Best way to spend one day in Grand Teton National Park is to take a Jenny Lake boat and hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point

One Day in Grand Teton National Park – Jenny Lake Boat and Hike

In North America, USA by JurgaThis post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. More info: Disclosure.

Do you have just one day in Grand Teton National Park and are wondering about the best things to see and do?

We had the exact same question when planning our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. After some research, we realized that one of the best day trips in Grand Teton is to take a boat on Jenny Lake followed by a hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.

Jenny Lake boat trip and hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point is one of the best things to do in Grand Teton National Park

The nice thing about this boat & hike excursion at Jenny Lake is that you can make it as short and easy or as long and difficult as you want. Families with very young children and elderly people can opt for a boat ride alone, or combine it with a part of Jenny Lake Trail around the south end of Jenny Lake.

The hike to Hidden Falls is quite easy and is therefore the most popular hike in Grand Teton. The next section of the hike to nearby Inspiration Point requires a bit more effort and determination, but again is something that pretty much anyone in good physical condition should be able to do. And if you really like hiking, you can prolong the hike and walk into Cascade Canyon and beyond.

We visited Grand Teton with three young kids (age 5, 5, and 7 years old at that time) and opted for a boat ride on Jenny Lake in combination with a hike to Inspiration Point. However, we afterwards decided to hike even further and ended up walking a couple of miles into Cascade Canyon. Below you can read all about our day at Jenny Lake.

Scenic view of Grand Teton from Jenny Lake Road
At Jenny Lake. Doesn’t it look like a painting?

Jenny Lake Shuttle Boat

Jenny Lake shuttle boat (also known as Jenny Lake ferry) is the most popular and quickest way to shorten the hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point (otherwise you have to hike around the lake first, which adds about 2.4 miles to your trip each way). The boat ride starts near Jenny Lake Visitor Center and campground and in less than 15 minutes they drop you off at the West Shore Boat Dock on the other side of the lake.

We read that it’s wise to arrive at the Jenny Lake early in the morning as the car park at the visitor centre gets full very quickly. In summer, shuttle boats run pretty much non-stop starting at 7AM, so you can take a really early start and beat the crowds. On the other hand, a late afternoon visit can probably be just as enjoyable and it’s a better time for photography, especially at Inspiration Point.

When we arrived at Jenny Lake around 8AM it was already quite busy; at the car parking, on the boat, and also on the hiking trails. However, we travelled in the first week of August, which is of course the most popular time to visit Grand Teton. It will probably be much quieter if you travel in the shoulder season.

If you rather hike, Jenny Lake Trailhead is also located at the Visitor Center. Or you can also opt to take the boat just one way (either way). If you want to spend the whole day in Jenny Lake area, then hiking might be a really nice way to explore the area a bit more.

Jenny Lake shuttle boat practical information:

  • Boats run from mid May till the end of September.
  • Operating hours are 10 AM to 4 PM, but in summer (June – August) shuttle boats run from 7 AM untill 7 PM.
  • Boats depart every 10-15 minutes.
  • Boat ride takes 12 minutes.
  • No reservations are taken, you just take the next available boat.
  • Round-trip costs 18 USD (one way is 10 USD) for adults with various discounts for kids and seniors.

TIP: If you don’t like hiking at all, there are scenic boat ride options on Jenny Lake as well. Scenic boat rides have to be reserved in advance to avoid disappointment. Check here for more information.

Jenny Lake shuttle boat in Grand Tetons
Jenny Lake shuttle boat

Hidden Falls Hike

As mentioned above, the Hidden Falls trail is the most popular hike in Grand Teton. There are reports talking about the popularity of this hike in the beginning of the 20th century already, and it’s still very much the case nowadays.

It’s a nice, short, and relatively easy hike to a beautiful waterfall that drops almost two hundred feet in several steps. In combination with a scenic boat ride on Jenny Lake, a trip to the Hidden Falls makes for a beautiful family-friendly day out in Grand Teton. No wonder it’s so popular.

Theoretically, Hidden Falls hike begins at the Jenny Lake Trailhead. But if you take a boat, then the whole length of the hike is only 1.3 miles (round trip). The path is well indicated from the boat dock and for the most part, follows the same trail that goes up to Inspiration Point.

At first, you climb a bit, but it isn’t really strenuous and even young children can do this short hike. It shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes one way, maybe a bit more if you walk at a really leisurely pace.

Unfortunately for us, the falls were closed in the summer when we visited, so I don’t have a picture for you. But from what I’ve seen it’s a really beautiful waterfall well worth the short hike.

Cascade Canyon Creek near Hidden Falls
Cascade Canyon Creek

If you have more time and energy, continue hiking to Inspiration Point – see further.

TIP: There are many bears in this area, so travel in groups and make noise (which shouldn’t be an issue in high season).

If you are traveling in the lower season, it’s wise to carry a bear spray. You can buy one at the Jenny Lake visitor center or online at less than half the price. And yes, we saw a bear here when we were in the boat; it crossed the road right behind the unsuspecting tourists hiking on the trail.

Black bear at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Can you spot the bear?

Inspiration Point Hike

After visiting the Hidden Falls, return to the main track and turn left towards Inspiration Point. This part of the trail is really rocky, rugged, and also quite steep.

It’s best to wear good hiking shoes if you are planning to hike to Inspiration Point. Although if it’s dry, I guess you’ll be ok with any sturdy footwear.

Hiking to Inspiration Point in Grand Teton with kids
Steep hike to Inspiration Point

After a short while, you’ll see the Cathedral Group (Teewinot Mountain, Grand Teton, and Mount Owen). From then on the scenery just gets better.

Soon you’ll reach Inspiration Point with stunning views over Jenny Lake and the area. Judging by the number of friendly squirrels here, it’s a very popular place for a picnic.

Friendly squirrel at Inspiration Point in Grand Teton
Squirrels are all around you at Inspiration Point – please don’t feed them though!

The entire hike from Jenny Lake boat dock to Inspiration Point is just 2.2 miles (round trip) and took our family a bit less than an hour one way.

Somehow we expected this whole trip to take much longer, but taking the boat and hiking to Inspiration Point took us less than 1,5 hrs. So without having many other plans for our day in Grand Teton, we decided to do some more hiking and continued walking further into Cascade Canyon.

View from Inspiration Point in Grand Teton National Park
View from Inspiration Point (light should be better for photography in the afternoon)

Hiking to Inspiration Point with Kids

The hike to Inspiration Point is not that long, but it’s really steep with some sections that could potentially be dangerous for young kids. Our boys (5, 5, and 7 years old) had no difficulties with this hike at all. So I think that any child from 4-5 years and up should be able to complete this hike.

If you are not sure if you can manage this hike, you can always give it a try and turn around if you notice that it’s too difficult for your children.

I hear that many families with young children take a Jenny Lake shuttle boat, then hike to Hidden Falls, and hike back along the southern shore of Jenny Lake instead of taking the boat back. That walk is quite flat and easy to do even with younger children.

Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point hike with kids - Grand Teton National Park, WY
Jenny Lake hiking area is really family friendly

To The Forks of Cascade Canyon

From Inspiration Point take a trail heading west into Cascade Canyon. This hike is very different than the previous section as there is hardly any elevation gain. It is well suited for families with children, but of course you first have to climb to Inspiration Point in order to get here.

The first section of the hike goes through a forest and isn’t all that impressive, but after a while it becomes really beautiful. The further you go into the canyon, the better the views get.

I have to say that up to this point we weren’t that impressed with the hike, but going into Cascade Canyon really made our day – the scenery here is simply stunning.

Best National Parks in the USA for families with kids
Hiking in Cascade Canyon

We had read that this area is frequented by bears, especially in huckleberry and raspberry season. Indeed, there were big wild berry patches along the way, but we didn’t seen any bears here.

Anyway, it’s wise to make noise and carry a bear spray if you hike in this area, especially if you travel in a small group or in lower season or at a less popular time of the day.

No black bears or grizzlies for us, but we ran into a couple of moose in Cascade Canyon. A mother and a young were grazing in a little creek along the way, and we also saw a big male moose in the bushes just next to the road. Picas and marmots live in this area as well.

Moose in Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Moose along the Cascade Canyon Forks trail

The entire hike to the Forks is 10 miles (round trip). We didn’t walk all the way to the end as there isn’t really any particular landmark at that point.

If you are a keen hiker and like to explore the Tetons trekking even further, you can continue to the North Fork of Cascade Canyon, and eventually to Lake Solitude (15.3 miles round trip, so start really early if you are planning on doing this).

There are also longer multi-day hikes possible in this area and we met quite a few hikers who were doing just that. They were fully equipped to hike and camp for a few days and had bear sprays with them. However, a couple who’d been hiking in Grand Teton National Park for 4 days told us they hadn’t seen one single bear.

While we came here for just a few hours and saw one right next to a boat deck. And we also ran into a bear at our hotel later that same day. So in any case, travel well prepared and always be aware that you are in bear country.

Hiking at Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton NP Wyoming
Cascade Canyon

Back to Jenny Lake

After hiking into Cascade Canyon we decided to turn around and head back to Jenny Lake. The hike back follows the exact same trail, but takes even less time since it’s pretty much downhill from Inspiration Point.

We stopped for a short picnic lunch (far away from the squirrels) and after that took the boat back to the visitor center.

In total, we spent about 5 hours in the Jenny Lake area, which still left us with a long afternoon to fill in Grand Teton NP.

Other beautiful places and things to do in Grand Teton NP

One of our other favorite places in Grand Tetons was the scenic Jenny Lake Road, as well as the beautiful String Lake. We also drove the scenic Signal Mountain Peak Road, but found it not worth the long drive up. It’s nice to see if you have the time, but if you have better plans, don’t feel bad skipping it.

String Lake in Grand Teton National Park
String Lake is simply stunning

Since Grand Teton NP was also one of the last stops of our 2,5-week American road trip, we spent the rest of the day relaxing by the lake at our hotel.

If you are looking for other ideas on what to see and do in Grand Teton, you can drive one of the scenic roads like e.g. The Kelly Loop, go and see the famous Mormon Row Barns, Shane Cabin, or the scenic Schwabacher’s Landing spot.

There are also organized tours that you can do in the area. One of the most popular tours is this 4-hr wildlife safari adventure.

For a truly unforgettable experience, check out the hot air balloon flight with amazing sunrise views of Grand Teton NP or this highly-rated whitewater rafting trip from Jackson.

But if you only have one day in Grand Teton National Park, I think you will not be disappointed if you choose to do Jenny Lake boat ride in combination with a hike to the Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. It’s one of the absolute best things to do in Grand Teton NP and is popular for a reason.

READ ALSO: Best Yellowstone Tours

Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park
View from Jenny Lake shuttle boat

Best places to stay for exploring Grand Teton National Park

There are many accommodation options in the neighborhood, and most people choose Jackson Hole or Teton Village as their base for a Grand Teton Holiday. If you want to stay closer, check accommodations in Moran.

There are also several extremely well-located accommodations in the heart of Grand Teton National Park, but you have to book well in advance to secure those.

The nicest lodges in Grand Teton are Jackson Lake Lodge and Jenny Lake Lodge, but also Signal Mountain Lodge where we stayed has a stunning location and really good cabins.

What to know before visiting Grand Teton National Park

  • Grand Teton National Park has an entrance fee. If you are visiting multiple American National Parks in one year, it’s best to buy America The Beautiful Pass.
  • Many scenic roads in Grand Teton, including the road to get to Jenny Lake, are closed between November and May.
  • Avoid driving at night – there is lots of wildlife in the area and accidents are quite frequent.
  • In high season, you need to book your accommodations well in advance. We booked ours a year upfront.
  • Grand Teton is bear country, so it’s wise to carry bear spray if you go hiking to less popular areas or at less popular times.
  • You can see the best of Grand Teton in just one day, and many people do just that, devoting more time to the nearby Yellowstone National Park. However, with so many lakes, hiking paths, bike trails, wildlife, and a variety of activities Grand Teton is also a wonderful vacation destination for nature lovers looking for a quieter vacation. We met many people spending their yearly summer holiday here.

So, this is our short guide for an unforgettable day in Grand Teton National Park. Have you been to Grand Teton? Feel free to share your favorite spots and other recommendations by leaving a reply below.

READ ALSO: Best things to do in Yellowstone

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Best day trip in Grand Teton National Park, WY - Jenny Lake and hiking to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point
What to do in Grand Teton National Park in just one day
Jenny Lake and hiking to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and Cascade Canyon - Grand Teton NP, Wyoming USA


  1. Hi Jurga, your description of the hike out to Cascade fork and back has hot me wanting to go. We are three -parents and 11-year old – and my only concern is bears. We are there in August so I wonder if there would be plenty of people on trails, or is this a “less visited” area?

    1. Author

      Hi Bodie, we were there in the beginning of August and there were plenty of people on the trails. The trail to Inspiration Point is very busy, after that – a bit quieter. But still, we were not alone.
      We didn’t have a bear spray (was hard to take on a plane from Europe), but we sure made lots of noise with our three kids, so if there were any bears, they ran away long before we got anywhere close to them 🙂
      Anyway, if you are planning to do hiking in Grand Teton NP and also in Yellowstone, it might be wise to get a bear bell and a bear spray. It’s a small cost and will make you feel safer.

  2. Fantastic website! My husband and I are headed to the Tetons AND Yellowstone in about a month and I’ve used your website to plan a lot of our trip. Thanks so much! Looking forward to checking out most of your recommendations!

    1. Author

      Thanks a lot for your feedback, Shelby. Have a wonderful trip!

  3. I took your recommendations and ran with them! Thank you! My family was impressed with all the “planning” I did 😉 . We LOVED the Grand Tetons and Jenny Lake and the hike so much! And we ended with lunch at the Jackon Lake Lodge. Thank you!

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for your kind feedback, Kim. It made my day!
      Really glad to hear that you enjoyed the trip and had such a great time at the Grand Teton!
      Maybe you’ll find more inspiration for other trips on our blog as well 😉 Happy travels!

  4. Hi Jurga,We
    I agree with the other people visiting your site. Great information! We too have been to Switzerland and the Dolomiti, so I understand the comparison. That being said, we are planning to stay in the US for this trip and we have never been to this area. My husband and I will be traveling with our two young adult daughters in late September (hoping it is not too late to arrange accommodations). What are your suggestions for our trip? We would like to visit places like Jenny Lake and really enjoy hiking in the forest/mountains. We also would like to visit Yellowstone National Park. How many days/nights in each location and where would you suggest staying? Should we stay in Jackson to visit the more quiet mountainous hikes, but still have some restaurants, etc? We are visiting for a week.

    Thank so much!

    1. Author

      Hi Sandra, in a week, I would split your time between Yellowstone (4 full days), Grand Teton (1 or 2 days), and then indeed maybe Jackson area.
      As for accommodations, it’s indeed not easy. On the other hand, September isn’t as busy as the summer. You can find our accommodation suggestions for Grand Teton in this article. For Yellowstone, please check our Yellowstone accommodation guide.
      If you are looking for ideas on what to do in Yellowstone, please check our suggestions for Yellowstone itinerary. We also have many other articles about Yellowstone.

  5. Hi Jurga,

    This website is fantastic. Thank you for sharing your knowledge the world.

    We (family of four with a 10 and 12 year old) are visiting Yellowstone and/or GTNP at the end of September. We are wondering if we should do 1 day in GTNP and your 3 day yellowstone plan or do the four itinerary in yellowstone and skip GTNP this time. We fly into Jackson late and leave 11am from Jackson Hole Airport so have 5 nights and 4 full days.

    I am guessing there is no “right” answer here, but we’d appreciate the opinion of someone with experience of the parks.

    Thanks again,


    1. Author

      Hi Scott, thank you for your kind words. Glad to hear you find the website useful.
      Indeed, there is no right answer here. We personally loved Yellowstone, but found Grand Tetons a bit underwhelming. However, it has more to do with the fact that we had seen so many beautiful mountains in the past (Switzerland, Dolomites, Canadian Rockies…), so inevitably you compare places. Still, it’s still a beautiful scenery, definitely worth visiting.

      I think that only you can answer this question. My feeling is that if it’s your first trip to the area, you should probably try to do both – 3 days in Yellowstone and 1 in GTNP. Otherwise you’ll probably regret it. That way you get a good feel what both places have to offer and if you decide to come back one day, you know where you’d like to stay longer.

      I’d try to stay in Jackson on the day of arrival and when you leave. Head to Yellowstone as soon as you wake up and then stay in or near the park for 3 nights (see accommodation suggestions). That way you can still decide if you want to stay in Yellowstone a bit longer and just visit Jenny Lake and do some hiking there on your way back to Jackson Hole.
      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip and remember – whatever you decide – to book your accommodations asap.

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