As the park road approaches Jackson Lake, a paved but narrow side road (no RVs or trailers) turns east and leads to the summit of Signal Mountain, 800 feet above Jackson Hole . On top are panoramic views of the Tetons, Jackson Lake, the Snake River, and the long valley below.
To the south lies The Potholes, a hummocky area created when retreating glaciers left behind huge blocks of ice. The melting ice created depressions, some of which are still filled with water.
Signal Mountain was burned by a massive 1879 fire and offers a good opportunity to see how Yellowstone  may look in 75 years.
Hugging the southeast shore of Jackson Lake, Signal Mountain Lodge (307/543-2831, www.signalmountainlodge.com ) includes cabins and campsites, plus a gift shop, convenience store, gas station, marina with boat rentals, restaurant, and bar. Just east of the lodge is the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, a small Roman Catholic church that has summer services at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and at 5 p.m. Sundays.
The road then crosses Jackson Lake Dam, which raises the water level by 39 feet, alters the river’s natural flow, and inundates a large area upstream. Many conservationists fought to have Jackson Lake excluded from the park, concerned that it would establish a bad precedent for allowing reservoirs in other parks. Nevertheless, once you get away from the dam, the lake appears relatively natural today (except in drought years, when it gets the “bathtub ring” effect).
A turnout near Jackson Lake Junction provides views over Willow Flats, where moose are frequently seen, especially in the morning. Topping a bluff overlooking the flats is Jackson Lake Lodge (307/543-3100 or 800/628-9988, www.gtlc.com , late May-early Oct.), built in the 1950s with the $5 million financial backing of John D. Rockefeller Jr. Architects are not thrilled about the design (one author termed it “the ugliest building in western Wyoming”), but the 60-foot-tall back windows frame an unbelievable view of the Tetons and Jackson Lake.
Immediately across from the lodge is a trail leading to Emma Matilda and Two Ocean Lakes. It is 14 miles round-trip around both lakes, with lots of wildlife along the way, including moose, trumpeter swans, pelicans, and ducks. You may have to contend with large groups on horseback.
Find your own inspiration at Lunch Tree Hill, a 0.5-mile hike from Jackson Lake Lodge. While visiting the area in 1926, John D. Rockefeller Jr. climbed this knoll for a picnic lunch with Horace Albright, then the superintendent of Yellowstone. They watched moose browsing below and took in the panoramic Teton Range vista. This visit helped crystallize Rockefeller’s realization that he needed to act to protect this remarkable area from development. Park rangers lead hikes up Lunch Tree Hill most summer mornings. The trail begins in back of Jackson Lake Lodge; turn right for the path up the hill.