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Last updated on February 13, 2023 by Wandering our World

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the last remaining large, nearly intact ecosystems in the northern temperate zone of our planet. The almost 18-million-acre (73,000-square-kilometer) Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem incorporates both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, which for many makes it difficult to choose which one as the priority to visit.

However despite their proximity, these stunning national parks are actually quite different….

Yellowstone National Park is a great destination for a variety of travelers, including nature lovers, adventure seekers, photographers, hikers, and families. The park is home to a wide range of flora and fauna and many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and fishing.

Its stunning natural features are ideal for photography, and its fascinating history allows visitors to learn about the history of the American West as they explore this iconic national park. But in particular it’s a fantastic place for families due to the many easy hikes and exciting thermal features that kids love.

Grand Teton National Park lies ten miles to the south of Yellowstone and is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, camping, and rock climbing.

Known for its stunning scenery, diverse wildlife, majestic mountains and pristine lakes, Grand Teton is also a nature photographer’s dream. However rock climbing is where it excels.

However the fact remains that with so many similarities between Yellowstone and Grand Teton, it can be difficult to choose between the two.

That’s where we can help! Whether you’re a seasoned national park traveler or a first-time hiker, below we show you how they’re different and why one may suit you better.


  1. Which Is Easier To Get To?
  2. Which Has The Best Hiking?
  3. Which Is Best For Rock Climbing?
  4. Which Is Best For Photography?
  5. Which Is Best For Families?
  6. What Time Of Year Is Best?
  7. Which Is The Better Choice?
An infographic pitting Grand Teton vs Yellowstone and showing some of the key differences that will be discovered later in the article.

Which Is Easier To Get To?

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are two of the most popular national parks in the United States. Yet while both parks are incredible and well-worth a visit, they differ a little in terms of their accessibility, with one being ever-so-slightly easier to get to than the other.

For international travelers, the ease of getting to either Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park will largely depend on your starting location and the available flight options.

For those flying from overseas, it may be easiest to fly into a major airport such as Denver International Airport (DEN) or Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).

From Denver or Salt Lake City, you can transit across to Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) via a domestic flight. The two parks are both situated a short distance north of Jackson Hole, about 30 miles apart from each other.

The American bison or simply bison (Bison bison), also commonly known as the American buffalo or simply buffalo, Yellowstone National Park. The herd of Bison near the river with reflections of the bison and the mountains.
iStock.com/Gerald Corsi

In terms of driving distance, the Moose Entrance of Grand Teton National Park is about a 10-minute drive north of Jackson Hole, and the South Entrance to Yellowstone National Park is another hour’s drive north of Grand Teton’s Moose Entrance.

From within the United States, you have a bit more choice for domestic airports. As an alternative to flying into Jackson Hole, you could also look at flights into Bozeman, Montana, which is about a two-hour drive from the northern end of the park. From there, you’ll need to rent a car or take a shuttle to reach the park.

Grand Teton National Park is located just a few miles from Jackson Hole Airport. This makes it much easier for visitors to fly into the area and start exploring the park right away.

Additionally, the park is located just a short drive from the town of Jackson, making it an ideal base for those looking to explore the area.

Overall, with such a small distance between the two parks, the slight difference in ease of reaching the parks should play little role in your final choice of which park to visit.

Grand Teton and Snake River in Wyoming

Which Has The Best Hiking?

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are both known for their stunning landscapes and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities, making them popular destinations for hikers.

However some of Yellowstone’s most famous features – like the Old Faithful Geyser and several waterfalls – can be easily accessed by a simple hike, making it perfect for those who aren’t serious hikers or for families with young children.

Yet as the more popular park, Yellowstone’s main trails can get very busy. Grand Teton, on the other hand, usually has less foot traffic and has some spectacular trails that may suit serious hikers more. Although that said, Yellowstone does have more trails, many of which are off the beaten track and very quiet.

However ultimately when it comes to choosing which park has the best hiking trails, it depends on your personal preference and hiking goals.

We’re going to have a quick look at a few of the most popular trails in each of the two parks so you can see which ones you may prefer best…

Woman Looks Out Over Tetons Wilderness on sunny summer day

The Best Yellowstone Hiking Trails

1. Old Faithful Geyser Loop Trail

Old Faithful is a cone geyser in Yellowstone National Park and was the first geyser in the park to be named.

Watching the Old Faithful Geyser erupt is a Yellowstone National Park tradition, with people from all over the world traveling to watch this famous geyser.

A trip to Yellowstone is not complete without spending some time with Old Faithful, and this simple loop trail – which is perfect for families, kids and the elderly – is the best way to observe it.

The trail is covered with a wooden boardwalk, making it very accessible, and the entire loop is a little over a kilometer long.

Old Faithful is located in the park’s Upper Geyser Basin in the southwest section of the park and the geyser-viewing area is the most accessible and visitor-friendly in the park.

There’s bench seating, a large parking lot, and a beautiful visitor center that tracks the time, height, and length of an eruption and then predicts the next one. Get your cameras at the ready!

Eruption of Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

2. Mystic Falls to Ferry Creek Loop

If you’re looking to stretch the legs a little farther, then exploring this 5.6-kilometer loop trail is worth checking out.

It’s considered a moderately challenging route, and takes a little over an hour and a half to complete.

The Mystic Falls to Fairy Creek Loop is a great hike and thankfully it’s usually less busy than some of the park’s other hikes.

The trail begins in a geyser basin and then ascends through the forest, following the Little Firehole River to Mystic Falls. The views along the route are stunning and well worth the effort.

You can also hang around at the top of the trail and wait for Old Faithful to erupt, which will be in your view.

There are also a few great places to stop for a snack at the waterfall before heading back down to the trailhead.

Firehole River in Yellowstone

3. Fairy Falls Trail

This eight-kilometer out-and-back trail in the west of Yellowstone National Park is an easy, family-friendly route that takes a little under two hours to complete.

It’s entirely possible that it will take more than two hours, depending on how long you spend admiring the impressive falls.

The trail is relatively flat, and it meanders through the pine forest before heading up to the majestic Fairy Falls.

The falls are spectacular, especially after some rainfall, and they plunge more than 200 feet (60 meters) downward.

You can also extend this hike a little further, by half a mile, to check out the Spray and Imperial geysers.

If you are driving yourself there, you can park a mile to the south of Midway Geyser Basin at the Fairy Falls Parking Lot.

Fairy Falls, a popular waterfall hike in Yellowstone National Park

The Best Grand Teton Hiking Trails

1. Cascade Canyon Trail

The Cascade Canyon Trail is an unbelievable hike into the base of the famous Cathedral Group and is considered a moderately challenging route.

The trail is open year-round, and there are two options for starting the trail.

You can take the Jenny Lake shuttle boat to cross the lake, although during the winter season, when the boat transport is closed, you can park in the String Lake Trailhead parking lot and start your hike from there.

The hike covers around fifteen kilometers, and you should allow around four hours to complete the trail.

The hike starts from the shore of the lake, near the boat dock, and takes you up to the 200-foot-tall Hidden Falls and to Inspiration Point. Both of these points afford great views of Jenny Lake and the National Park.

You can choose to stop at this point, but there’s also the option of continuing along the path to Cascade Creek, which makes for a fantastic day hike.

The Cascade Canyon Trail is a great walk for spotting some of the park’s wildlife too, and hikers should keep an eye out for moose and bears as they are known to commonly inhabit this area.

Hiker Heads Down a Switch Back Into Cascade Canyon

2. Jenny Lake Trail

Generally considered a moderately challenging route, the thirteen-kilometer Jenny Lake Trail takes close to three hours to complete.

To begin the hike, drive down Teton Park Road and turn at South Jenny Lake, where you can find the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, which can give you more information about the hike before you hit the trail.

The trail is the perfect length for a morning or afternoon stroll, and it offers phenomenal views of Jenny Lake and the Teton Range at different points along the way.

The route is pretty flat and gives you the option to stay near the lake or climb a little near the boat launch across the lake.

The beautiful lake and water flowing into it from the Snake River create a habitat for many aquatic animals, and there will be opportunities to photograph wildlife along the way. It’s highly advisable to take plenty of water with you on this hike…

Reflection of Grand Teton in Jenny Lake
iStock.com/Ian Dunton

3. Hidden Falls Trail

Despite only being a couple of kilometers long, the Hidden Falls trail is considered moderately challenging and takes roughly half an hour to complete.

It’s one of the most popular trails in the park, as the trail takes in spectacular views of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole, as well as an impressive 100-foot cascading waterfall.

The trail gently slopes up 200 feet in elevation on the way to Hidden Falls. The falls drop 100 feet and are fed by melting snow higher in the mountains.

From Hidden Falls, you also have the option to extend your walk a little farther. You can continue up the trail another half a mile to take in the stunning views from Inspiration Point.

The view from Inspiration Point draws thousands of visitors each year, with Jenny Lake lying below to the east and the Teton Range dominating the view to the west.

If you are lucky enough to have clear skies, you can see the Yellowstone Plateau to the north, the Absaroka and Gros Ventre ranges to the east, and the Snake River Range to the south.

Hidden Falls near Jenny Lake n Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Which Is Best For Rock Climbing?

If you’re looking for that top-of-the-world feeling and fancy bagging some peaks, then this part of the world does boast some excellent rock climbing too.

But, if you are looking for rock climbing over hiking then maybe Grand Teton will be the best option for you. While there are a few places to climb spaced out in Yellowstone National Park, they are not so easy to find.

In contrast, rock climbing is a very popular activity in Grand Teton National Park. Each year, thousands of people visit the park, hoping to reach one of its iconic summits.

Climbing in the Teton Range can be a fun experience, but it is also a dangerous activity, and the necessary experience and equipment are needed.

The eponymous Grand Teton Mountain, at 13,775 feet (4,199 meters), is the highest peak in the park and one of the most popular challenges for avid climbers. If you fancy bagging this impressive peak, you can book two-day expeditions to reach its summit.

The most popular route up the mountain is via the exposed Upper Exum Ridge Route, which is graded as a II, 5.5 ascent.

A climbing permit is not required for mountain climbing, but climbers planning on overnight trips must have a backcountry camping permit to camp or bivouac in the park.

In addition to Grand Teton, the park also features another nine peaks that are more than 12,000 ft (3,700 m) above sea level. Eight of these impressive peaks make up the often-photographed Cathedral Group.

Trekking up to climb the Grand Teton Wyoming

Which Is Best For Photography?

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are two of the most picturesque national parks in the United States, and both offer special and unique opportunities for photographers.

When it comes to deciding which park is best for photography, it ultimately depends on what type of photography you are interested in.

If you are interested in wildlife photography, both parks offer excellent opportunities. Both are home to a diverse array of animals, including wolves, bears, bison, and elk.

For either location, the best time for wildlife photography is typically early morning or late evening, when the light is soft and the animals are more active.

If you are interested in landscape photography, both parks offer incredible scenic vistas.

Yellowstone boasts geysers, hot springs, and other geothermal features that are truly unique, while Grand Teton is known for its towering mountain peaks and photogenic lakes. So which is better for your snaps depends on what you’d like to photograph.

Yellowstone Grand Prismatic Spring

For those who are interested in photographing the night sky, both parks offer opportunities to capture the stars and other celestial objects.

Yellowstone’s lack of light pollution makes it an ideal destination for night photography, but Grand Teton offers a unique perspective on the night sky with its tall mountains and nearby lakes.

Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks offer excellent opportunities for photographers. Whether you are interested in wildlife, landscape, or night photography, each park has its own unique charm that is sure to captivate and inspire

However Grand Teton is the best for photographing mountain vistas, and Yellowstone is better for geothermal geysers and epic waterfalls.

Sunrise of Moulton Mormon Row Barn in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Which Is Best For Families?

Both parks are suitable for family visits, as they both feature plenty of family-friendly trails, impressive scenery, and interesting flora and fauna.

That said, seeing water propelled out of the ground at Old Faithful in Yellowstone is one of those exciting natural spectacles that children of all ages always love. And the walk to get there is very easy.

However there are also many shorter, easier trails at both parks. And with only ten miles between Yellowstone and Grand Teton, you can easily visit them both in the same day, but more time will allow more exploration…

If you do plan to visit both parks, the general advice for families is that it’s better to visit Grand Teton National Park first. The views across the mountain range are spectacular, but if you’ve already spent the morning enjoying the exciting geyser action in Yellowstone, the kids may not be as impressed with the mountains as they would be if you had visited them first.

Other fun-filled family activities in Grand Teton National Park include trying your hand at white-water rafting along the Snake River or enjoying a more sedate Jackson Lake Cruise that takes you on a scenic tour around the lake.

In Yellowstone National Park with the children, you should definitely look to check out the thermal activity first and foremost. Old Faithful is a must-see, as is the Grand Prismatic, a colorful thermal spring.

Once the park’s main attractions have been ticked off, the next best thing is to pick a relatively easy trail and head off in search of impressive moose and bison.

Family relaxing and enjoying beautiful view of gazer on vacation hiking trip. Friends on hiking trip. Excelsior Geyser from the Midway Basin in Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming, USA

What Time Of Year Is Best?

For both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, deciding which time of year is best to visit will depend on what you are looking for from your vacation and what type of activities you wish to enjoy.

Spring is a great time to visit both parks if you are looking for wildlife viewing opportunities. As the snow melts and the ground begins to thaw, animals come out of hibernation and begin to move around the parks. This is a prime time to see elk, bison, bears, and other animals as they forage for food.

Summer is a popular time for visitors to both parks, as the weather is warm and there are a variety of activities to enjoy.

Hiking, fishing, and boating are just a few of the many outdoor activities that are available in summer. Additionally, the parks are in full bloom, and visitors can enjoy the beautiful wildflowers and scenic views.

Panoramic of a full moon setting over the mountains of Grand Teton National Park prior to sunrise, as seen from the Snake River Overlook.

Fall is also a great time to visit, as the trees change colors and provide a breathtaking display of fall foliage.

The fall colors are great for those looking to engage in nature photography. This is also a prime time for wildlife viewing as animals prepare for the upcoming winter.

Winter is a magical time in both parks, as the snow-covered landscapes create a serene and peaceful atmosphere.

Winter activities include hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. This is also a great time to see wolves and other animals that are more active in the winter months.

In conclusion, both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are beautiful at any time of year. With a short distance between the two, they will both experience similar weather patterns, and if it’s snowing in one park, there’s a good chance conditions will be the same in the other.

The weather should not play a major role in deciding which park to visit, but it will have a bearing on which activities you can enjoy when you are there.

Rider snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park
iStock.com/Milan Sommer

Yellowstone vs Grand Teton: Which Is Better?

Both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park offer stunning natural beauty and are special places to enjoy the great outdoors. As to which one is best, well, that will depend on what you are looking for from your trip.

Yellowstone is the larger and more widely known of the two parks, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the best.

But there’s no doubt Yellowstone and its thermal activity are a great place to take the kids. The exciting geyser eruptions are always a winner with the children, as are the other thermal hotspots such as the Grand Prismatic.

Because Yellowstone is the larger park, there are more trails to explore, so if you are a serious hiker looking to give your legs a good old workout, you may prefer the more plentiful options in Yellowstone.

But that’s not to say the hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park are less impressive; there are just fewer options. If you prefer rock climbing and mountaineering over hiking, though, Grand Teton will be the better choice for you and will give you the chance to summit one or more of its impressive peaks.

Whichever park you choose to visit (and remember, they’re only ten miles apart…), you will be sure to be blown away by the epic scenery and to enjoy your experience.

The great outdoors awaits, and Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are two stunning locations in which to enjoy it…


  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.