The summer crowds at Grand Teton National Park can be a bit of a deterrent for some. Fall instantly removes that barrier. Vacation summers have been exhausted and kids are back in school, leaving you with a park that returns to its wide-open spaces.

Take advantage of the change in seasons to plan a trip to the ranch and treat Grand Teton likes it’s your private wilderness getaway. You won’t be disappointed.

Here are a few suggestions for your itinerary.

Jenny Lake

The size of the lake isn’t what’s going to take your breath away. It’s the beauty. The lake is perhaps one of the most photographed areas in the park as it sits with the Teton Mountains as the backdrop.

The views and hikes around the lake are huge draws during the summer. That’s why visiting in the fall is a much more attractive option. You’ll be able to explore the area without the jostling.

Jackson Lake

Views and activities abound at Jackson Lake. Rent a boat, fish, hike or grab a bite at Leeks Marina or Signal Mountain Marina. You can easily make several trips here to take in all that this gem of a lake has to offer.


There is no shortage of hiking options at the ranch. You’ve got a plethora of hiking routes right outside your cabin door. Phelps Lake, Bradley-Taggard and Two Ocean Lake are a few other popular hiking spots in the park

If you want some insider knowledge, make sure to talk to the staff at the ranch for their favorite hiking spots.

Come With Us

You’ve always got the option of spending a half day with one of our experienced guides on one of our guided tours. You’ll hit well-known sites as well as a few favorite hidden locales while learning about the history of the area.

This also gives you the opportunity to customize your tour by letting the guide know what’s important to you.

Slow Roll

If your time is limited, a drive along the park’s Inner Park Loop Road gives you a representative perspective of what the area has to offer. You’ll be able to meander past Jenny and Jackson Lakes, get amazing viewpoints of the Grand Teton range and, if you’re lucky, see an abundance of wildlife. It’s not uncommon to spot deer, elk, bears, moose and pronghorn antelope along this route.

It happens every day, yet it never gets old. We’re talking about the nightly wrangle. It’s a big hit at the ranch as the herd races from the corral, pass the lodge, across the bridge and into Turpin Meadow.

Guests and visitors love watching this, often calling out to their favorite horse. It starts off with soft hoof beats that build into thunderous rumble as the ground trembles beneath your feet. Enjoy these photos captured by Emily Bulla, who works at the lodge. Even to our ranch staff, the evening wrangle is a must-see event. Come experience and feel the excitement for yourself!


One of the great vantage points to view the Grand Teton range is the observation area atop Signal Mountain, which is just a 30-minute drive from the ranch. Even better about this sight-seeing adventure is that you can experience in one of two ways or perhaps both.

The drive to the top is five miles long, climbs 1,000 feet and features multiple switchbacks. Or you could opt to hike the 3.5 miles to the Jackson Point Overlook, which provides a slightly different viewing experience.

Regardless of your choice, you’ll find yourself staring at the grandeur of the Grand Teton Mountain Range, Jackson Lake and the Snake River.


Whether hiking or driving to the top, you’ll need to drive from the ranch. Just head west through the town of Moran before turning onto Teton Park Road. You’ll enjoy sweeping views of Jackson Lake before you reach the Signal Mountain Lodge. This the point where if you’re hiking, you’ll stop, grab your gear and head out.

If you intend to drive to the top of Signal Mountain, you’ll continue on until you hit the junction of Signal Mountain Road. Enjoy a leisure pace as you wind your way up the mountain.

Once you’ve reached the observation area, you’ll be given a look of the entire 40-mile long Grand Teton range.


Again, you’ll park at the Signal Mountain Lodge/Campground area. The trailhead is south of the entrance and near the employee housing quarters. Follow the trail and it will lead you across Teton Park Road and into the forest.

The first part of this hike is under a canopy of conifers. You’ll quickly come across a small lake. It’s not uncommon to see moose in this area. At about seven-tenths of a mile into the hike you’ll reach a fork. It doesn’t matter which direction you go because the entire trail is a loop that will bring you back to the same spot.

A local tip: if you go the right, which is the Lake Trail, the return trip on the Ridge Trail loop will give you amazing views of the Grand Tetons during the descent.

About 2.2 miles from the initial junction, you’ll reach the turnoff for the Jackson Lake Overlook. Follow this slightly steeper section for a little more than a mile and you’ll reach your destination. Even though the summit does not climb to the top of the mountain, the view won’t disappoint!

Local History

Visitors might assume the overlook is named after the lake below, but actually it’s in remembrance of William Henry Jackson. He was part of the 1871 Hayden Geological Survey expedition and took the first photos of the Grand Tetons from the west side of the range.

The mountain itself was named in the aftermath of a suspicious death. In 1890, one of the owners of the Merymere Lodge (today known as the Signal Mountain Lodge) went missing during a hunting trip. Search parties were organized, and a fire was started at the top of the mountain to aid in the search for Robert Ray Hamilton, the great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton. His body was found a week later in the Snake River. Speculation was that his business partner, John Dudley Sargent, played a role in Hamilton’s death.

Photo credit: Thomas Kriese

Twenty-eight rugged miles north of the ranch you enter the Thorofare. This is one of the most remote areas of the lower 48 and the beginning of the Upper Yellowstone River watershed. Here, the mountains explode skyward on either side of the river as it flows toward Yellowstone Lake.

This land was once known as the best cutthroat trout fishery in the world. Today, it is the epicenter of an epic battle that will ultimately determine the fate of one of the purest strains of trout.

“Words cannot describe the beauty of this place and what it takes to get there,” said Jay Allen, a renowned fishing guide who has returned to the ranch. “But to make the journey and soak in the history and import of what is happening with this fishery is like no experience you’ve ever had.”

What Once Was

The Thorofare is the cutthroat trout’s highway as the fish travel from Yellowstone Lake upriver to spawn. Forty years ago, the Thorofare teemed with anglers who made the journey to see for themselves what it was like to cast their fly rods into the river and do battle with a native cutthroat trout.

Sometime in the mid-1980s lake trout were introduced to Yellowstone Lake. These ravenous fish, which can grow up to 40 pounds, decimated the cutthroat trout population with its insatiable appetite. The population of lake trout swelled from 130,000 in 1998 to 800,000 by 2012.

How the Wildfires of 1988 Affected Fish Populations

It wasn’t long after the introduction of the lake trout that Yellowstone National Park experienced a summer of wildfires that grew to historic proportions. The first fire began on June 14 with subsequent fires sparking into September.

The fires consumed 500,000 acres outside the park and another 740,000 inside the park. The debris left behind in the Thorofare washed into the Yellowstone River creating silt that badly disrupted the spawning ground of the cutthroat.

The growing population of trout lake and aftermath of the wildfires devasted the spawning rates of the cutthroat. Biologists counted more than 70,000 fish passing through Clear Creek on the way to spawn in 1978, which was the peak. That number was reduced to less than 600 by the mid-2000s.

Bringing Cutthroat Trout Back

For more than a decade now, biologists and fishing enthusiasts have been working to bring back the cutthroat. For years, commercial fisherman from the Great Lakes area have been hired to spend the summer catching and killing more than 300,000 lake trout each year.

The effort is starting to show results as the cutthroat are returning to the native spawning grounds.

See for Yourself

The healthier runs of the native have also meant a return of the fishery for anglers willing to make the trek to this hallowed ground. It’s not uncommon for many who are fly fishing to catch and release the natives to help the recovery effort.

We are lucky enough to be one of the few outfitters that have a permit to fish in the Thorofare. This is our most exclusive offering due to the rugged journey. Our third and final trip to the area has a few slots open. Allen, who oversees the fly-fishing program at the ranch, will be the lead guide for this rare adventure. If this is something you’d be interested in, we strongly encourage you to call as soon as possible to reserve your spot on this historic trip.

The Return – Trailer
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Our overnight pack trips offer guests an immersive experience in the Teton Wilderness, where the American frontier is on fully display. You’ll explore remote areas within the Continental Divide and Absaroka Mountain Range, take in breathtaking views and sleep under a canopy of stars that appear close enough to touch.

The entire experience is led by our experienced guides who prepare your meals and act as docents as they explain the rich tapestry of the land. Consider it roughing it, the Turpin way.

This year we’ve revamped our back-country trips, giving you a greater variety of options when it comes to the duration of the trek. We’ve also included meals during your days at the ranch.

The only downside to this summer’s adventure is the availability. Each year the ranch is given a limited number of permit days to be used at Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. These days account for all activities within those boundaries, so we encourage guests to plan early.


Trip Bookends

Each pack trip includes two nights of lodging at the ranch – the night before you head out and the night you return. Your stay at the ranch includes a three-course dinner and breakfast buffet in the lodge. All you need to bring during the wilderness stay is clothing and personal items. We’ll take care of the rest. A good camera is highly recommended.

Greater Selection of Nights in the Wilderness

Once you leave the ranch, you’ll travel to your base camp, which we move every 16 days to give guests variety. This will be home base for the duration of your wilderness stay.

This year guests will be able to choose between four-, five-, six- and seven-day overnight pack trips. Remember, two of those nights are at the ranch, so you’ll be in the wilderness for two, three, four or five nights.

You’ll be matched with a ranch horse for the trip as our guides and wranglers handle the heavy lifting, set up, and break down.

Unforgettable Experiences

These trips leave guests with a greater appreciation for the splendor that is the wilderness of the Continental Divide. You’ll spend your days exploring by horse or foot with day trips to either Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Park. You get to experience the landscape in an unhurried and uninterrupted way. Time will slowly slip away, letting you live in the moment of what you’re seeing and experiencing.

We’re in our annual transition at the ranch from winter to summer as we put away the cold-weather gear and ramp up for the warmer activities our guests love. But we’re not the only ones making changes based on the season.

Each spring marks the start of the summer migration for elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bison and other members of the ungulate species in Wyoming. These creatures are leaving their winter feeding grounds for the more lush habitat found at higher elevations.

The journey can be up to 150 miles, traversing public and private lands across steep mountain passes.

The Wyoming Migration Initiative overseen by the University of Wyoming has undertaken multiple research projects to learn more about migration patterns to enhance conservation of travel corridors.

Red Desert Herd

Wildlife biologist Hall Sawyer discovered the longest recorded mule deer migration when his research tracked a herd from the Red Desert to the high mountain slopes of the Hoback Basin, which is about two hours southeast of the ranch.

This 150-mile trek requires the deer to cross several highways, swim across lake and river crossings and get over, under or around more than 100 fences.

Elk of Yellowstone

The elk you see during a summer visit to Yellowstone National Park are not year-round residents. Instead, they are members of six to eight populations that come to the park each summer from winter locales in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

They are part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and their abundance help sustain a varied group of carnivores, scavengers and pump tens of millions of dollars into gateway communities.

Migration Patterns

Years of research by the Wyoming Migration Initiative has amassed reams of data. But that information didn’t do much to tell a complete story of the travels.

That changed when the University of Wyoming and cartographers from the University of Oregon collaborated to use that data to recreate rich tales of the miles traveled.

“Wildlife Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates” is a collection of maps, charts photos and other visual data to tell the story of the seasonal movements of mule and whitetail deer, pronghorn, elk, bison moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

Know the Story

Whether your fly-fishing, horseback riding, hiking or just hanging out at the ranch, there’s a good chance you’re going to see ungulates in the wild. You’ll have a better understanding of what it took for these animals to reach their summer destination and how they survive. It’s another reason why a visit to the ranch is special.

At first glance, it would be easy to mistake the ranch for a traditional dude ranch. The lodge, cabin and chalets have the rustic exterior you’d be expect. The horse stalls and corral hint at a working ranch.

But step inside the lodge or any of the rooms and it becomes clear that we’re giving guests a refined experience.

“Our history is rooted in the traditional dude ranch,” said Ron Stiffler, our general manager. “But it’s evolved. Today, the ranch is a luxury retreat where guests come to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, take part in a wide range of summer and winter adventures, and rest and relax in a setting filled with creature comforts.”

Dude Ranch History

The first recognized dude ranch dates back to the 1800s when several brothers and friends developed the Custer Trail Ranch in the Dakota Badlands, according to the Dude Ranchers’ Association. The group was so proud of what they created that they wrote friends on the East Coast and encouraged them to visit.

Teddy Roosevelt, prior to becoming president, read one of the letters and began making routine trips to the area, eventually buying a ranch near the Custer Trail property, the association recalls. Roosevelt’s tales of hunting, fishing and ranch life in general encouraged others to trek West.

The expansion of rail lines helped push dude ranches into Wyoming and Montana.

Our History

Our guest ranch was founded in 1887 when Dick Turpin built his cabin on the banks of the Buffalo Fork River. We opened the doors to guests in 1932. Since then, we’ve hosted some pretty notable visitors, including Mrs. Herbert Hoover, Adlai Stevenson, John Glenn and Bob Dylan, who is rumored to have sung at the bar.

Ranch’s Evolution

We’ve gone beyond the typical dude ranch experience. Our guests aren’t helping with ranch chores or herding cattle. Instead, they’re spending summers taking horseback rides to experience the beauty of Wyoming. Or they’re casting fly rods into the nearby rivers and streams that teem with native cutthroat trout. Guests might go hiking in nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

Winter ushers in Nordic skiing on our 15 km of trails that were designed by Olympic biathletes. Our trails are groomed for skate and classic skiing. Fat bikes are welcome on the trails and there are four miles of single track for intrepid riders. Guests and visitors might also go snowmobiling or snowshoeing.

The Appeal

In between adventures, visitors to our guest ranch can rest in their cabin or chalet that is appointed with hand-crafted furniture, Pendleton blankets and bedding, and gas-powered fireplaces.

They can join others in the lodge for a drink in the lounge and sumptuous meals prepared by our chef who sources all of the ingredients from local farms.

Our combination of activities and amenities allow us to make the ranch appealing to a variety of travelers. It’s the perfect spot for a couple’s getaway, girls weekend, corporate retreat or family vacation.

So, while we pay homage to the dude ranch ethos, we strive to give our guests a much grander experience that allows them to leave behind their hectic lives and reconnect with each other and nature.

Spring is all about new beginnings and we are embracing that symbolism as we get ready for summer by completely revamping several of our adventures, including fly-fishing.

You can still meander outside your cabin to the banks of the Buffalo Fork River and cast away, but we’ve got so much more for anglers this year. Overnight trips in the Teton Wilderness and horseback rides to secluded fishing holes are just a few of the new options to consider when you’re booking your summer visit.

Plus, our guided fishing offerings are all-inclusive. Your fishing gear, including quality Orvis equipment, waders, and flies, snacks and beverages are included in our Walk & Wade packages. A pre-trip, one-hour casting lesson is also available for an additional cost for newcomers to the sport and those who want to knock off the rust and get a few expert pointers.

We’ve also expanded the fisheries you’ll visit beyond the Buffalo Fork River to include Pacific Creek, Spread Creek and Blackrock Creek, areas that were recently were named as Top 10 fly-fishing destinations in Wyoming.

“We really wanted to expand the breadth of fishing offerings for our guests this year to really highlight the beauty of the area and the fisheries,” said Ron Stiffler, the ranch’s general manager. “We think we’ve put together a program that truly offers something for everyone.”

Walk & Wade

The full and half-day, Walk and Wade options are what we consider classic fishing at the ranch. These packages are designed for two anglers with the option to add a third. This small group private setting ensures our experienced guide can give each guest the personalized service that is our trademark.

Each trip is different because our guides will determine the fishing spot based on that day’s conditions.

Horseback Walk & Wade

It doesn’t get more western than strapping your fishing gear onto your saddle and heading out for a day of fishing on the Buffalo Fork or Snake Rivers. You’ll cast into blue-ribbon waters teeming with native cutthroat trout. Then, take a break from fishing to enjoy lunch along the shore trading secrets and stories with your companions.

Yellowstone Walk & Wade

Follow our guide into the iconic park where you’ll explore the rivers and creeks where the alkaline levels are higher due to the geothermal activity. These conditions nurture a healthy habitat for seven species of game fish, including brown and rainbow trout, as well as mountain whitefish and grayling.

Teton Wilderness Overnight

We are especially excited to be offering new overnight fishing trips into the Teton Wilderness. You’ll be chaperoned by our guides and wranglers as you traverse the land by horseback to isolated fishing spots where camp will be set up.

Each day during your two- to five-day trip, you will ride your sure-footed steed through rugged scenery to the banks of a wild river where you will trade your cowboy boots for waders. After a full day of adventure, come back to camp where your authentic mountain man of a guide will prepare a full meal over a fire. As the sun sets and stars come out, rest your head on a pillow in a well-appointed spring-bar tent. Repeat as many times as necessary to relax, restore and put your senses back in order.

Ranch Overnight

Think of this as the ultimate all-inclusive fishing package. Your room, activities, meals and other amenities are included. The ranch will serve as home base where each day you’ll venture out to that day’s best location for fishing. It might Pacific Creek, Blackrock Creek or one of the multiple locations inside Yellowstone.

You’ll return each day to your cabin or chalet, get cleaned up and enjoy a three-course Chef’s dinner in the lodge.

Winter truly transforms the landscape around our guest ranch. The sounds, smells and sights take a dramatic shift. One great way to experience the season at a slower pace than other activities is snowshoeing.

It’s like taking a walk, just with a special pair of shoes. The pace allows you to completely immerse yourself in the wilderness. You can stop and enjoy the vistas as well as wildlife. Plus, you’ll get one heck of a workout.

We’ve made it easy for guests and visitors to explore our 20 km of groomed Nordic trails with nothing more than a pair of snowshoes strapped to their feet. We’ve got a few tips on how to prepare and what you can expect once you head outside.

Plus, we’ll explain why you might want to consider taking a guided snowshoe tour.

The Basics

Let’s start with your clothing. You’ll want a base layer that wicks away the sweat and dries quickly. An insulating layer is next with something like polyester fleece to keep you warm. Finally, go with an outer layer that will keep out the wind and water.

For footwear, an insulated and waterproof boot is the preferred choice paired with wool or synthetic socks to keep your feet warm and dry. You might also consider a boot covering to keep out the snow.

You’ll finish your gear with a hat, gloves and sunglasses.

The Shoe

The snowshoe itself is a pretty simple design. You’ll lock your foot into the binding, which sits atop the deck that allows you to float atop the snow. Lastly, traction and crampon like cleats on the bottom of the deck help with footing when traversing rugged terrain and icy conditions.

Snowshoe Techniques

Starting on the flat, groomed sections of our Nordic trail is a great place for beginners to get the feel of snowshoeing. It’s an intuitive movement. The only adjustment you’ll need to make is to maintain a wider stance, so you aren’t stepping on the insides of the snowshoe frames.

Stay Safe

Like any outdoor sport, you need to be cognizant of your surroundings and personal limitations to be safe. Stay within your physical abilities. Our trail provides a relatively safe environment to snowshoe. Stay warm, dry and hydrated during your adventure. Never go alone. There is safety in number and plus, it’s more fun when you’ve got others to share in the experience.

Take a Guided Tour

Navigating our groomed trail is easy. But if you really want to let your mind go and just enjoy the experience, take a 2.5 hour private tour with one of our experienced guides. They will design a route that best fits your needs and abilities.

You might stick to the trail or, if the group is more experienced, head off the trail to get the true flavor of the area. Along the way your guide will immerse you in a historical overview of the area and its significant geological formations.

Once your snowshoe adventure is over, you’ll return to the ranch where you can unwind in the lodge, warming yourself by the fire and enjoying a hot toddy.

The early morning sun rises over the ranch, casting a soft glow in the sky as the first skiers head out for early morning runs on our freshly groomed 20 km of Nordic trails.

They probably don’t give much thought to what goes into making the trail surface that perfect corduroy look and smooth surface. Even if they did they probably didn’t realize it started months ago by our team of trail experts and ski fanatics.

“We get excited once we’ve laid the tracks and we get people up here to play in the snow,” said Elee Deschu, one of our expert outfitters and member of the trail grooming team. “It’s a great workout and a lot of fun.”

Early Pre-Season Prep

The winter trail work that Deschu and her husband, Aaron, perform begins in the summer when they’re busy guiding guests on horse rides. In the summer, the ski trails double as the route for horseback riders to explore our beautiful country.

The Deschus pay attention during those rides for downed tree limbs and other debris that needs to be cleared. They’ll come back after the rides to clear away anything that has fallen and to regularly trim back the foliage.

First Snow

Once Mother Nature transitions to the winter, Elee Deschu said it’s a waiting game for enough snow to accumulate. They want a base of 18 to 20 inches of snow. We could leave it alone and let skiers forge their own path. But that makes for a less than ideal experience. Skiing on a trail that isn’t groomed is especially tiring. It’s also a bit dangerous since cross country skis aren’t made for handling powdery snow.

By Thanksgiving or early December, enough snow for a base has arrived. That kicks off a two-step process that begins by sing a PistenBully, which is the same type of snow groomer you see at Alpine ski resorts. The PistenBully is used to compact the snow, push out the air and create that base layer.

It usually takes two or three runs to complete the process and is dependent on the consistency of the snow. Deschu said heavy and wet snow coming from the Pacific Northwest compacts easier compared to drier snow coming north from Utah.

“We’re shooting for a nice even layer on the entire system where nothing is exposed,” Deschu said. “It’s as much art form as it is science.”

Daily Grooming

This is where we set ourselves apart from other trail systems in the area. With the base layer set, a Viking snowmobile becomes the primary machine to fine tune the trails. It drags a Ginzu Groomer, which is a combo tool. The teeth on the Ginzu till up the snow that is then smoothed over into the corduroy pattern by a mat.

The timing of the daily grooming depends on the snow conditions and temperature. If the overnight temperature is going to really drop, the team grooms at night. If they wait until the morning, they risk the chance that the snow will be too cold and crystalized balls would form.

Normal temperatures or a forecast of heavy overnight snow dictates the grooming will be done early in the morning.

Freshly Groomed Trails Make for the Best Skiing

The daily groomed trail is a draw for guests at the ranch and day visitors who visit for the varied terrain and smooth conditions. Deschu said while skiers might not give much thought to the process, they appreciate the results.

“When I’ve groomed when people are out there they’ll wave and want to talk,” she said. “I kind of feel like the Pied Piper because everybody wants to follow you on the fresh trail.”