Mountains, meadows, lakes, wildlife, sun and snow combine at Grand Teton National Park to create an adventure playground for photographers. Sunrise is a magical time for photography in Grand Teton and one place in particular is buzzing with excitement at civil twilight each morning: Mormon Row.
Two wooden barns in the middle of a field might not sound much on the face of it, but when you see the staggeringly beautiful backdrops to these structures, you will understand why they are the most photographed barns in the US.
Built by John Moulton and TA Moulton between 1910’s and 1950’s on adjacent homestead complexes, the barns draw in professional photographers and hobbyists alike from all around the world.
We will explain everything you need to know about planning sunrise and sunset photography along Mormon Row, with a major focus on the more popular TA Moulton barn in Grand Teton National Park.
Let’s get right into it!
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Mormon Row Sunrise or Sunset
Sunrise is undoubtably the most spectacular time of day to be wandering around Grand Teton National Park with camera in hand. Teton is among the most adored and best US national parks, and it is at its most spectacular at dawn.
Similarly to Grand Canyon South Rim, sunrise is the better time not only because it’s far less crowded, but also because the landscape, topography and colors are more awe-inspiring at sunrise than at sunset.
Teton mountain range runs almost in a straight line on a North to South parallel through the stunning national park, dominating the skyline on its Western flank.
All the best things to do, including hikes, scenic drives, viewpoints and photography locations are East of the Teton range – which makes sunrise the time to be active for photographers.
With that said, Mormon Row is still extraordinarily picturesque at sunset, just not as quintessential or iconic as sunrise. Personally, we weren’t complaining at either time of day!
There are a number of amazing places to watch the sunrise and sunset with river reflections in Grand Teton – such as the stunning Schwabacher Landing and Oxbow Bend – but we’ll be focussing on Mormon Row in this article.
TA Moulton Barn or John Moulton Barn
It is difficult to call a winner between the barns and many will have opposing opinions on the most attractive of the two.
For us, it’s a tight call but we found ourselves gravitating towards TA Moulton barn for both sunrise and sunset. We decided to spend sunrise at TA Moulton barn after scouting both locations the evening before.
However, if we had the equipment we have now during our visit to Grand Teton, we would have split up and covered both barns at each time of day.
TA Moulton’s barn is the iconic Grand Teton sunrise photograph and just about edges it thanks to a more complete backdrop and clearer foreground (in our opinion).
That said, there were more photographers crouching low among the long grass at John’s barn than at TA’s barn when we visited. So who knows?!!
You’re probably thinking well this isn’t helpful, which should I choose?
Well, honestly we think you just have to see them both in person. If we had to pick one for you, we’d suggest TA Moulton for a more polished photograph.
TA Moulton Barn Sunrise
Thomas Alma Moulton spent over 30 years building his barn and it was worth every last bit of effort.
Imagine waking up and drinking your morning coffee with this view?!
Our sunrise photographs below will give you an idea about which angles work, where the sun will appear first on the mountains and then the barn itself and how wide angle vs telephoto lenses work.
Here are some things to look out for:
- Look for shadows cast by our bodies as the sun is so low in the sky.
- Trees, ditches, bridges, meadows and the mountains all come into play with the barn when composing your frames.
- You can shoot from the right, center or left as you look at the barn and mountains but the iconic shot is from left of center.
- If you arrive early on a Summer morning when it will be busy, head straight for the left of center area and compose your image based on your camera / lens capability.
- Wide angle lens is great for capturing the scale of Teton range but a telephoto lens will bring the mountains closer.
TA Moulton barn left of center wide angle image during civil twilight with moon falling over Teton range
A few minutes later tops of Teton range kissed by first rays of sunlight but barn in deep shadow
Moving around the grounds left of center using features for foreground leading lines as sun rises
Four long narrow shadows cast by photographers as the sun finally illuminates TA Moulton barn
Moving back to left of center switching lens to zoom and using trees but too many shadows
Perfect location left of center in a meadow with a telephoto lens to bring the Teton Range closer
Glowing front of barn from way right of center as we are leaving Mormon Row
TA Moulton Barn Sunset
Sunrise may well be the iconic time for Mormon Row photography but sunset is equally as impressive, some may even prefer dusk to dawn.
The key for sunset is to arrive an hour or so earlier than you usually would for a sunset shoot.
Because the sun will set behind the majestic Teton range long before the actual ‘sunset’ time. Exactly which part of the Teton range the sun will set behind depends on the season of your visit.
We took these photographs in October so you can see exactly where the sun will set if you decide to visit Grand Teton in October.
Meadows glow a golden yellow under late afternoon sunlight and of course you can play around with starbursts by using a narrow aperture (f/11 – f/22 for example).
If you’re lucky with the sky, clouds and colors you could make some incredible sunset images on Mormon Row. In lightroom you can always increase your shadows to lighten up the barn and meadow foreground.
We kept our shadows quite dark to show you what your images will look like naturally at sunset.
Sun setting behind the barn (right of this shot) means dark shadows on its front doors
Wide angle shot at f/16 for a starburst over the golden meadow surrounding TA Moulton barn
Dead center wide angle f/16 starburst with meandering stream leading line (and our GoPro in the bottom left time-lapsing sunset)!
Using a standalone X fence to frame TA Moulton barn angled with Teton Range
Iconic left center sunrise is also amazing at sunset with sun lighting up the flank
John Moulton Barn
John Moulton barn is certainly not to be overlooked when visiting Mormon Row. You might even prefer John’s barn to TA’s.
If you do end up at John Moulton barn for sunrise, you will find most photographers left of center to get the Teton range in frame.
But they won’t be lined up in a neat line at the same distance from John’s barn. You will see photographers very close, 20-30 feet away and even 60-70 feet away. They are using different lenses to create wide angle or compression shots to bring the Teton range closer to the barn.
We only took a few photographs of John Mouton barn in late afternoon just before sunset. If we could have cloned ourselves and our one camera into two, we would have done both barns for sunrise but we chose TA and stuck with it.
Wide angle shot just before sun disappears over Teton Range from behind tracks
Moving in front of tracks for a close up wide shot of John Mouton barn at sunset
Mormon Row Grand Teton Sunrise and Sunset Photography Tips
- Arrive early for sunrise. If you don’t arrive at civil twilight, you will miss the red glow on the caps of Teton mountain range and you might even miss the sunrise.
- Arrive an hour earlier than usual for sunset to make sure you don’t miss it as the sun vanishes behind mountains.
- Move around from right to left and look for things you can add to your images, such as trees, bridges or fences.
- Take a wide angle and telephoto lens if you have both.
- Do not forget your tripod at either sunrise or sunset – very important.
- Most importantly of all is to remember you are not the only photographer who has made the effort to be at Mormon Row. Be courteous and try not to get in everyones shot.
What To Pack
- Coffee / Tea / Hot Chocolate to keep warm on a cold morning at sunrise
- Down Jacket – It was freezing cold at sunrise in October, our down jackets saved us
- Convertible Wool Mittens – Life saver at sunrise and any shooting in Winter months
- Tripod – Vanguard Alta Pro 2 with Ball Head Carbon Fiber (advanced)
Note: Sony regularly discount advanced cameras and lenses, so be sure to look out for big savings.
Want more sunset inspiration? Don’t miss our popular guide featuring beautiful sunset quotes.
Directions to Mormon Row in Grand Teton
Ok, now you know what you can expect, but how do you get to Mormon Row?
Highway 89 and Teton Park road form a loop through Grand Teton National Park.
Between the end of May and start of November, you can take a gravel track called Antelope Flats Road off the main highway (close to the bottom of the loop) for 1.5 miles to reach the barns.
During Winter when Antelope Flats Road is closed, you can take Gros Venture Road off Highway 89 further to the South.
Take the first left off Gros Venture onto Mormon Row for a total distance of 7.5 miles after leaving the highway.
Let’s look at a map to make things easier!
- Gold Star – Mormon Row location.
- Red Line – Grand Teton Loop road and main highway forming a circular route to all of the top attractions. North of the loop is the road to Yellowstone National Park.
- Blue Line – Jackson Hole to Mormon Row along main highway.
- Purple Line – Access from Teton Village to Mormon Row between June and October only.
- Yellow Line – Alternative route from Teton Village, through Jackson and up to Mormon Row between November and May.
- Black Line – 1.5 mile gravel road from main highway to Mormon Row only open between June and October.
- Green Line – Gros Venture Road only way to access Mormon Row between November and May.
Jackson, WY to Mormon Row
Most visitors to Grand Teton National Park will set up base in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jackson is a lovely town, filled with independent stores and great places to eat.
You can fly direct into Jackson but flights are expensive and options are limited to the major US airports. One of the better alternatives is to fly into Salt Lake City and road trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
In Winter, Jackson is a popular ski resort but the rest of the year it’s a staging area for venturing into the Tetons.
- Check prices for hotels in Jackson.
From Jackson, it’s going to take around 20-30 minutes driving time (15 miles) to reach Mormon Row, either via Antelope Flats or Gros Venture.
Head North on the main highway and take the right turn onto the appropriate road for the season you’re visiting.
A 30 minute drive time needs to be factored into your timing, especially for sunrise. We always recommend arriving to a sunrise photography location at the beginning of civil twilight.
That gives you plenty of time to prepare for when the first rays of light creep over the horizon.
Remember, that time will change throughout the seasons and warmer Summer weather also means earlier mornings!
Teton Village, WY to Mormon Row
Teton Village is a gorgeous Alpine ski resort filled with expensive wooden chalets and hotels backed by rolling hills.
Check prices for hotels in Teton Village.
It is a fantastic place to stay when visiting Grand Teton but it does make life more difficult for seeing major attractions inside the park if visiting during Winter and Spring months.
The 8 mile scenic road (Moose Wilson) from Teton village to the joining point of the highway and Teton loop road (very close to Mormon Row) closes between May and November.
In Summer and Fall, you will have no problems and a far more scenic drive than from Jackson.
Therefore during these months it becomes a 26 mile and 50 minute drive time to reach Mormon Row from Teton Village, which makes sunrise a bit more of a slog.
Yellowstone to Mormon Row
If arriving from the North – most likely Yellowstone – in late afternoon, be sure to stop at Mormon Row for sunset before continuing to either Jackson or Teton Village to check into your hotel.
This is how we managed to do a sunrise and sunset at Mormon Row when visiting Grand Teton National Park.
From West Thumb Geyser Basin (the furthest South part of Yellowstone) it is less than 2 hours drive time to cover 85 miles and arrive at Mormon Row via the main highway.
So, if you leave Yellowstone 3 hours before sunset, 2 hours drive time leaves the one hour needed before sunset because the sun disappears over Teton mountain range.
Read More About Grand Teton and Yellowstone …
- Grand Teton: 7 Amazing Things To Do In 2 Unforgettable Days
- Schwabacher Landing: Photography Guide to the Spectacular Mountain Reflections
- Yellowstone: The Ultimate First Time Visitor Guide & Epic 4 Day Itinerary
- Accommodation: Where to Stay In and Near Yellowstone National Park
- Road Trip: Epic SLC to Grand Teton and Yellowstone Road Trip Itinerary
We hope this Mormon Row sunrise and sunset photography guide helps you plan your visit to Grand Teton National Park!
Have you been to Grand Teton? Where are your favorite photography locations in the park?
Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help planning your visit.
Mark and Kristen
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