Touring the Scenic Loop Drive at Grand Teton National Park only takes about an hour and a half to accomplish if no stops are made, but in this majestic setting that is nearly impossible to do! Nobody is in a hurry at Grand Teton, simply because this park is in a very remote location and it takes a long time just to arrive. Once there, the urge to experience as much as possible takes over and any kind of strict travel itinerary gets tossed out the window. The Scenic Loop Drive may only be 43 miles long, yet there is so much to experience along the way that it is best to plan on spending the better part of a day touring this road!
During my visit, the heavy overcast weather obscured the picturesque views of the Grand Teton Mountains early in the morning, but some sunshine was expected closer to noon. This was all the reason needed for breaking camp later than usual and not being in a hurry to do the Scenic Loop Drive. Seeing the sunlight breaking through the clouds and lighting up the towering mountain peaks was something to look forward to. Getting as close to the mountains as possible at the perfect moment ended up being the goal that overcast morning. The easiest way to accomplish this was to tour Teton Park Road, which is the first half of the Scenic Loop Drive.
The 43 mile Scenic Loop Drive consists of touring the entire Teton Park Road and then a section of Highway 191 that returns to the starting point. The drive can start near Moose Junction at the south end or by the Jackson Lake Dam in the north end of the park. Points of interest can be found all along both halves of the touring loop, so an entire day can easily be spent taking all the sights in.
There are several roadside scenic overlooks, lodges, lakes and wildlife viewing areas to be found and each is well worth checking out. Many of the best hiking trailheads can be found along Teton Park Road near the mountains, while Highway 191 parallels the Snake River wilderness, which is a fly fishing haven. Both roads offer views of the high plains where grazing wild herd animals are often spotted. In order to see the bears, all that a visitor needs to do is walk down just about any hiking trail and sooner or later a bear will likely show itself in the distance. Close encounters with bears are something to avoid, because the bears are big and dangerous in this neck of the woods.
The weather was miserable during my autumn season Scenic Loop Drive tour and the wildlife for the most part was sheltered under cover, so there was not much to be seen along the road. After starting near Moose Junction in mid morning, the timing was good for catching a few glimmers of sunlight on the Grand Teton Mountains, but that did not last long. The drizzling rainy weather returned and soon after arriving at Jackson Dam, the rain started coming down in buckets. It was then that I decided to head north through Yellowstone to Montana and save the Highway 191 part of the Scenic Drive Loop for a later date.
Doing the Scenic Loop Tour upon arrival is a good way to become familiar with Grand Teton National Park. If you seek great hiking trails and up close mountain views, then touring the Teton Park Road section of the loop will be the way to go. If trout fishing on the Snake River sounds like a dream come true, then touring the Highway 191 section of the loop will be high on the list. Even when the weather is unfavorable, Grand Teton can still be a great experience and driving the long touring loop certainly is a good option for a rainy day!
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