on the road and it will dump you back out near Lost Creek Ranch. The best viewing is on the southern end. Once you enter the trees at the top of the mountain, all you see is trees on either side.

Shadow Mtn Moon Set

I think Shadow Mountain is mainly a morning location, but you might also get some good sunset and night time images. There are lots of opportunities for Panoramic shots from the top of the south end of the mountain.

Up the Gros Ventre

Up Gros Ventre Map

“Up The Gros Ventre” — Unexpected Treasures Exit the Park on the east side near Kelly Warm Springs and follow the Gros Ventre River. Good fishing in most places. Click the link for more photos and a lot more information!

slide lake willows Oct 1

Down the Canyon

Snake River Canyon Map

Follow the Snake River south out of Jackson to Alpine Junction, then along Palisades Reservoir. Currently in peak foliage. Eagles, deer, hawks. There are dozens and dozens of good spots to pull over and capture a terrific image or just view the scenery. A power line runs through much of the canyon, so you occasionally have to do some creative compositions to eliminate them in camera.

Snake River Canyon Oct 2

Up the Hoback to Granite Falls and Granite Hot Springs

Granite Falls Map

Go south out of Jackson to Hoback Junction turn left towards Pinedale. A slightly rough side road at Granite Creek takes you to Granite Falls. Fishing can be good.

Granite Falls

 

Curtis Canyon

Curtis Canyon

Accessible through the National Elk Refuge, the roads lead towards Sleeping Indian and Goodwin Lake. Vista views of the valley in many places. Rough roads. Fishing in Goodwin Lake.

Curtis Canyon Pano

Panoramic image with the Teton Range in the background, Blacktail Butte near the middle and one of the Curtis Canyon ridges in the shadows. This one was taken a couple of years ago with remnant smoke from one of the area wildfires.

Curtis Canyon Overlook_Oct5

This pre-dawn image was taken at the first Curtis Canyon overlook after climbing the hill. The lights in the distance are from the Jackson Hole Airport. The streaks across the flats were from a couple of vehicles captured during a 20 second exposure.

 

Togwotee Pass

Togwotee Map

Turn East at Moran Junction and follow the highway over the pass. Side roads take you to Brooks Lake and a beautiful waterfall near the highway. Grizzlies have been seen recently along the highway. From Moran, you’ll climb towards the meadows near Togwotee Mtn. Lodge. One pullout lets you look back towards the distant Teton Range. Depending on your direction of travel, this will be one of the first or last views of the Tetons. The road levels out for a few miles with a fertile, high mountain valley with a stream meandering through it. Heading east from there, you’ll begin to see the Pinnacle Peaks to the north of the road. Once you pass the road to Brooks Lake Lodge, you will begin to drop in altitude towards the town of Dubois, WY.

Grizzly Sow And Cub

Buffalo Valley Road to Turpin Meadows

Togwotee Map

Exit the park east of Moran. Turn south on the Buffalo Valley Road and on to Turpin Meadows. The road will eventually feed back onto the highway to Togwotee Pass. Great sunrises over the Buffalo River.

Buffalo River Sunrise

Over Teton Pass

 Teton Pass Aspens Oct 3

Head West out of Jackson to Wilson, then up and over Teton Pass.  This stand of Aspen were near the town of Wilson. Near this stand of aspens, the Old Pass Road splits off the highway and heads up the canyon for a mile or so. There is a parking lot and a paved trail to the top of the pass.

Teton Pass Barn Oct 3

This old classic barn is on the north side of the highway as you leave Wilson and just before you start the climb. I removed a couple of telephone lines that run across the barn when photographing from the road.  I removed them quickly in Photoshop with the Content Aware clone tool.

Pass Waterfall Oct. 3

There are several overlooks, turnouts, and trails. This little terraced creek was taken just off the road at one of the turnouts about half way up. As you near the top, there are three or four pullouts that offer vista views of the valley below. Morning sunrises are probably wonderful, and it might be a good spot to photograph above the fog in the mornings. It’s on my “to do” list! Wildflowers are common alongside the roads most of the Spring, Summer, and early Fall.

Fall Creek Road to Redtop Meadows

Fall Creek Barn Oct 3

Go to Wilson, then turn South and follow the mountain road to Redtop Meadows. You’ll be traveling alongside some of the spring creeks that feed Fish Creek before it dumps into the Snake River. There are several side roads that take you back into Bridger-Teton National Forest, including Mosquito Creek. Mosquito Creek also feeds into the Snake. There are lots of expensive houses and parcels along the drive, but you can pick and choose to find some nice shots along the way.

Munger Mtn Oct 3

Munger Mountain is on the East side of the road and visible from about anywhere south of Jackson. There are hiking trails that can take you to the top if you are up for it. Watch for deer, elk, owls, and eagles.

Mosquito Creek

Mosquito Creek Road Oct 3

Mosquito Creek Road heads West off Fall Creek Road. I considered including it with the Fall Creek section, but it is a place you could easily spend hours. The Native Americans and Mountain Men followed Mosquito Creek to cross the pass into Idaho. Compared to the Teton Pass Road, this has a much more gentle and even pitch. The road is gravel and rock based so it can be traveled even with a recent rain. There are a few pot holes, but not too bad. It might be easy to say the road is “rough”, but I see quite a few cars going up and down it with no problems. The road winds its way west for about two miles before crossing the creek. Up until that point, the stream below seems dark and tight. Once you cross the stream, the valley opens up some.

Mosquito Creek Oct 3

The little creek tumbles its way down the mountain. Just pick a spot you like and shoot away! There are many like this one to choose from. I pulled back some to get the fall foliage, but I also like to move in close or use a telephoto lens to isolate interesting areas. A tripod and longer exposure will let you get the velvety flowing water. This photo was taken for 1/2 second at F/22. I’ve never fished it, but it looks like it could be interesting fly fishing. In the zone below the little bridge and down to the main road, there are numerous small beaver ponds and deeper looking pools which are probably full of brook trout.

Mosquito Creek Hillside Oct3

There was a big fire in some areas of Mosquito Creek a few years ago. Some of the snags are still standing. They can help create some very interesting compositions and photographic opportunities when juxtaposed against healthy forests. Stands of Aspens and Spruce trees create some interesting mosaic patterns in the hillsides.  This is also a good area for wildflowers in the summer. Lupines and Indian Paintbrush can often be found growing side by side or intermixed.  Watch for deer, elk, and about all of the raptors. I’ve never done it, but someday I plan on driving the road all the way to the end.

In case you are wondering, Fish Creek runs near the road when going south out of Wilson. Eventually, you climb the hill to get to Redtop Meadows. The asphalt ends just past the Redtop Meadows subdivision. Once you start dropping down the hill, another small mountain stream starts showing up on the right side of the road. Fall Creek has fish in it! I’ve caught a few of them, but I recall most of them being fairly small. There might be big ones mixed in. Much of it is on Forest Service property, so you can fish with a current Wyoming license. People drive the dirt road on south all the way to the highway south of Astoria Hot Springs. It is fairly rough, full of potholes and muddy after a rain. I drove it today, but didn’t see that much I might have wanted to photograph. Fall Creek crosses the road and goes out of sight to the east. When back on the highway, you can see it cascading out of a little valley. There are two small waterfalls, both on private property. Long ago, one of the two falls was used in the movie “The Pursuit of DB Cooper“. Now, a house is built almost on top of it.

Up Cache Creek

Cache Creek Map

Popular with hardy hikers.  Dogs are allowed on this trail. The trail is located on the far East end of Jackson, the trails go on for miles and miles. Watch for deer, elk, black bears, and an occasional mountain lion.

Cache Creek Vista by Darla Jackson

Cache Creek Vista by Darla Jackson

South Park Wildlife Habitat and Elk Feed Grounds

South Park Map

Located just a few miles south of town on State land. There is one rest room and numerous parking areas.  The area is closed all winter when is hosts a fairly large herd of elk. In the summer, this is one of the better birding areas of the valley. Good for eagles, hawks, waterfowl, shorebirds, deer, and a variety of critters and birds. A bridge crosses the creek at the barns on the West end, then pick one of nature trails and head towards the river and the other ponds and wetlands. Fishing can be really good for both large and small trout. I haven’t fished it in a long time, but it used to be one of my favorite places close to home.

South Park Feedgrounds Road Oct 6

This shot shows the road snaking down to the feed barn—just out of sight on the right. You can see the rest room on the far right and Flat Creek in a couple of places winding on down to the Snake River. Munger Mountain is on the far left, with a few spruce trees visible at its base at the edge of the Snake River. Hiking trails begin just behind the stand of cottonwoods at the middle of the far right of the image.

Flat Creek

Take Off

No need for a map on this one. Look for the viewing platform must north of the Visitor’s Center.  The platform overlooks Flat Creek and across the National Elk Refuge. This spot can be good for ducks, swans, otters. You also get great views of Sleeping Indian mountain. Another platform is off the road just yards from the Visitor’s Center with different views of the wetlands.

Sleeping Indian in Winter

Swan Pond

Swan Pond Map

The Wyoming Game and Fish and Teton Science School maintain a swan pond a couple of miles due west of the Maverick Gas Station on the south edge of town. Captive swans are mixed in with wild swans that fly in and out daily during most of the year. There are usually lots of geese and other ducks, along with an occasional Bald Eagle, Osprey, Owls, and Hawks in the area. A great place for flying swans, usually right over your head. I go there a lot in the winter to get rid of cabin fever and usually come home with a couple of cards full of images. There can be upwards of 100 swans on some days!

Swans Take Off

Green River Lakes

Green River Lakes

This one is roughly 100 miles from Jackson. The last part of it is over rough roads, but it is definitely photogenic and worth the trip! Of course, I love the Tetons, but this area probably comes in a close second. Head south towards Pinedale, then look for the road going north through Cora. Follow it all the way to the end. There are no services. Stock up on food, snacks, and gas before heading into the region. The area has good fishing along the Green River, Dollar Lake, and in the lakes. Watch for grizzly bears, moose, wolves, deer, and elk. This is a popular access point for back country hikers and hunters.

Horseback Rides at Spring Creek Ranch

Spring Creek Horseback Stables

Drive the road up to the top of the butte, get on a horse and ride to the north end of the butte. You’ll get vista views of the Grand, the entire Teton range, the entire valley, Sleeping Indian, and the Elk Refuge. Check with them about an hour and a half custom ride in which you can take your tripod and basic gear to stop for unique vista views. Alternatively, go early and photograph from the deck of the Granery Restaurant. They open for breakfast at 7:00 am, which is perfect for sunrise photography right now.

Flat Creek Vista

As I get time, I will try to add more maps and Feature Pages for many of the locations on the list. You can pick up maps at the JH Chamber of Commerce—temporarily located in the Home Ranch Restroom facility on Cache. Currently, I’d suggest a trip Up the Gros Ventre or Down the Canyon. Foliage Season is close to peak in both areas.

 

Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park get most of the attention in our region, but the State of Wyoming also has parks worth exploring. As far as I know, none of them are closed as a result of the budget issues.

List of NW Wyoming State Parks

Boysen State Park
Sinks Canyon State Park
Hot Springs State Park
Buffalo Bill State Park
South Pass City Historic Site
(pages linked to WyomingTourism.org)

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Comments (9)

  1. Thanks very much, Mike! I actually dodged the bullet as I flew home on 9/27 but had I been there this week your info would have been extremely valuable.

    Your photography is stunning and your helpfulness is to be admired also.

  2. Mike thank you so much for all of your work, I should be in JH early next week with my son and his cousin. We will use your tips to find wildlife and some good landscape areas.
    Thanks again, Tim

  3. Cindy

    Hey Mike, Thank you for dropping off your cards. Great timing. We had several people ask what there is to do and gave them your cards. I hope you got some hits. I left around 3:30 and the 1rst of the 3 boxes was 1/3 gone. I love your sight. Cindy

  4. Brian

    Mike thank you so much for all your updates. As an amateur photographer from Idaho Falls, I do get over to your neck of the woods quite often. Your photos inspire me, and your post definitely help me to plan my trips. I truly appreciate them and look forward to meeting you someday.

  5. Paul

    Thanks Mike for the info on the Swan Pond! We have been here numerous times since 1978, but that was the first time we’d heard of that. Managed to get some really nice in-flight shots of the swans–my wife Carla in particular wanted to thank you for the information!

  6. Steve Lasch

    I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your posting this. We were caught in the closed park debacle and were at a loss as to what to do. Found your site. Went to Granite Falls, Gros Ventre and Togwotee Pass, A grizzly bear crossed the road in front of us and we saw many moose, elk and bison. Thank you for saving our vacation!! Steve Lasch

  7. Hi Steve,
    I am so happy my site could help you and your family. We are all hoping the park opens soon, but hopefully finding some of these places will broaden your NW Wyoming experience. I was at Granite Falls this morning and loved every minute of it. Please share the links to this site with all of your friends! MJ

  8. Mike, thanks so much for this information. We are coming your way next June and intentionally planned several nights outside GTNP to explore other areas before heading into the park. I know you were helping people who are locked out of the park right now, but you are also letting people know there is more to the area around Jackson besides the park. Glad we found your blog and will be following it regularly. Wonderful photos, too.
    Kathy & Bill Johnston

  9. Hi Kathy,
    Thanks for your note and kind words. When I was brainstorming the blog originally, I knew I wanted to do a series of feature posts about places outside the park like, Up the Gros Ventre, Down the Snake River Canyon, Up Curtis Canyon, Up Shadow Mountain, and so forth. The park closure spurred them along quicker than I had planned, but I am happy to do it. MJ

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