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The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is home to the largest and most famous megafauna in the Lower 48 (including grizzlies, wolves, bison, and elk). The ecosystem is also home to two national parks - the famous Yellowstone National Park and the smaller Grand Teton National Park. If one is planning to visit the wildlife, one should plan around the migrations and mating patterns of the animals there.

Yellowstone is a landscape of superlatives. With over half of the world's count of geysers, everyone should visit it. But it overshadows its smaller, mountainous Grand Teton National Park to the south. So which should one visit? Yellowstone with its geysers or Grand Teton with its dramatic mountains? It turns out they are both different, and they both offer some of the best wildlife tours on the continent.


How Yellowstone And Grand Teton Compare

While Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the United States (established in 1872), Grand Teton is also relatively old, having been established in 1929.

Yellowstone is much bigger and older:

Grand Teton National Park:

  • Size: 500 sq mi 1,300 km2
  • Established: 1929

Yellowstone National Park:

  • Size: 3,468.4 sq mi (8,983 km2)
  • Established: 1872

As a larger and more park, Yellowstone also has considerably more campsites, hiking trails, and paved roads to explore the park.

Grand Teton National Park:

  • Campsites: Over 1,000 Drive-in Campsites
  • Hiking Trails: Over 200 Miles
  • Paved Roads: 152 Miles

Yellowstone National Park:

  • Paved Roads: 300 Miles
  • Campsites: Over 2,000 Campsites
  • Hiking Trails: 1,100 Miles

The parks are open year-round, although many of the attractions and activities within the park are closed during the winter. Both of these parks are spectacular and have different things to offer - if one has the time, one should visit both Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

Related: Yellowstone Is Gaining Popularity, And Here's What Not To Do During Your Visit

Yellowstone Geysers Vs. Grand Teton Mountains

Grand Teton National Park follows the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Range as well as parts of the Jackson Hole valley. It is the smaller cousin of Yellowstone and is only 10 miles to the south. The Tetons are a range that rises dramatically from the surrounding grasslands. They are snowcapped in the winter and stark gray in the summer. Different parts of the year offer very different settings.

  • Protects: The Grand Teton Mountains
  • Central Attraction: Grand Teton Mountains
  • Grand Teton Peak: 13,775 feet (4,199 m)

The park is named after Grand Teton - the tallest mountain in the Teton Range (and the name comes from the French name "Les Trois tétons" (the three teats).

For the geology nerds, the Tetons also have some of the oldest rocks managed by the National Park Service - they date to nearly 2.7 billion years ago.

Yellowstone is much larger than Grand Teton and is particularly famous for its geysers (including the iconic Old Faithful). It is centered over the massive Yellowstone Caldera - a hotspot that is the largest supervolcano in North America. This creates a hydrothermal wonderland with half of the world's geysers.

  • Geysers: Yellowstone Has Over Half Of The World's Geysers
  • Yellowstone Caldera: The Largest Supervolcano In America

Another of the great attractions of Yellowstone is Yellowstone Lake - one of America's highest elevation lakes and is sometimes still frozen as late as June.

Related: What To Know About Spending The Night In Grand Teton National Park's Best Lodging

Yellowstone & Grand Teton: The Twin Wildlife Hotspots

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is massive and is one of the last remaining large and nearly intact ecosystems of the world's northern temperate zone. The Yellowstone ecosystem is the greatest hotspot of American flora and fauna - and it is not all just in Yellowstone National Park.

  • Wildlife Tours: Visit Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton

In the Tetons, one can enjoy an almost pristine ecosystem that is home so a large amount of wildlife. Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton (including Jackson Hole) are magnets for wildlife tours. Many wildlife tours of Yellowstone actually go to Grant Teton (or visit both of the national parks).

  • Lamar Valley: One Of The Best Places To See Wolves In Yellowstone

Some even claim that Grand Teton is better than Yellowstone for seeing wildlife. Yellowstone is massive, and there isn't necessarily lots of wildlife in all parts of it - if going there, visit the Lamar Valley, where one can see wolf packs and hundreds of bison.