Grand Teton Mountains

The mountains of Grand Teton National Park, called the Teton Range, soar majestically from the valley floor on the east side of the mountains. The mountains rise 5,000 to 7,000 feet above the valley floor, without intervening foothills. In June we were treated to the yellow blossoms of the arrowleaf balsamroot.

In contrast, here are the same mountains from the west. The snow-capped peaks stretch across the horizon, but they don’t rise dramatically from Idaho’s Snake River Valley. Instead, this valley west of the mountains is higher, and there are intervening foothills.

Grand Tetons from Idaho
Grand Tetons from the west

The landscape has been shaped by plate tectonics and water, and that’s the critical difference between the two valleys. There’s a fault line at the eastern edge of the mountains, where the valley east of the mountains has sunk relative to the mountains. The national park includes the mountains and the lowered, eastern valley with the best views.

Glaciers have carved valleys in the granite mountains. Jenny Lake lies at the foot of the Teton Range. A glacier carved the valley and deposited the rock at the foot of the mountain, forming the rim of the lake.

Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake

We visited several spots to take pictures of the mountains. Ansel Adams took a famous picture of the Snake River Bend from this spot. However, in the 70+ years since then, trees have grown and blocked the view of the river in the foreground.

rand Tetons from Snake River Overlook
Grand Tetons from the Snake River Overlook

In the photo from the Snake River Overlook, see the horizontal green line just below the mountains. Perfectly flat, those are moraines, the rocks left by retreating glaciers that once flowed from the mountains.

A second photo spot is this Mormon barn, perhaps because the silhouette of the barn echoes the shape of the mountain peaks.

Mormon barn
Mormon barn

The 60-foot-high windows of the Jackson Lake Lodge frame the sky and the mountains.

Jackson Lake Lodge
Jackson Lake Lodge

Schwabacher Landing proved to be the real deal for photos. We lucked out because the access road had been closed for a year and a half, and road opened during our visit. Schwabacher Landing offers several beaver ponds off the Snake River. We first saw the ponds in the afternoon, and we returned the next morning to take the photos below, when the morning air is still, providing nice reflections of the mountains. And we had blue sky. 🙂

From near the parking lot, here’s the first beaver pond and its view. On our first visit, a local couple saw a beaver here, but we missed it.

near the parking lot
near the parking lot (click to enlarge)

Continue walking along the right bank to the next beaver dam and pond, shown below. We saw a beaver swimming from the left to the beaver lodge in the center of the photo. The beaver lodge is the rounded clump of sticks sticking out of the water; beaver lodges have an underwater entrance. The beaver had some green grass in its mouth as it swam to the lodge, and we saw the grass clump gliding on the surface of the water. Our first beaver sighting ever. We watch for a while, catching only occasional glimpses of a beaver, but we didn’t get a picture.

beaver pond and lodge
beaver pond and lodge (click to enlarge)

Continue past the beaver lodge to a wide pond with tall trees that frame the mountains.

pond with tall trees
pond with tall trees (click to enlarge)

Reluctantly, we had to tear ourselves away, because we still had to drive through both parks that day, moving from Wilson to Gardiner.

We took some mountain photos at sunset and sunrise from Wilson, south of the park. I took these photos off the road to the park, pointing north. The sun is setting in the west, so the setting sun sheds a pink sidelight on the left side of the range. This photo, taken at 160 mm, shows the flat valley floor at the foot of the mountains.

Teton Range at sunset
Teton Range at sunset (click to enlarge)

At 400 mm, we get a closer view of the mountain peaks with the pink sidelight showing the texture of the granite peaks.

Grand Teton peaks at sunset
Grand Teton peaks at sunset (click to enlarge)

I returned to the same spot the next morning at dawn, when the rising sun lit the right side of the peaks from the east. That morning was cloudy, especially in the east. The sun didn’t pop out of the clouds until a half hour past sunrise, and there was no pink glow off the snowy peaks.

Grand Tetons at sunrise
Grand Tetons at sunrise

The Teton Range is spectacular, and Grand Teton National Park has many places to view the mountains. We spent several days enjoying the mountains, driving around to see different perspectives, waiting for clouds to clear around the peaks, and finding a still morning for reflections off beaver ponds.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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