The Grand Tetons are some of the most recognizable and spectacular mountainous landscapes in the United States. For here lie jagged mountain peaks that soar into the skies, a Snake River that meanders through rugged lands, wildlife everywhere, and historic barns in beautiful valleys. It’s no wonder that photographing Grand Teton National Park can be quite overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors to the park.
To help photographers capture the iconic bucket list landscapes of Grand Teton National Park, I have written this Teton photo guide called 5 Photographic Hotspots in the Tetons. Although the guide is aimed at photographers, this guide is great for any new visitor to the park since it contains 5 of the most popular locations for photos of the Tetons as well as detailed camera settings for each location.
About Grand Teton Photo Hotspot Guide
Yes, I know there are countless blogs and books already published on photographing Grand Teton National Park. However, in spite of all these publications, I found a void of meaningful information targeted at first-time visitors, especially photographers. Additionally, most existing free publications do not provide the in-depth photo tips that I provide in my 5 Photographic Hotspots in the Tetons. So, photographers if you want to be at the best Teton photo spots at the right time, keep reading.
Top 5 Photographic Hotspots in the Tetons
1. Grand Teton Oxbow Bend
Oxbow Bend is one of the most popular locations in Grand Teton National Park for photography, especially in the morning hours. Here photographers can photograph Mt. Moran and the surrounding Teton range along with their reflections in the river. But that is not all Oxbow Bend offers as this is an area where moose, bears, and swans can also be frequently photographed along with aspen trees. So naturally, this is my first Teton Photo Hotspot location.
Oxbow Bend is a pull-off located on Highway 89/191 about a mile east of Jackson Lake Lodge where the Snake River makes a sharp bend (oxbow). This pull-off is usually very crowded so arrive very early in the morning to secure a parking spot as well as the best spot at the overlook for photographing Mt. Moran. In addition to photographing the landscape, be constantly on the lookout for great wildlife photo opportunities.
Oxbow Bend Photo Tips:
Be sure to click each image for proper viewing.
Morning at Oxbow-Classic Photo Location
Fall at Oxbow-Classic Photo Location
Partly Cloudy Morning-Classic Photo Location
Wildlife off Oxbow Bend Dirt Road- Cattleman’s Bridge
Lastly, be aware of headlights from road traffic at dawn or sunset, and plan your shots around the traffic.
To view other Teton photos, be sure to visit Grand Teton National Park Photos.
OxBow Bend Photo Cheat Sheet
2.Teton’s Schwabacher Landing
Schwabacher Landing is located on the west side of Highway 191 between Jackson and Moran. The road comes off Highway 191 about 5 miles north of the park’s main entrance at Moose and about 3 miles south of the famous Snake River Overlook. It travels down to a creek off the Snake River with two different parking lots in an area where the terrain flats out. To create the iconic Ansel Adams landscape photo of Schwabacher Landing, one must drive until the road comes to a dead end. Park and begin walking to the right following the creek. Within a short distance, you will arrive at the iconic Schwabacher Landing photo spot. It is marked on the map below as Beaver Dam Sunrise.
Schwabacher Landing Photo Tips
Famous Schwabacher Landing Morning Photos
Teton Reflections From Parking Lot
Mid Morning At Schwabacher Landing
If you are not an early riser or chose to photograph sunrise from a different location, I recommend including a mid-morning stop to photograph Schwabacher Landing. Although photography opportunities may not be as good as sunrise, the area still offers good photo opportunities until about 10:30 A.M.
Schwabacher Landing is the gift that keeps on giving. Once you have photographed the classic Schwabacher Landing image, don’t pack up your gear and leave. Instead, drive back to the first parking lot and go for a short walk to the left along the river bed for more photography fun as there are several great spots from which to photograph the Teton Mountains as well as another beaver dam. Due to the area’s high concentration of willows, this location is frequently visited by moose as well as grizzly bears. Be particularly careful in this area and keep bear spray handy.
Schwabacher Landing Photo Cheat Sheet
3.Grand Teton Mormon Row Barns
Mormon Row is a historic district in the Southeast corner of Grand Teton National Park and is home to two of the most photographed barns in the country. The Row is reached by taking Antelope Flats Road off Highway 89 east just past Moose Junction. The first barn you will come to is the John Moulton Barn which has a small parking lot and is right off Antelope Flats Road. The second barn is the T.A. Moulton Barn which is down a dirt road directly across from the John Moulton Barn. I encourage you to take time to photograph both barns and do so just as the sun rises in the morning. Be forewarned that even in the early morning hours, it can be crowded.
T.A. Moulton Barn
Thomas A. Moulton Barn is known as the most photographed barn in North America. Thomas first settled the property in 1908 but did not begin construction on the barn till the 1930’s. For photographer’s the barn offers a number of interesting compositions including photographing the barn from the south side and including a tree or walkway in the foreground for interest.
John Moulton Barn/Homestead
The John Moulton Barn (homestead) has several buildings on the property offering a variety of photo compositions. One consideration when photographing this barn, especially when photographing with a wide-angle lens is dealing with white or cloudless skies. If you have a great sky like in the image below, I encourage using a lens in the 28-35mm range to take in the expansive Teton Range. If the skies are not great, consider photographing the barn a bit tighter or from a higher elevation to reduce the amount of sky in the image.
Note the little spot of red just above the tip of the barn- that’s a bluebird in flight.
Moulton Barn Photo Tips
Mormon Row Photo Cheat Sheet
4.Jenny Lake and the Overlook
Jenny Lake Overlook is my number 4 Teton photo hotspot. It is located on the one-way section of the main park road from a small parking lot and faces west. Unlike the first three photo spots, here a photographer is treated to close-up views of Mt. Teewinot, Mt. St. John, and Mt. Moran as well as the Ribbon Cascade in Cascade Canyon. This is a beautiful spot best photographed in mid-morning hours when the sun is high enough in the sky to light the mountain range and lake. Although the overlook provides a beautiful photo opportunity, the best photography exists at the water’s edge. Sadly, the official trail is currently closed so only attempt the steep descent to the water if you are in good shape. Lastly, there is a trail heading south from the overlook that also provides good photo opportunities with the lake framed with trees.
Jenny Lake Photo Tips and Info:
Jenny Lake Overlook By The Water
Jenny Lake Boat Launch
Jenny Lake Photo Cheat Sheet
5.Snake River Overlook
The pull-off for the Snake River Overlook is off Highway 191/89 about halfway between Jackson and Moran. I am including this location because it is the iconic Ansel Adams landscape of the Tetons and one every photographer wished to have in their portfolio. However, trees directly in front of the overlook have grown very tall and block a good portion of the S curve of the Snake River that once made it so photogenic. Sadly, this is not the great photo spot it once was when Ansel Adams took that famous photo.
Even though the Overlook is now challenging to photograph, I still encourage everyone to make an attempt to photograph the Snake River Overlook. It has easy access from Highway 89, a large parking lot, and a nice overlook area that is accessible for all individuals.
Best Time of Day:
Although most prefer sunrise when photographing the Overlook, I find the later morning hours work best. By then, the sun has lit both the Teton Mountains and the Snake River equally. Also, sunset can work if there are enough clouds in the sky.
Photographic Hotspots in the Tetons -Final Thoughts
I hope you find my 5 photographic Hotspot tips for the Tetons useful as you plan a photography visit to the Tetons. If I can provide further information regarding any of these locations or other Teton locations, please do not hesitate to contact me as I have photographed the area over 20 times and know the Tetons well.
In addition to the 5 photographic hotspots in the Tetons, I have also included some general photography information for the Tetons as well as places to photograph wildlife and a proposed two-day photo itinerary.
Grand Teton National Park -General Photography Tips
Map– Here is a link to most stops in Grand Teton National Park :Map of Grand Teton Park
- The Teton Mountains are on the western side of the park so most photography is best done in the morning hours. Therefore, early to bed and early to rise should be your motto.
- Most locations in the park have been photographed by millions of photographers so don’t expect to create a one-of-a-kind photograph without getting very creative with lens choices and compositions. In fact, once you capture the bucket list Teton photos, spend time in the less photographed areas of the park such as on the forest roads east of Kelly where beautiful forest images can be created.
- Don’t stop photographing in the middle of the day; instead, focus on intimate landscapes of the river and forest areas.
- Always carry bear spray, even if only walking a few hundred feet from your vehicle. Bears can pop out of the underbrush at any time.
- Most importantly, respect all wildlife and do not crowd them. You are in their home and no photo is worth an animal’s life!
What About Wildlife In the Tetons?
This post was focused on Grand Teton landscapes but how can I write about the Tetons and not mention wildlife? I can’t, so here are a few tips for spotting wildlife in the park although I am deliberating leaving out a few locations for the safety of both the readers and the wildlife.
- Gros Ventre Campground and Road- Good for moose
- Bridge by the Moose Visitor Center– Good for moose
- Oxbow Bend– Moose, Bears, Otter, Pelicans, Trumpeter Swans, and more
- North end of Highway 89 before the Moran Junction: Good for bison and antelope in the afternoon light
- Antelope Flats Road– Bison, Antelope, Coyotes, and Blue Birds
- Moose Wilson Road– Moose, Bears, and Owls.
Sample 2 Day Photo Itinerary for Grand Tetons
- Begin with sunrise at Schwabacher Landing from the iconic location discussed above.
- Next head to both Moulton Barns off Antelope Flats Rd on Mormon Row.
- After photographing the barns, follow Antelope Rd east and turn south towards Kelly. At Kelly head west and turn into the Gros Ventre Campground looking for Moose.
- In the late morning, drive back to Schwabacher Landing but now stop at the first parking lot and follow the stream about 1/4 mile for another landscape shot of the Tetons as well as the beaver dam and possible moose.
- Try lunch in Dorans; the Italian restaurant is very good as are the sandwiches and cookies at the deli.
- Drive along Moose Wilson Road and watch for bears, moose, and grey owls.
- In the late afternoon, head back north on Highway 191 almost to Moran. Here bison and antelope are frequently seen in the late afternoon light.
- End the day by heading south again on Highway 191/ 89 for sunset at Snake River Overlook.
- Start the day by photographing sunrise at Oxbow Bend.
- Next head west and south to photograph the Tetons from the Jackson Lake Dam.
- Drive down to the boat launch at the Dam and look for bears and moose.
- After leaving the Dam, take the park road to the Jenny Lake Overlook around mid-morning.
- Continue heading south to Jenny Lake Visitor Center. Here you will find a number of good locations from which to photograph the Tetons with the lake in the foreground.
- While in the area, make a quick stop at Lupine Fields for possible antelope and bear sightings as well as scenics.
- Consider having a late lunch at Signal Mountain Restaurant. It is good.
- By now, the sun will most likely be behind the mountains, so head into the forests around Two Ocean Road for some intimate landscape images. In summer this is also a great location for wildflowers.
- Spend the late afternoon driving the area between the dam and Coulter Bay looking for wildlife. Drive slowly here please.
- End the day by visiting Oxbow Bend again for sunset.
Lastly, I highly recommend a visit to Yellowstone National Park while you are in the area. To help you plan your visit to Yellowstone, be sure to check out: How to Photograph Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone Packing Guide, How to Photograph Yellowstone’s Black Sands, Biscuit and Midway Geyser Basins and Guide to Mammoth Hot Springs.
Well thanks for joining me in the beautiful Grand Tetons and I will see everyone again next week at another great location.
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