The Mountain Goat Gallery

The Inner Park Road: Get Out Your Bike!

Posted by Jim Steele on April 28th, 2008 filed in Grand Teton National Park

A panoramic photo from north of Jenny Lake along the Inner Park Road, taken April 12, 2008.

While it’s a busy 15-mile stretch of paved highway during the summer, the Inner Park Road of Grand Teton National Park is a unique treat for recreationists in the spring and fall. The National Park Service starts plowing the road in late March, but leaves the gates locked through April. This gives bicyclists, roller bladders, walkers and joggers a chance to enjoy the stretch of road from the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking area to the Signal Mountain Lodge area without worrying about getting smashed by a SUV.

This year, the road will remain closed to cars until May 1. You’ll have another chance this fall – once the road closes to cars, it’s open for almost any kind of nonmotorized recreation until the snow comes. It closed to cars at the end of October in 2007.

You can park at the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking area or at Signal Mountain Lodge. From the Taggart Lake Trailhead, you are about four miles from Jenny Lake and about 15 miles from the Signal Mountain Area. To get to the Taggart Lake Trailhead from Jackson, follow U.S. 26/89/191 north out of town. Turn west at Moose Junction, which is about 13 miles north of the Town Square. From Moose Junction, drive through Moose and through the Grand Teton National Park entrance station. Your next stop will be the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking area.

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I’ve biked the entire length of the road twice this spring, and it was spectacular each time. Just about every kind of recreationist makes use of this stretch of road. I saw roller bladers, scooters, bikers, walkers and joggers. Backcountry skiers often park at the Taggart Lake trailhead. In the spring, you could also see Nordic skiers going up to Taggart Lake or Lupine Meadows. I also saw people who had biked back to the String Lake parking area and then gone cross country skiing or snowshoeing. This area attracts one of the most diverse groups in town in the month of April, from people who are trying to take advantage of every last bit of snow to people who are counting down the days until summer. You’ll see families – I saw a woman on roller blades with a young child on a bicycle and a dog on a leash – and you’ll also see hard-core bicyclists. If you wanted to make a day of it, you could start your day with a cross country ski trip back to Taggart Lake and then come back to your car, hop on your bike, and ride up to Signal Mountain Lodge.

And what’s the main attraction? The views of the Tetons. You’ll watch them change over the 15 miles of highway, starting at the south end of the range. Around Jenny Lake you’ll look straight up Cascade Canyon. Further north, you’ll have great views of Mount Moran. And around the Signal Mountain Lodge area, you’ll see Jackson Lake. In the spring, everything will still be snowcapped, so it’s hard to take a bad picture.

From the Taggart Lake Trailhead, you’ll go up the highway about four miles to the Jenny Lake Junction, crossing Cottonwood Creek and essentially paralleling the Lupine Meadows cross country skiing route. You’re out in the open the whole way, although you will see the Timbered Island to the east. At the South Jenny Lake Junction, you can go left (west) to the Jenny Lake area and see the lake. Bear in mind that you don’t see Jenny Lake from the Inner Park Road, so you have to take one of two detours.

The other option is to take the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive, which is the first turnoff after the South Jenny Lake Junction, a half mile away. The scenic drive is gorgeous. You’ll have several opportunities to see Jenny Lake from the east and a chance to look right up Cascade Canyon. You’ll also pass the Jenny Lake Lodge area and a spur road to the String Lake parking area. The views of the mountains from this area are tough to beat. After the String Lake parking area spur road, you’ll continue on until you rejoin the Inner Park Road. Look behind you for an absolutely spectacular view of the Cathedral Group of the Tetons. Head left (north) to continue to Signal Mountain Lodge (about eight miles), or turn right (south) to return to the Taggart Lake trailhead (roughly seven miles)

As you head toward Signal Mountain Lodge, the road goes down a series of hills. The slopes aren’t too steep, but you’ll get a workout coming up. You’ll go through some forests and some open spaces. Watch for wildlife in this area. Don’t hesitate to stop at the various turnouts – the views of the Tetons are different at each one, and well worth your time. As you near the end of the closed section of the Inner Park Road, you’ll see the signed junction to the summit of Signal Mountain. A paved road and hiking trail both lead to the top, but don’t count on the road being paved until later in the spring.

From this junction, it’s only about a mile to the Signal Mountain Lodge; the road is gated just south of the Signal Mountain Lodge area. None of the concessions open until early May, but you’ll be able to take in your first view of Jackson Lake. To get back to your car, simply retrace your route.

Trail conditions note: On April 12, the Inner Park Road was clear from the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking area to the Signal Mountain Area. There were a few snowy patches on the Jenny Lake Scenic Loop, but nothing that required us to get off our bikes. On April 27, both the Inner Park Road and the Jenny Lake Scenic Loop were clear, although some drifting had encroached on the sides of the roads. The road up Signal Mountain had not been plowed all the way.

Bring your park pass, or else you will have to pay admission at the entrance gate.

Do you have any tips or updates? Leave them in the comments area.

Note: Entry updated and expanded on April 28, 2008. Originally published on April 14.


Grand Teton National Park bike map (NPS)

Grand Teton National Park press release

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