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Accessible Viewing & Photography for Visitors with Disabilities in Grand Teton National Park:

Locations and Suggestions for Enjoying the Park!

Overview: Within GTNP, there are various degrees of access for visitors with disabilities. For example, you can drive into the parking area at Snake River Overlook and find numerous accessible parking spaces. Several hard surfaced paths lead to the edge of the rock walls at the popular overlook. That’s in the summer, of course. The same paths are snow packed all winter. Along the north end of Jackson Lake, there are a couple of turnouts where tourists with limited mobility get the same unobstructed views as anyone else. Other locations like the Old Patiarch Tree, Bradley Lake, Phelps Lake, and Taggart lake require a rather vigorous hike over narrow trails—if a trail exists at all. Similarly, the traditional road to Schwabacher Landing was closed to vehicle travel in 2013—requiring all interested visitors to hike about 1.2 miles. The closure effectively closes this area to visitors with disabilities to one of the premier locations in Grand Teton National Park. Access to the Schwabacher area and river bottom is closed to everyone during the winter months.

Web Oxbow Sign Jan12

Winter: As I was driving around in the Park over the weekend, I began thinking about how to write this post and what information to include. It’s mid-January as I write it—the dead of Winter here. Quite honestly, it is difficult for me to say Winter access is good in the Park for anyone, much less for someone using a wheelchair, scooter, crutches, or walker. Snow is a couple of feet deep in most places and it can take half a day for the snow plows to clear the roads. Snow removal in the turnouts gets last priority and pullouts like Blacktail Butte Overlook are not plowed at all during the winter.

Winter Restrooms: I can only recall a few “public” restrooms (improved outhouses) open in the Winter. One is at the Taggart Lake trailhead and the other is located next to the Kelly Warm Springs. A restroom might be open on the Laurance S. Rockefeller Parkway, and there should be one at Flagg Ranch. It’s questionable if access at any of them is cleared of snow from the parking lot to the door with any regularity. The Park Service opted to close the Craig Thomas Visitor’s Center at Moose entirely for the 2013-2014 winter season. Roads to the restrooms at the upper lot at Jackson Lake Dam and the restrooms on the north side of the river at the dam are snowed in and closed. During the Summer months, restrooms are fairly common throughout the park.

Bison Sunrise Dec12

Vehicle Access: Visitors with disabilities can still enjoy the park from a vehicle during any season. Of course, many roads are closed during the winter months. I am sure there are many visitors to GTNP that never get out of their car, but due to the very nature of a National Park, vehicles cannot reach every feature. In many cases, additional effort may be required for visitors and photographers with disabilities. Wildlife viewing in the park is always unpredictable, however viewing and photographing them from a vehicle is often very good on most roads in Grand Teton National Park. Most Rangers are fine with people pulling off the road as long as all wheels are completely off the fog line. Wyoming Highway Patrol Officers are sometimes less lenient on the highway, but that seems to dependent on weather conditions. It is illegal to stop in the middle of the road. (Note: This image was taken from the road. I don’t trust Bison, so I stay very close to my truck)

Web Grand Over Hay Fields Jan22

Capturing a Winter Sunrise “Out the Window”! : On January 22nd, I did a trip out to Kelly and then north, taking all photos from the window of my truck. I created a page with around 10 images to attempt to illustrate images you “can” get without getting out of the vehicle—and most of them were taken from legal pullouts. I even took a series of images I later stitched into a panoramic image. Someday, I will try the same assignment when heading north along the highway. Click the link to see the images.

Grover On His Scooter
Grover on His Scooter: (Photographer currently unknown)

With a Little Help From My Friends: I gave a draft of this post to a couple of my friends for review. Sally Miller was a great help with my occasional “politically incorrect” wording. I might have said “Handicap Parking”, while she suggests “Parking for Individuals with Disabilities”. Thanks Sally! My friend and local photographer, Grover Ratliff, can often be seen in the Tetons cruising around on his scooter with his camera gear ready for action. His scooter is usually mounted on the back end of his SUV. Nothing ever seems to slow him down. Grover reviewed the draft and suggested a couple of other places he can get into I hadn’t considered. Thanks to Grover for his help, too! To be perfectly honest, Grover was the inspiration that prompted me to write this post!

The list below is offered as a guide.

Comments about viewing opportunities are purely subjective, of course. Many areas of Grand Teton National Park are closed as I write this post, but I’ll try to correct or remove the question marks as I revisit the locations. As I drive around the region, I’ll take more photos from the various locations and will add them to this post.

Oxbow Bend

Oxbow Bend: Designated Accessible Parking: No Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes, but limited. |  Viewing Opportunities: Good/Great. Viewable all year. (Note: This was taken from the sidewalk  at the edge of the parking lot. It is probably the most photographed single spot in the park)

Web Moon Over Teton Range1_Oct19

Snake River Overlook: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes (?)  |  Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes, but not cleared of snow in the Winter |  Viewing Opportunities: Good/Great. Viewable all year. (Note: This was taken from the rock wall at the Overlook. It is about 30 yards from the parking lot to this spot).

Hints Of Light Dec6

Mormon Row & Barns: Designated Accessible Parking: No  |  Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: No. |  Viewing Opportunities: Fair/Good from Pullouts, but limited otherwise. Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter. (Note: this image was taken from the road before the area closed to vehicle traffic in December)

Cunningham Cabin Lot

Cunningham Cabin: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes (?)  |  Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: No. |  Viewing Opportunities: Good from the Parking Areas. No Access to the Cabin. Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter. (Note: This is an early morning shot taken from the parking lot at the Cunningham Cabin. It has nice views, but there are no sidewalks to the cabin itself)

Web Shane Cabin_Jan18

Shane Cabin: Designated Accessible Parking: No | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: No. | Teton Vista Viewing Opportunities: Fair/Poor. No Easy Access to the Cabin. Viewable all year. (Note: I was only a few feet off the parking area for this shot)

Colter Bay 2009

Coulter Bay: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes. | Viewing Opportunities: Good/Great in some areas. All services closed in the Winter. (Note: This was taken from the sidewalk above the boat docks. It is roughly 40 yards from the parking lot to this area, however, there are a couple of accessible spaces by the water if you drive down to the boat ramp and turn right.)

Craig Thomas Visitor’s Center: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes. | Viewing Opportunities: Same for all. Closed in the Winter.

Chapel at Night

Chapel of the Transfiguration: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes. | Viewing Opportunities: Good/Great ~ Quarters Tight Inside Chapel. Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter.

Menors Ferry Historic District: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes (?). | Viewing Opportunities: Good | Access Inside Historic Building / Gift Shop: Limited to poor. Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter. Photo someday! This site seems to be more historic in nature than photogenic to me.

Leeks Marina 2009

Leek’s Marina: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  |  Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes, some. |  Viewing Opportunities: Good/Great. Closed in the Winter.

Jackson Lake Overlook: Designated Accessible Parking: Not Needed  |  Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: None Required. |  Viewing Opportunities: Same for All / Great. I looked for photos I took from this spot, but didn’t see any. I’ll take some next summer when the lake is full.

Highway Pullouts along Highway 89/191 including Park Entrance, Sleeping Indian Overlook, Albright View Overlook, Blacktail Ponds, Glacier View, Teton Point, and Elk Flats Turnout: Designated Accessible Parking: None Required.  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Limited. | Viewing Opportunities: Good/Great/Same. Most highway pullouts except Blacktail Pond Overlook are plowed in the Winter.

Deadman’s Bar: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes (?)  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: ?. | Viewing Opportunities: Not Great for anyone / This is mainly a boat ramp for Snake River access. Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter. (Note: other than a few leaves or tree trunks, I don’t think I have ever taken a photo at Deadman’s bar)

Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes in most areas. | Viewing Opportunities: Good/Great Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter.

String Lake Road 2010

String Lake Area: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Some around Restrooms but access to the edge of the lake is limited. | Viewing Opportunities: Good/Great Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter. Access to the edge of the water is somewhat limited. (Note: this was taken in late October driving into the String Lake area. The peaks are often called the Cathedral Group.)

Black Bear in Treetop Sept 30

Moose/Wilson Road: Designated Accessible Parking: No(?)  |  Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: No. |  Viewing Opportunities: Good from vehicles, but there are very few pullouts and stopping on the road is not permitted. Only 3.5 miles of the road is open in the Winter. (Note: I was in a vehicle when I took this shot)

LSRPreserve

Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  Handicap Restrooms: Yes, but seasonal. | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Some. Grover says he can drive his scooter from the parking lot to the Preserve’s visitor’s center. | Viewing Opportunities: Good. Trails to Phelps Lake are not wheelchair friendly. Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter.

Signal Mountain: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes (?)  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: No. | Viewing Opportunities: Poor/Good at the top. The last trail to the top is not hard surfaced. Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter.

Signal Mountain Lodge: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes, but somewhat limited. | Viewing Opportunities: Great Facilities closed in the Winter.

Chapel of the Sacred Heart: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes (?)  | Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: (?). | Viewing Opportunities: Good.  Closed in the Winter.

Jackson Lake Lodge: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  |  Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Yes. Handicap Restrooms: Yes | Elevators: Yes | Viewing Opportunities: Great on the West side of the Lodge’s balcony. Facilities closed in the Winter.

Turnouts on the Teton Park Road (Inner Road) including Taggart Lake Trailhead, Windy Point Turnout, Teton Glacier Turnout, Cascade Canyon Turnout, Mountain View Turnout, Mt. Moran Turnout, Potholes Turnout: Designated Accessible Parking: Not Required  |  Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: No. |  Viewing Opportunities: Good/Great/Same. Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter except for Windy Point and Taggart Lake Trailhead.

Web Jenny Lake Night Jan17

Jenny Lake Overlook: Designated Accessible Parking: Yes  |  Hard Surfaced Sidewalks: Limited to the Top and around the Parking Area. |  Viewing Opportunities: Great. Trails down to the Lake are closed to all due to damage to a small chunk of the asphalt. Closed to vehicle traffic in the Winter. (Note: This image was taken late one night as the moon began to light the mountain tops. I shot this one from the Jenny Lake Pullout on the one-way loop road)

Grover And Bear
Grover on the Moose/Wilson Road

Camping Opportunities:

The Gros Ventre Campground completed several accessible camping spaces last year. The restrooms near the new spaces have access and hard surface paths. Grover says this is a great place to stay. He can drive his scooter over the entire campground. He also rides his scooter into the campground after it closes and can occasionally get shots of the moose. Colter Bay Campground is undergoing similar upgrades. Most of the camping areas in those two campgrounds are flat. Due to the hillside slopes at the Signal Mountain, wheelchair access might be limited. Closed in the Winter.

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