Born in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, I now call the mountains of Jackson, Wyoming home with my husband, our two dogs, two horses, and our first child on the way. I am an avid horseback rider who has always been drawn to the simplicity of a mountain sunset, the truth in a horse’s eyes, finding beauty in the ordinary, and embodying the grit and grace it takes to survive out West.
As an avid horseback rider and Wyoming resident, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of my favorite places to ride is in Grand Teton National Park. The vastness of Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) with its exquisite, up-close mountain views provides endless opportunities for exploring from the back of your trusty steed.
If you’re considering making a trip to the area, here are a few suggestions to help you plan a successful ride.
Where to go:
With approximately 310,000 acres, your options in GTNP are nearly limitless. And honestly, you can’t go wrong anywhere you choose to ride in the park. If you need suggestions to get you started, here are a few of my favorite spots:
- String Lake & Leigh Lake – If you’re looking for an easy ride with incredible views, this is the ride for you. By starting at the String Lake trailhead, you can take a nice out and back ride and see two lakes along the way. You also have the option of riding around String Lake if you don’t want to do an out and back. Both lakes have crystal clear, refreshingly cold mountain water where you can let your horse hydrate and take a dip yourself. I recommend packing lunch and having a picnic on the bank of one of the lakes.
- Poker Flats – From the Poker Flats trailhead you can go any number of directions. You can take the Bear Paw Trail which offers a few different loop options of various lengths, or you can head over towards Granite Canyon for more of an out and back ride. The Poker Flats area is slightly less trafficked by hikers and is more of a wooded area.
- Blacktail Butte – Out of the three rides, Blacktail Butte will be the least crowded but the most difficult ride. Starting in Kelly, WY this ride will take you up and over the butte. It’s a bit of a climb, but the views at the top are worth it. Once you’re on the other side of Blacktail Butte, you will be just a stone’s throw from Moose, WY and the famous Dornan’s Pizza & Pasta Company. I suggest starting your ride early so you can tie your horse to the hitching rail at Dornan’s, grab a pizza and beverage, enjoy both on the deck while staring straight into the Tetons, and then make the ride back to your trailer.
When to visit:
Grand Teton National Park is a very popular vacation destination which means it is highly trafficked during the summer. If you don’t want to deal with crowds, traffic, or finding parking, then I suggest visiting during the “off-season” which includes late spring and early fall.
The park will still be busy, but not like it is during the peak summer season. Just be sure to check the weather and trail conditions before you visit to make sure the trails are passable.
How to prepare:
While GTNP can be very busy, it is still a remote area of wilderness so it is very important to be prepared and know where you are going. Before you visit the park, be sure to check out the National Park Service website.
This webpage will give you full details on which trails allow horses, parking areas that allow horse trailers, and general horse and rider etiquette while in the park. It is also important to keep in mind that the park is home to numerous kinds of wildlife including grizzly bears. Before taking a ride in the park, make sure you have bear spray and that you know how to use it. Oh, and don’t forget your park pass! If you don’t own an annual pass, you can always purchase a day pass at the gate.
Grand Teton National Park is an incredible resource and I’m lucky to have it right in my own backyard. If you ever have the opportunity to embrace the outdoors in GTNP, then I hope you find this guide helpful.