The title of this post is 5 photographic hotspots in the Tetons but 5 hotspots barely scratch the surface of what is available to photographers in the Tetons. Within the Grand Tetons are some of the most recognizable and spectacular 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.
For first-time visitors/photographers, Grand Teton National Park has so many places to photograph it can be overwhelming. In fact, It’s a magical place that is difficult to convey in photos and/or words but I will do my best to help with this guide.
Grand Teton Photographic Hotspot Guide
My 5 Photographic Hotspots in the Tetons was written to help photographers visiting the Tetons for the first time find the best photo locations, at the right time with the proper gear. However, this guide is for anyone who loves to take pictures.
Yes, I know there are countless blogs and books already published on photographing Grand Teton National Park. However, in spite of all these publications, there is a void of meaningful information targeted at first-time visiting photographers. Also, most existing free publications do not provide the in-depth photo tips found below.
Photographers do you want to be at the best locations, at the right time, with the right gear? If so, keep reading.
Top 5 Photographic Hotspots in the Tetons
1. Oxbow Bend
Oxbow Bend is without a doubt the most photographed location in the park and with good reason. It provides beautiful views of Mt. Moran and the surrounding Teton Mountains with a river in the foreground. Not only is Oxbow Bend a prime landscape spot for both sunrise and sunset photography, but it is also a great place to photograph bears, moose, and other wildlife. Be warned, this place is busy.
The Oxbow Bend pull off is located on Highway 89 about a mile east of Jackson Lake Lodge where the Snake River makes a sharp bend (oxbow).
Oxbow Bend Photo Tips:
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.
OxBow Bend Photo Cheat Sheet
2. Schwabacher Landing
Schwabacher Landing Road is located on the west side of Highway 191 between Jackson and Moran and travels down to a creek off the Snake River with two different parking areas. For the iconic Ansel Adams landscape photo of Schwabacher Landing, drive until the road comes to a dead end. Now park and begin walking to the right following the creek. Within a short distance you will arrive at my number 2 Teton Photo Hotspot: Schwabacher Landing . It is marked on the map below as Beaver Dam Sunrise.
Schwabacher Landing Photo Tips and Info:
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, there are still good photos to be had here like the image below captures about 10:30 A.M.
2-b. Schwabacher Landing From First Parking Lot:
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 along the river bed for more photography fun. Again this location is frequently visited by bears and moose so take your bear spray and watch for moose especially as when you reach the willows. This is also the location of a great beaver dam.
Schwabacher Landing Photo Cheat Sheet
3. Mormon Row – Moulton Barns
The T.A. Moulton barn is a world-famous barn off Antelope Flats Road just east of Grand Teton National Park. In fact, there are two great barns in this area, T. A. Moulton Barn and also his brother’s barn, John Moulton Homestead. Although both barns are photogenic, the Thomas Moulton Barn is the barn you want to be sure to photograph. However, if you time photograph both barns.
Heading north on Highway 191/89 just past the Moose Entrance to the Tetons, there will be a road to the left called Antelope Flats Road. The road travels east and will take you to the site of the two famous barns. One barn, the John Moulton Barn is directly off Antelope Flats Road while the other barn, the Thomas Moulton Barn is off a dirt road also called Antelope Flats Road which is directly across from the John Moulton Barn.
Moulton Barn Photo Tips and Info:
T. A. Moulton Barn
John Moulton Barn/Homestead
Note the little spot of red just above the tip of the barn- that’s a bluebird in flight.
Tips for the Moulton Homestead are mostly the same as the above tips for the T.A. Moulton barn with one exception. For the Moulton Homestead, it is desirable to include as much of the Teton range in the background as possible. To do this, for most compositions, a good amount of sky will be included in the frame. Therefore interesting skies become even more critical to the image than at the T.A. Moulton Barn. If the skies are clear, it is best to compose a tighter composition.
In the first image shown above, the entire sky was filled with beautiful clouds so I photographed the barn with a 17mm lens. However, in the second image, the clouds were only at the tops of the mountain peaks. Therefore I decided to use a 70-200mm lens and include more vegetation to create foreground interest and forgo capturing the entire Teton range.
Mormon Row Photo Cheat Sheet
4. Jenny Lake and the Overlook
Jenny Lake Overlook is a very popular stop on the one-way section of the park road. The Overlook offers close-up views of the Teton Mountains as well as distant views of Ribbon Cascade in Cascade Canyon. However, Jenny Lake Overlook is a small parking lot that tends to get very crowded. However, morning photographers of the Teton Mountains and their reflections into Jenny Lake make this my number 4 top spot for photographers.
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. Just be aware that 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.
However, you don’t want to leave the Tetons without making an attempt to capture this classic Snake River Overlook photo so use the trees as part of the actual curve since you can’t cut them down. Besides, there is a large parking lot with easy access to the overlook making this a hassle free stop.
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.
General Photographic Information About Grand Teton National Park
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 and are best photographed in morning hours and at sunset. Therefore, early to bed and early to rise should be your motto.
- Most locations in the park have been photographed by millions of photographers. To produce unique images try and add a twist to the iconic scenes. Better yet, spend time in the less photographed areas of the park such as on the forest roads east of Kelly.
- Don’t stop photographing in the middle of the day; instead focus on intimate landscapes of the river and forest areas. The national forest areas that surround the park are beautiful.
- Always carry bear spray, even if only walking a few hundred feet from your vehicle. Bears can pop out of 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!
Well these are my top scenic locations and photo tips for first time visitors who have only a day or two in the park.
What About Wildlife?
This post was focused on 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
- Antelope Flats Road– Bison, Antelope, Coyotes, and Blue Birds
- Moose Wilson Road– Moose, Bear, Owls, and more
Stops for a 2 Day Visit:
- 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 owls.
- In the late afternoon, head back north on Highway 191 almost to Moran. Here bison and antelope are frequently seen in late afternoon light.
- End the day by heading south again on Highway 191/ 89 for a 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 no later than 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. Be sure to check out: How to Photograph Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin
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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