Rising 6,529′ above the surrounding valley, Grand Teton ranks a mere 17th in prominence in the lower 48, yet in the public awareness it must rank near number one. The spectacular views and wilderness have long been a recreational draw, and the Grand Teton is a world-renown climbing destination. This awareness must stem, in part, from its controversial history, when the wealthy benefactor John D. Rockefeller surreptitiously bought up land around the Tetons and donated it to the Federal Government in 1929. This deal, worth $1.5 million at the time, would be an astonishing ~$20 billion today, according to a quick check I did against an inflation calculator.
Inspired by John Muir’s Sierra Club, conservationist Ansel Adams had begun photographing the American west. In 1941 the government hired him to photograph all the national parks (he made it to 27 of the then 28), and, in 1942 he captured a famous picture of the Snake River in front of the Tetons. At the time, the park was receiving around 34,000 visitors annually, but Adams helped spike interest in nature and outdoor recreation, particularly in the Tetons. Today, well over three million people visit the park each year.
The Tetons offer some of my favorite hiking, and hosts numerous animals as well (17 carnivorous species live in the park). As it is adjacent to Yellowstone National Park and other federal lands, this remains one of the most unspoiled ecosystems in the lower 48, ideal for many types of adventures.