Grand Teton National Park is such a huge area criss-crossed by so many different hiking trails that you really need a map. Wandering into the park without a map isn't just foolish, it could be dangerous; take the wrong trail and you might find yourself on a much longer hike than you're prepared for.
Luckily for you, it's easy to find excellent trail maps. The official National Park Service website has trail maps for shorter hikes in several different areas of the park, with topographic details and notations for camping areas and distances [source: National Park Service].
If you're looking for more detailed maps, or want to plan a longer backcountry hike, you should look to the Grand Teton Association. The association was created to provide information to park visitors, and the materials they provide are approved by the park service. You can purchase their maps and guidebooks within Grand Teton National Park. To plan ahead, visit their Web site and order the trail maps you need. They've got a wide selection, including some produced by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Using your trail map, you can plan your entire hike. Find where the trailhead is, and where you'll find nearby parking. Note that popular trailheads will be jammed in the summer months, so if you don't get an early start you'll have a hard time finding parking. If you're backpacking, plan to cover about two miles per hour. Each elevation change of 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) should add an hour to your trip [source: National Park Service]. If you're traveling light for a day hike, you might be able to move a bit faster, but stay conservative with your planning.
Don't forget to take a close look at the elevations on the trail map. If your hike will carry you into higher elevations, the temperature will be quite cool even in the summer, and even colder in the spring months. Overnight temperatures can approach the freezing point, so gear up accordingly.
Next, we'll explore some of the most popular day hikes at Grand Teton National Park.