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Can You Fly a Drone in Grand Teton?

Northwestern Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park encompasses part of Jackson Hole (its northern areas) and the 40-mile Teton Range.

It’s also 10 minutes from Yellowstone National Park, with the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway connecting the two.

You’d love to fly over the quaint mountain regions of Grand Teton. Are drones permitted here?

Without written permission, drones are prohibited at Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. You’re barred from flying a drone in Yellowstone without a permit.

The many national landmarks that surround Grand Teton make it an incentivizing place to fly, but that doesn’t mean you can.

Ahead, we’ll go deeper into the National Park Service’s flight rules so you can visit Wyoming without incident.

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Can you fly a drone in Grand Teton National Park?

Like all national parks across the United States, Grand Teton National Park is overseen by the National Park Service.

Nature of Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

On its Laws & Policies page[1], the NPS outlines the laws for both Grand Teton and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway as part of its Superintendent’s Compendium.

The law on drone usage is short but sweet: “Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft, such as a drone, is prohibited.”

The Superintendent’s Compendium[2] digs a little deeper, adding that the above behaviors are outlawed “within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park and the John D.  Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway…except as approved in writing by the Superintendent.”

The compendium does not detail what lengths you’d have to go to obtain written permission, but it seems unlikely that most drone operations would be permitted. Likely, only commercial and agency pilots would receive permission, but the circumstances for when and how are unclear.

As the compendium says:

“The Superintendent has determined that unmanaged or unrestricted recreational use of UAs within Grand Teton National Park will conflict with, or impact, a variety of park uses including visitor experience of unimpaired view sheds; the disturbance, displacement or harassment of park wildlife to include threatened and endangered species, present potential for impacts or damage to sensitive geothermal areas, creation of public safety hazards per operation near roadways or large aggregations of visitors, and visual or aural impacts to wilderness character and values within the park boundary.”

Grand Teton isn’t far from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which is roughly 22 million acres of protected land between Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has intact ecosystems that feature native flora and fauna as well as animal species such as moose, beaver, elk, and gray wolf.

Unsurprisingly, the NPS wants the area to remain intact, hence the strict drone rules around Grand Teton.

Can you fly a drone at Yellowstone National Park?

Since it appears you won’t find much leeway to fly a drone at Grand Teton, you figure you’ll just make your way across the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway (without using your drone, of course) and fly at Yellowstone. Can you?

Sorry, but no, you can’t. As of 2014, the NPS prohibits drones in Yellowstone National Park.

The park has three Wilderness Areas:

  1. Teton Wilderness
  2. Bridger Wilderness
  3. Gros Ventre Wilderness

As you may recall from our post on the blog, Wilderness Areas across the US bar drones under the 1964 Wilderness Act. That act went into effect to prevent widespread urbanization.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in a Wilderness Area?

The other reason that drone use is staunchly regulated is to preserve the park itself. An article on the Yellowstone National Park Trips website[3] mentions that drones are one thing of many that have plugged the park’s geysers.

Misusing the geysers damages them and risks their longevity. Future generations might not be able to enjoy Yellowstone’s geysers based on the decisions we make today.

As with the drone laws at Grand Teton, the NPS does sometimes grant permission to fly in Yellowstone’s general forest lands, but usually more for the Greater Yellowstone area than the national park itself.

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Can you fly a drone at Jackson Hole?

Hmm, okay. So you can’t use your drone in Grand Teton or Yellowstone in most instances. What about Jackson Hole? That’s close enough to the two national parks.

Downtown Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole is a valley that spans the Teton and Gros Ventre mountain ranges. It itself is not a national park, so the NPS can’t ban drone use.

As for the many mountain resorts the area is known for? Those places don’t want drones, either.

According to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s[4] Aerial Drone Policy, “Out of safety concerns for guests, employees and resort property, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort prohibits the operation or use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or aerial drones, by the general public – including recreational users and hobbyists.

This prohibition includes drones for filming or videotaping, as well as any drone use by media or journalists operating above property owned or managed by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

This prohibition on drone use extends to any drones launched or operated from resort property, as well as drones launched from private property outside of the resort boundaries.

Any violation of this policy may involve suspension of your skiing or snowboarding privileges, or the revocation of your season pass, as well as confiscation of any equipment.

Violators will be liable for any damages, including but not limited to physical or personal injuries, property damage, damages for violations of privacy, regulatory fines and legal fees.”

What we find most interesting about this policy is that you can’t launch a drone from private property outside of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and then operate your drone on the resort.

The resort makes it clear there exist no loopholes or exceptions in its policy, so don’t try any!

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Can you fly a drone just outside of Grand Teton?

Let’s circle back around to Grand Teton National Park. Now that you’ve learned that flying your drone in the park (as well as Jackson Hole and Yellowstone) is nearly impossible, what if you were to venture beyond the realms of Grand Teton? What are the rules then?

Well, Grand Teton is 310,000 acres, so you’d have to go a long ways out. By the time you were outside Grand Teton’s parameters, you’d probably be close to Yellowstone National Park if you headed north.

Even if you avoided Yellowstone, now you’re upon Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The NPS[5] makes it quite clear that drones are not welcome there either. 

If you find an area of Wyoming far enough away from Grand Teton National Park that you’re no longer on the park grounds but not so far away that you can’t see its majestic mountains, you would more than likely be able to operate your drone there.

We say more than likely because it depends on where the area is. As we’ve made clear, Wilderness Areas, national parks, and national forests are off-limits.

If you’re flying on someone else’s property, it’s always best to seek their permission to confirm you aren’t violating any laws.

However, you would no longer be under NPS jurisdiction once you leave Grand Teton.

What happens if you’re caught flying a drone at Grand Teton?

The NPS makes it quite clear that without permission, you shouldn’t bring your drone on the grounds of Grand Teton National Park (or the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway), but what happens if you do?

Grand Teton National Park

Well, any number of things could transpire. A park ranger might ask you to leave with your drone. The ranger or a passerby could call the police, and in that case, matters would escalate as the National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers get involved.

What does this mean for you, the drone pilot? You could risk punishments such as drone confiscation, fines, or imprisonment. You might even be banned from returning to Grand Teton again, even if you don’t bring a drone.

We must remind you that the NPS is a federal agency, so you could be charged federally for your crimes.

Grand Teton National Park is one of the US’s most beloved landmarks. It and the nearby Yellowstone National Park are under National Park Service jurisdiction.

The NPS makes it abundantly clear that drones are not allowed at Grand Teton without written permission.

You also can’t fly a drone at the nearby Jackson Hole resorts, so your options are quite limited in this area. The bans exist to preserve the integrity of the parks, maintain peace for travelers and tourists, and preserve wildlife.

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References:
1. Grand Teton National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (link)
2. Superintendent’s Compendium (link)
3. Things Stuffed Down Yellowstone’s Damaged Geysers (link)
4. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s (link)
5. Caribou-Targhee National Forest (link)