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  • What Were the Grand Tetons Named For?

    "Grand Teton," which is the name given to the tallest peak in the Teton Range, has its moniker rooted in historical controversy. It is believed to have been named by French Canadian trappers after its likeness to a female breast or after the Teton Sioux Native Americans who inhabited the region. Grand Teton is 13,775 feet tall and towers above Northwest Wyoming. Regardless of the naming dispute, its astounding beauty and limitless recreational opportunities go unquestioned.
    What Were the Grand Tetons Named For?


    Grand Teton was named Mount Hayden by the explorers in the Washburn/Hayden/Doane Expedition in 1870. By 1901, however, the name "Grand Teton" was so commonly used that the mountain was identified by that name on a USGS map of the area. Grand Teton National Park was established in 1929 and in 1931 the name "Grand Teton Peak" was officially recognized by the USGS Board on Geographic Names. The name was shortened to "Grand Teton" in 1970.


    As mentioned above, the name "Grand Teton" does not come without historical controversy. Grand Teton may come from early French Canadian explorers of the Northwest Company, who, upon seeing the three peaks of the range, called them "Les Trois Tetons," or "The Three Breasts."

    Many historians believe, however, that the name Teton comes from the Teton Sioux Native Americans who inhabited the plains west of Missouri. The Teton Sioux are a principle division of seven related Sioux tribes, whose leaders include Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

    Of course, humans have lived in the shadows of the Teton Range for more than 11,000 years. The mountain likely had many names that have now been lost to history. The Shoshone people are believed to have lived around the Tetons for 10,000 years and called the mountain "Teewinot," meaning "many pinnacles." 

    Geographic Description

    At an elevation of 13,775 feet, Grand Teton is the tallest of the three-peaked Teton range. It sits within the borders of Grand Teton National Park, which spans 484 square miles and boasts more than 200 miles of hiking trails in the northwest corner of Wyoming.

    The climate of Grand Teton National Park is extreme and varies greatly depending on the season. Heavy snows begin falling on the valley floors in November but summertime highs can reach the 80's. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the park was -63 degrees F. Grand Teton itself is snow-capped all year round. 


    For decades, climbers have stood at the base of Grand Teton and dreamed of reaching the peak. American Indians built an enclosure about 500 feet from the summit and likely reached the top of the mountain many times. Members of the 1872 Hayden Expedition also claimed to have reached the summit. However, the first documented summit of the mountain took place in 1898. Today, there are more than 90 different climbing routes that lead to the top of the mountain.

    At the base of the Tetons sits Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a trendy ski town passed through annually by more than 2 million park visitors and Snake River anglers. In the winter, Jackson Hole and Alta, Wyoming, become booming ski hubs for Grand Targhee Resort.


    National Park Service-- Grand Teton National Park

    Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park

    Top Trails Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

    Grand Teton National Park Holiday and Tourism Guide


    Article Written By Henry Dark

    Henry Dark graduated from Montana State University with a degree in English literature and is pursuing an M.A. from Middlebury College. His professional endeavors include auctioneering and fishing, while his literary pursuits, since 2005, include non-fiction publications, such as "Fly Fishing & Tying Journal," poetry/prose journals such as "Read This," and with "Story Quarterly," while working as an editor for Corona Publications.

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