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How to Have the Perfect Day in Grand Teton: Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls, & Inspiration Point

Jenny Lake with mountains and clouds behind

We’ve been to Grand Teton many times. Grand Teton is worthy of 3 days (or more), but often we only spend a day in the park. You can still get a great feel for the Tetons with only one day, because you can view the Tetons from anywhere in the Jackson Hole valley.

If you only have one day in Grand Teton, you must do the Jenny Lake boat ride and hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Arrive before 8:00 am as the parking fills early. In the afternoon, you can choose from a variety of activities listed below.

How to do Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls, & Inspiration Point

About Jenny Lake

Although it is not the biggest lake in Grand Teton, Jenny Lake is the crown jewel of the park. It is named after a Shoshone Indian woman. We don’t know her Indian name, but she married an Englishman named Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh (pronounced Lee) and obtained the name Jenny at that time. They had children together.

Leigh was a mountain man. He and Jenny helped guide the first government-sponsored expedition of this area in 1872. For their efforts, the government named Jenny Lake and nearby Leigh Lake after them.

Beaver Dick loved his wife Jenny and wrote fondly of her in his letters. The family got smallpox and only Beaver Dick survived. He lived to an old age and became known as “the last mountain man.”

Arrive Early

Get to Jenny Lake by 8:00 am. The later you arrive, the longer the line will be.

If that sounds too early, we recommend doing it anyway and taking an afternoon nap to recuperate. The crowds start to subside around 3:00 or 4:00, and parking at the popular spots starts to open up again.

There is a Jenny Lake South and a Jenny Lake North entrance. You must enter at Jenny Lake South. The Jenny Lake North entrance takes you on Jenny Lake Drive, which is a scenic little drive. Jenny Lake North is also the entrance for String Lake.

But remember — go to Jenny Lake South to do the boat ride and hike.

Jenny Lake has it’s own parking lot, which does fill up. It will overflow way back to the main road. We’ve seen people walking a mile just to get to Jenny Lake from the main road.

  • Visiting Grand Teton and need a game plan? Check out our itinerary. All the details to see Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls, and Inspiration Point are included.
Overview map of Jenny Lake area
Overview map. See the full version here.

Visit Grand Teton’s Most Popular Spot with Confidence with Our Complete Guide to Jenny Lake

It includes boat rides, reservations, things to do, how to save miles hiking, and more!

Visitor Center

Map of Jenny Lake South Area
Jenny Lake South area. See the full image here.

There are four small buildings at Jenny Lake.

  • Visitor Center. This building turned 100 in 2021! It was built by Harrison Crandall and was originally located near the Cathedral Group Turnout on the Jenny Lake scenic drive. Crandall homesteaded the area and eventually became the Grand Teton Park photographer. This building also served as his sales building.
  • Jenny Lake Store. This is just a little store to get some convenience items.
  • Ranger Station. This is another old building built by a homesteader in the 1930s. It’s now where they issue backcountry permits. Many backpackers camp outside here hoping to get a permit.
  • Boat dock. Nearby is the boat dock to catch the shuttle boat to Inspiration Point.

There is also a campground there, with 51 sites (tent only), and you must make advanced reservations at recreation.gov.

Outdoor Displays

Grand Teton National Park recently renovated this area. Because the Jenny Lake Visitor Center is so small — yet this part of the park is so popular — the park felt the need to create an outdoor museum.

The displays are very nice. There are trails leading to the lake with great information about Beaver Dick, Jenny, fur trappers, explorers, geology, etc.

One of the coolest things about it is you’re looking at the lake and mountains while you’re reading the displays!

My recommendation is to read these when you return from your hike, because you want to get in line right away. However, if your group is already waiting in a long line, this would be a nice thing to do to pass the time.

There is also an accessible entrance to the lake shore near these displays.

Display at Jenny Lake outdoor museum

Boat Ride

people on boat dock at Jenny Lake

It’s a short walk to the boat dock from the visitor center. Read the displays on the way, and you can’t miss it.

Take the ~$20 (round trip) boat ride. It eliminates a 2-mile hike (each way) to the other side of the lake.

Shuttles run every 10-15 minutes and the ride is only a few minutes to get to the other side.

Hidden Falls

When you get off, you’ll hike a loop to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and then back down to the boat dock. To get to Inspiration Point from the boat dock is 1 mile. I believe you can get a little map to help guide you.

The hike is insanely pretty. You’ll cross over a bridge or two and walk along the cascading river while enjoying views of the Tetons above.

The first stop is Hidden Falls. It’s called Hidden for a reason. You have to turn left at the sign for Hidden Falls and walk a short distance to see the falls tucked behind the trees. I guess if you weren’t paying attention at all, you could miss the turn off. So keep an eye out.

River on the trail to Hidden Falls
On the way to Hidden Falls
View of Hidden Falls in Grand Teton between pine trees

Inspiration Point

Now you’ll start the climb to Inspiration Point. It isn’t much farther.

You’ll walk along the carved out rock ledge and enjoy fantastic views of the valley below as the falls empty into Jenny Lake.

You’ll know when you get to Inspiration Point, as the views of Jenny Lake and the Jackson Hole Valley will open up to you.

Take your time and enjoy it for a while. Many others will probably be there, but everyone is in a great mood because it’s so nice.

Cascade Canyon & the Return Trip

Now, you have a few options.

The hike to Inspiration Point is only a mile (because you took my advice and took the shuttle instead of hiking around the lake ;), so I recommend extending it a bit and hiking into Cascade Canyon.

You simply continue towards the mountains from Inspiration Point. You’ll see some signs pointing you in the right direction.

The entire Cascade Canyon is many miles back into the mountains. But you don’t need to do the whole thing. Just walk for 20 or 30 minutes and then turn around, if you want.

One day, I would like to go all the way to Solitude Lake. But that’s an all-day hike.

To return from Inspiration Point, you can return 3 ways. Consult the map for the details.

View of river in Cascade Canyon

The most common way is to return back to Hidden Falls as if you’re coming down the way you came. Once you pass Hidden Falls, you’ll see a little turn off to your left to go across the bridge. That route will take you back to the boat dock, and I recommend it because it provides some different views of the stream that you don’t get if you re-trace the path you took up the hill.

The lines to get back on the boat can be 1-2 hours if you’re there during the busy season and if you got a late start.

Done!

You’re done with the #1 thing to do in Grand Teton! Here are a few other things you can do with your afternoon:

Anything Else I Should Know?

Need a game plan so you don’t miss out on the best things to do in Grand Teton? Check out our itinerary. 

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid the crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!

But that’s not all! Our itinerary includes a free audio guide to listen to while driving with over 3-hours of stories about the park!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO GRAND TETON

GRAND TETON TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Grand Teton National Park, check out our Grand Teton Homepage

THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Grand Teton has to offer including Jenny Lake, Colter BayMormon Row, Teton Village, river rafting, and abundant wildlife

WHERE TO EAT: Check out the best places to eat and where to get groceries and eat picnics in Grand Teton National Park

GREAT CITIES TO STAY OR CHECK OUT: Learn all about where to stay and where to camp when visiting Grand Teton and all there is to do in Jackson, Wyoming

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Grand Teton National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Grand Teton YouTube Playlist

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