I feel like for the time I’ve lived in the Tetons, I haven’t written enough about them, and it needs to be rectified because they are easily one of the most beautiful mountains in the U.S. and have some of the best places to relax and unwind. If you are planning on visiting or living near these gorgeous mountains, read on to find out exactly where you can chill and view these natural wonders.
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String and Leigh Lake
Ah, this one is a favorite for many people throughout mid and late summer months (late June- early September). String lake is the shallowest lake in the Tetons, making it a perfect swimming destination. Leigh lake is connected to String Lake on its northern end, and is only accessible by foot or boat.
Both lakes are great places to relax and unwind, but if you are carrying a paddle board, kayak, or food for a picnic, String lake is the better option because it is closer to the parking lot that is by the String Lake Trailhead. There are plenty of picnic tables and benches, but because this location is so popular, you will want to get there extra early to reserve a spot.
When you do bring food and drinks to the lakes, make sure to take your trash back with you back to the parking lot to be thrown away. Those boxes around the lakes are not trash cans- they are bear boxes used to store food while you’re out swimming and kayaking.
Speaking of kayaking, both lakes offer a great opportunity to kayak and paddle board. String lake is right at the foot of the Teton range and offers some of the most picturesque kayaking and paddle boarding anywhere. In order to do that in Leigh Lake, you would have to either carry your kayak there by foot or just float there through String Lake.
DISCLAIMER: you do have to get a permit for your motorized AND non-motorized boats, as well as get them inspected prior to using them in the park.
Leigh lake is deeper and colder, but it’s not as narrow as String Lake and offers more space to have for yourself on the water. Plus, it features an island that you can swim/kayak to that will offer more privacy and space. Personally, I don’t have much experience with this lake because I always just stopped at String Lake.
This lake is gorgeous and makes for a great day hike. The reason it is on my “chill list” is because of its sandy beaches on the north side and the rock that juts out over the lake, making for a great diving spot. The two times my boyfriend and I hiked the perimeter of the lake, that rock was full of young people just enjoying themselves.
This lake is almost a perfect oval and the color of deep blue, and is in close proximity to one of the most beautiful hikes (Death Canyon) in the Tetons. If you are looking for a nice place to relax after a long day of hiking, or just want to jump off a rock into the lake, this is the place for you.
Amphitheater and Surprise Lake
These lakes are great as more secluded chill spots because they are less accessible than the others. Full disclaimer: it’s quite a challenging hike to get to both of these lakes, with approximately 3,000 ft. elevation gain from the trailhead and a 5 mile there, 5 mile back journey.
Both lakes are nestled in between the Teton mountains, the closest one being Disappointment Peak (I know, great name). The lakes are not too swim or kayak friendly, but make for a great spot to picnic after a nice day of hiking.
Ok, this spot is a bit unofficial, and I’ve only visited it with my coworkers on a group hike. The waterfall that is on the way to the top of Teewinot Peak is unnamed, so most people just call it Teewinot Falls. It is about a mile and a half hike from the Lupine Meadows trailhead, and it is pretty damn steep. You trek through bushes and foliage and scramble over rocks, and at the end of it, you are faced with a gorgeous waterfall.
Like I said, this location is a bit more unofficial because there’s no picnic tables or benches to sit on. The rocks are sloped and sometimes slippery, so this spot isn’t for everyone. Bring bear spray and a thick picnic blanket. I would say to bring some booze because that’s what our group did, but honestly, scaling the rocks while drunk isn’t the best idea. You’re better off drinking on flat ground.
Jackson Lake Lodge
Jackson lake Lodge is owned by the Teton Lodge Company and sits right on the lake. It has a restaurant, several gift and convenience stores, and a wide array of lodging and camping spots. What makes this spot cool is the lounge on the second floor of the main building. It faces the lake and the Tetons, and has gorgeous panorama windows, plus two fireplaces on either side of the entrance. It’s just gorgeous.
If you want to come there and sip on some coffee and work on your computer (like my bf and I did), this is the perfect chill spot. However, it is pretty busy from June to August, so fair warning for those of you who don’t like noisy, populated spaces.
Signal Mountain Lodge
This is where I worked in the summer of 2021. It is very near and dear to my heart and, maybe I am biased, but it is a sweet chill spot for all kinds of people. First off, this place has a nice lounge with the view of the Tetons and a small balcony area if you prefer to be outside.
Signal also has ample amounts of picnic tables close to the lake’s shore by the marina. Not too far away are more tables in the main parking lot by the restaurant and convenience store area, and although you don’t have a view of the lake there, it’s nice to sit under the shade of trees and just talk with people.
Ah, yes. This is a famous place among locals and tourists alike. Leek’s Pizza is a wonderful restaurant located on the shores of Jackson Lake and offers some of the best pizza out there- plus ice cream! This place is filled to the brim for the whole summer, so it is definitely a place to socialize and play musical chairs trying to secure a spot.
This restaurant/bar is SO popular in the summer. Not only does it have some solid bar food, but it also has a wonderful music venue. People would bring their camping chairs and picnic blankets and sit around while the local musicians play covers and original songs every. week. It’s really a fun time for anyone- young or old, music lover or beer guzzler.
It goes without saying that this place also is very busy in the summer months, so getting here and saving a seat one hour before any concert is a good idea.
One thing I will say that almost all these places have in common is that they are outdoors, which means they will have bugs. And lots of them, especially the ones by the lakes. So do yourself a favor and get some DEET.
Another thing that you will want to have with you is a couple of camping chairs, preferably with cup holders, and a thick picnic blanket or beach towel. I say this because a lot of chill spots in the Tetons are on the shores or a lake or the lawn of a restaurant or lodge, and many times, there won’t be a picnic table or proper seating available, so you want to come prepared.
Finally, take care to bring bear spray with you to the more remote places. I cannot stress this enough, because I personally have come across people touring the Tetons who had no idea of the bear population around there. Please be safe and smart.
Overall, the Tetons are a perfect place to spend your summer, and if you are lucky enough to stay for more than a couple days, make sure to visit as many places as you can before heading on home, because the memories you’ll make and sights you’ll see here are truly unforgettable. Thank you for reading, and as always, stay fresh.