The Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve is a nature preserve with a visitor center and hiking trails. It is located approximately half way between Moose, WY and Teton Village in the southwest section of the park. It is usually open from late May or early June through September. The parking lot is open from May 1st through October 31st.
The land originally contained a dude ranch, called the JY Ranch, owned by Louis Joy. It was purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and maintained as a family retreat while surrounding land was given to the park system. The remaining 3,100 acre parcel of land was donated over the years by the family to the national park system, with a donation of the final parcel in 2001 by Laurance S. Rockefeller. The 1,106 acres refuge including Phelps Lake was created based on his wishes.
We were on our way in late May 2016 down the Moose Wilson Rd heading in the general direction of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort when we came across the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve. The building and exhibits were still closed for the off-season when we were there. However, the trails were open so we made the approximately one mile hike to Phelps Lake.
We highly recommend this beautiful, easy nature hike. We started off in the parking lot listening to the amphibious creatures sing in the small pond there. They were very active until they heard evidence of human presence, when the water went eerily silent quickly. As things quieted down around the pond, they would start up again in song.
We walked down the trail a bit until we ran into a gushing brook and a small bridge. We couldn’t help but picture how the Rockefellers once enjoyed this land and what it would be like to have a vacation property here. As we moved on, we were definitely inspired by the area’s beauty and spent a lot of time talking about our dreams.
Phelps Lake took a bit longer to reach than we expected and the sun was getting ready to set behind the mountains. It was gorgeous though. Phelps Lake is the sixth largest lake in Grand Teton National Park. It is an approximately 750 acre lake carved by glaciers. There is a small sandy beach along the northern shore. A trail circles the entirety of the lake.
We only had a few minutes at the end of our hike before we turned back to ensure we could get back to the parking lot before darkness. But it wouldn’t surprise me if we recreate this hike the next time that we are in the area.