Standing on the summit of this glorious mountain, I have gazed on Nature’s most perfect and sublime spectacle. The intense magnitude of that moment is beyond all human expression. One can only stand in awe, without a word, and marvel at the Creator’s magnificence.
So wrote John Colter as he gazed up at the Grand Teton in 1778 during his expedition with Henry and William Clark to explore what would become known as America West of the Mississippi River. It is believed that Colter was referring to what we now call Mount Moran when he wrote of “this glorious mountain,” but it is not certain because his journal entries were never recorded in their proper order.
Today, the Grand Teton is the centrepiece of the Grand Teton National Park. Rising more than 10,000 feet above sea level, the park features a myriad of landscapes and habitats that offers visitors from all over the world countless opportunities to experience the splendour of Mother Nature.
The park consists of two major areas: The Teton Wildlife Refuge and Jackson Hole, which are accessed by two roads that leave from Jenny Lake on the south side of the mountain. At 664 square miles in size, Grand Teton encompasses most of Yellowstone National Park's South Unit. This unit also contains two other significant-high peaks: Moose, known for its great size (it is only second to Mt. Mercy) as well as its beauty, and Gallatin, known for its large deer population.
The Grand Teton is part of the Continental Divide and only one of two mountains in North America (the other is Mt. Rainier ) that has a glacier on it (see Glacier National Park ). This fact makes the Grand Teton the highest mountain in Wyoming. Of course, since most of the mountain is below 10,000 feet elevation, it is not necessarily "the" highest mountain in Wyoming; this distinction belongs to either Grand Teton or Wind River Peak, depending on which side of Park Road 44 you are standing on.
Some people claim that Grand Teton is not a peak at all, but merely a pile of rocks called the "Giant Octopus." However, this is only true in a geological sense. The rock that makes up the bulk of the mountain also creates the spectacular Gannett Ridge on which multiple glaciers run down to 10,000-foot peaks in Yellowstone.
Grand Teton is also known as the "Notch Mountain Range" because it features numerous high points rising above the tree line. The most famous of these is North Buttress and both peaks are located within 500 feet of each other.
Although most people come to the Grand Teton to see the mountain and its surroundings, a few people come here to conquer the mountain itself. While there is no technical climbing route here, it is considered one of the best long-term mountaineering objectives in North America. However, even technical climbers can have trouble with this peak; more than half of all climbers who have scaled it have died on the descent (this statistic is true for more than one mountain).
Not surprisingly, you will find most tourists further south in Jackson Hole where they will be visiting such places as Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake. To support this tourism industry, many hotels and restaurants have been built over the years making this area popular with many travellers.
Up north in Teton National Park, you will find a different type of traveller. These people are more interested in getting away from the hustle and bustle and discovering the natural beauty of the area. Here, you will find some of the best mountain climbing anywhere; and over ten thousand square miles of wilderness add to the appeal.
Some would say that it is better to visit this park during winter when most tourists have left and temperatures are much colder than during summer when most people come here.
There is no doubt that Grand Teton National Park is a special place; one that should be on every North American’s “must-see” list.
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