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!
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