There are roughly 200 miles (322 km) of hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park. I’ve hiked probably 20 of those miles. I have a loooong way to go, but I guess I have to start somewhere, right? Well if I had a choice, that somewhere would certainly be Jenny Lake.
To camp at Jenny Lake, you have to get up early. Really, really early. I remember my dad heading down to the campground at 6am to get us a site. It think it’s the only time I’ve ever seen him willingly wake up early. The Jenny Lake campground is small, beautiful, insanely popular… and first-come-first-serve. But once we got a site, we had a great view and the perfect base camp for a week’s worth of hiking.
A trail hugs the perimeter of the lake, or to cut about 2 miles (3.2 km) off the hike in each direction, Jenny Lake Boating offers frequent and relatively inexpensive shuttles across the lake. The boat dropped us off at the mouth of Cascade Canyon, of which the southern walls are formed by Mount Owen and Teewinot Mountain. An easy 1 mile (1.6 km) up the trail is Hidden Falls, an unexpected gem in a park not particularly known for its waterfalls. The trail continues for miles beyond the falls as well, climbing steeply to Inspiration Point and then heading way into the backcountry.
There are so many lakes in Grand Teton, which is part of the reason there are so many miles of trails. South of Jenny Lake campground is the Taggart Lake trailhead, with access to its namesake lake as well as Bradley Lake. The trail to Taggart Lake is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) with minimal elevation gain. Bradley Lake is an additional 1.5 miles (2.4 km) beyond and the hike is only slightly more difficult. Both lakes are nestled right at the base of the mountains, which provide a towering backdrop. Again, the trail continues on from the lakes further into the backcountry.
I’ve not spent much time in the southernmost portion of the park, though I did hike to the Phelps Lake overlook a few years back. The trailhead is located off of Death Canyon Road just before Moose Junction. The hike to the overlook is moderate and 2 miles (3.2 km) round trip. The hike to the lake itself, however, is 4 miles (6.4 km) round trip and strenuous owing to the fact that the lake is quite a ways down, meaning you have to climb back up on your way out. Seeing as how my sister was still pretty young at the time, we stopped at the overlook.
Well, there you have it. A whirlwind tour of Grand Teton National Park. There’s so much to do there, much, much more than I’ve described to you here. So if you’re ever planning a trip to Yellowstone, make sure to plan in a few days in the Tetons as well. I promise you, it won’t disappoint!
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: There are many roads into the park; we took US Highway 89/191 south from Yellowstone
- Fees & passes: $30 per car for a 7-day pass; Interagency Annual Pass accepted
- Camping: 6 campgrounds, $22+ per night, reservations accepted at Colter Bay and Headwaters Campgrounds only
- Hiking: so many hiking opportunities; here is the official hiking brochure
- Other: Grand Teton is prime grizzly and black bear habitat, which means clean camp rules apply. Leaving any food, beverages, food containers, dishes, cooking utensils, toiletries, pet food/dishes, or water unattended at any time is not permitted; items will be confiscated and you will be fined