13 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Grand Teton National Park, WY
Author Brad Lane enjoyed a memorable reporting trip to Grand Teton, including five days backpacking the Teton Crest Trail.
Grand Teton National Park is a hiking trail paradise. Big alpine backdrops, glacier-fed waters, and a wide assortment of wildlife line the several hiking trails meandering throughout the park. These rewarding routes range from family-friendly day hikes to bucket-list backpacking trips, beckoning all types of hikers to the park.
Together with the adventure-rich valley of Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park is an all-around adventure mecca. The entire region is also bear country. Follow the park's suggestions on avoiding a bear encounter and carry essential gear items, like bear spray, on your hike.
The best time of year to visit Grand Teton is the peak of summer (late July and August), when the many high mountain routes are free of snow. Shoulder months like May and September have more variable weather but sometimes less crowded conditions. Find out where to go with our list of the top hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park.
1. Taggart Lake
For a shorter hike that delivers immediately on great views of Grand Teton, Taggart Lake is a three-mile round-trip that exposes the mega-monoliths the entire way.
Beginning at the Taggart Lake Trailhead near the southern Moose Entrance of the park, the trail gradually climbs through a forested environment and eventually arrives at the serene waters of Taggart Lake. The trail gains minimal elevation the entire way along a nice wide path.
The trail continues for another mile to the shores of Bradley Lake for hikers looking for a little more adventure. Continuing to Bradley Lake is the best way to ditch some of the crowds of the area. However far you go, the Taggart Lake Trail climbs only a moderate level of elevation, making it a very accessible hike that almost every member of the family can enjoy.
2. Jenny Lake Loop & Inspiration Point
The 7.6-mile Jenny Lake Loop is a good moderate hike that can be done in a long morning or afternoon. This looped hike offers new perspectives of the Tetons the entire way and is one of the top hiking trails in Jackson Hole. The loop trail skirts the shoreline of the massive body of water and climbs into the dense woodland surroundings to expose major views.
Hikers on the Jenny Lake Loop can take a quick side trip up to Inspiration Point, about halfway around the lake, where the Jenny Lake Ferry picks up and drops off passengers. This aptly named hike climbs a mile from the West Shore Boat Dock for a breathtaking view.
The nearby Jenny Lake Campground is one of the best campgrounds in Grand Teton and provides a beautiful place to spend the night.
3. Lake Solitude, Cascade Canyon
Starting at the Jenny Lake Trailhead, Cascade Canyon is accessible by either hiking around Jenny Lake via a two-mile trail or by hopping on the Jenny Lake Ferry that takes hikers across the water every 15 minutes. Using the ferry saves time and energy, both of which are needed to hike up and into the ruggedly beautiful Cascade Canyon.
A journey through Cascade Canyon is pleasantly rewarded with the shimmering shores of Lake Solitude, seven miles from where the ferry drops off. It's a strenuous 2,600-plus feet of elevation gain to Lake Solitude from where the ferry drops off, but every step of the way increases exposure to the steep mountain views.
After traveling the seven miles to reach Lake Solitude, visitors may be surprised to see the crowded conditions around the water. There is plenty of room to share at this popular Teton attraction, however. And upon entering the North Fork of Cascade Canyon, hikers are encouraged to look behind them to see an iconic Grand Teton landscape silhouetted by canyon walls.
Starting the hike early in the day allows time to explore the shoreline and enjoy the postcard mountain settings. If the weather is warm enough, a quick dip into Lake Solitude provides a cold rush of excitement. Water and snacks are also required for this strenuous hike.
4. Phelps Lake Trail
Phelps Lake is southwest of the southern Moose Entrance of Grand Teton National Park. Beginning from the White Grass Ranger Station, the trail first climbs up to an overlook of the water before plunging back down to access the glacial-fed lake.
It takes just over four miles of trail to circle Phelps Lake entirely and return to the trailhead. The trail is steep enough to be noted as strenuous as it makes its way down to the shoreline, which helps keep this natural attraction less crowded than others in the surrounding area.
With alternative routes available, including a trail system that leads to the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, the Phelps Lake Trail can easily extend into an all-day adventure. You can also start your hike at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, but arrive early, as the parking lot here fills up quickly in the peak summer months.
5. Lunch Tree Hill
Lunch Tree Hill is an easy and family-friendly hike departing from Jackson Lake Lodge. It's approximately two-tenths of a mile to this aptly named lookout, with a short but steep approach on a paved trail. This accessibility makes it a popular hike for families or for those who don't want to go far for a great view.
A marshy habitat known as Willow Flats separates Lunch Tree Hill from the fully exposed Teton Range in the distance. Bring some binoculars or a telephoto lens to get a better look at the abundant wildlife that roams through this area, including beavers, elk, moose, and a variety of birds. Binoculars also help bring the towering Tetons better into focus.
Jackson Lake Lodge is also worth some time checking out. This historic resort hotel still offers overnight accommodations, but anyone is welcome to check out the rustic "Parkitecture." The longer Hermitage Point Trail also extends from the lodge, including Swan Lake and Heron Pond.
6. Paintbrush Canyon Trail & Paintbrush Divide
Beginning from the String Lake Trailhead, Paintbrush Canyon provides a whole palette of color and nothing short of idyllic mountain surroundings. After circumnavigating String Lake for nearly two miles, hikers proceed into the lower and upper units of Paintbrush Canyon, exposing a nearly surreal alpine environment the entire way.
The seven miles of trail spanning Paintbrush Canyon illustrate the mountain majesty of Grand Teton and the park's illustrious sparkle. The towering peaks of the Teton Range also rise brightly against the open sky. Like much of the hiking in the National Park, Paintbrush Canyon is a steep hike that tests the legs with elevation gained every step of the trail.
Holly Lake warrants a challenging side trip within the Upper Paintbrush Canyon. And at the end of Paintbrush Canyon, over eight miles from the trailhead, the Paintbrush Divide provides the peak alpine experience exploding with color.
7. Hermitage Point Trail
The Hermitage Point Trail begins near the Colter Bay Village and Visitor Center and meanders through a water-strewn environment ultimately leading to the shores of Jackson Lake.
Plenty of opportunities for small side treks and views line this 10-mile trail, including Swan Lake and Heron Pond. The trail gains very little elevation throughout, and on clear days, impressive views of Mount Moran and the rest of the Teton Range stand out beyond the wide waters of Jackson Lake.
Whether you go the distance to the peninsula that is Hermitage Point, or you get distracted by other points of interest, the Hermitage Point Trail delivers iconic Teton views the entire way. And in addition to the avian wildlife on display, sightings of moose, beavers, and bears have also been reported.
8. Signal Mountain
A long list of geological factors contributes to the Tetons' skywards appearance. It's a relatively young mountain range, spared from the dulling effects of erosion, and zero foothills surround these peaks on the Teton Fault. The result is an impressive landscape where the Tetons appear like sharp daggers slicing into the sky above.
While many views of these stark mountain formations are visible throughout the park, to get the greatest sense of scale, the Signal Mountain Trail lends some valuable perspective.
The Signal Mountain Trail begins near Signal Mountain Lodge on the northeast side of the park. It's a 6.8-mile round-trip hike with approximately 850 feet of elevation gain. And, climbing up this moderate grade immediately exposes hikers to views of Jackson Lake, the Snake River, and the entirety of the Teton Range.
The most impressive views await hikers at the top of the trail, at a spot aptly named the Jackson Point Overlook, where the entire Teton Range rings out for your enjoyment.
9. Two Ocean Lake Loop
The Two Ocean Lake Loop provides a flat and scenic trail to follow in the northern region of the park, accessible via Pacific Creek Road. The trail makes a complete loop around Two Ocean Lake after six miles with minimal elevation gain.
Wildlife sightings are frequent along the entire route. Herons, swans, and osprey call the habitat of Two Ocean Lake home, and sightings of elk, moose, and grizzly bears are also considered common.
For those looking for more, the nearby Matilda Lake connects with the Two Ocean Lake Loop. These additional trails open a day-long adventure without the same elevation gains found throughout the rest of the park.
10. Death Canyon Trail
Far from its negative connotations, Death Canyon is an inviting area of Grand Teton National Park. It features intimate views of craggy surroundings, abundant wildlife sightings, and seasonal wildflowers lining the trail.
The only thing worth mourning in Death Canyon is once-limber legs. Death Canyon is undoubtedly steep, climbing over 2,000 feet in the four miles it takes to reach the Static Peak Divide junction.
The trail begins at the White Grass Ranger Station and encounters an overlook of Phelps Lake one mile up the trail. The elevation gains continue from here, and trail users have a few destinations to choose from when exploring Death Canyon.
The Static Peak Junction, four miles up the trail, is often a good turnaround point. For those with an early start and strong legs, the junction leads to either Static Peak Divide or the Death Canyon Shelf.
11. Granite Canyon & Marion Lake
Granite Canyon is the southernmost canyon to hike in Grand Teton National Park and gains elevation to expose hikers to the rich environments of the Teton backcountry.
The trail into Granite Canyon follows the tributaries and mountain streams that flow into the nearby Snake River and steadily climbs through a landscape filled with massive boulders, dense forest, and expanding mountain views.
Day hiking the Granite Canyon involves an out-and-back experience, and with an early enough start, Marion Lake, sitting nine miles from the trailhead, is a beautiful sight to see. It's a staggering 3,000-plus feet of elevation gain to make it up to Marion Lake, making it a very strenuous hike.
For hikers looking to get a little edge on being able to reach Marion Lake, the nearby Jackson Hole Mountain Resort provides an aerial tram ride to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, which subtracts decent mileage and sizable elevation from the equation. Either way, it's a workout, but with very few crowds to share Marion Lake with, the reward is a gorgeous subalpine lake for yourself.
12. Alaska Basin
The Alaska Basin is accessible from the west side of Grand Teton National Park through Driggs, Idaho, and it contains perhaps some of the grandest of all alpine environments offered by the Teton Range. This eye-catching mountain landscape isn't easy to reach, however, and those wanting to experience the Alaska Basin must put in some effort to do so.
The hike into the Alaska Basin starts from the Teton Canyon Campground and follows an alpine-infused trail for eight miles. The trail is known to be muddy in parts, rocky at others, and contains one infamous section known as the Devil's Stairs.
Hikers gain over 2,600 feet to reach the Alaska Basin, and potential hazards line the entire route. A few of the hazards include inclement and fast-moving weather, bears, and other wildlife, as well as a serious chance of never wanting to leave once you've made it. Late July and August are great times to make the hike when the route is primarily snow-free.
13. Teton Crest Trail
As the crown jewel of hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park, the 40-mile Teton Crest Trail connects the alpine lakes, high-altitude passes, and breathtaking big mountain scenery that define the Teton Range.
Every step of the Teton Crest Trail involves a deep sense of wonder and awe, and whether it's the shimmer from Lake Solitude or the smoldering sun casting down across the mountain landscapes, it's the type of hike that can change you for the better.
Considering the trail's high status in the hiking community, it should come as no surprise that during its short hiking season (mid-July to mid-September), backcountry permits to access this bucket-list hike are hard to come by.
Hikers can vie for early reservations for the Teton Crest Loop starting on the first Wednesday in January. For everyone else looking to make this memorable hike, competitive walk-up permits are available on a daily first-come, first-served basis.
The permits regulate which one of eleven camping zones hiking parties can stay at throughout their itinerary on the trail.
While all camping zones are memorable places to pitch a tent, the Death Canyon Shelf and the Lower and Upper Paintbrush Canyons are particularly beautiful. Depending on the camping zones your permit allows, the Teton Crest Trail varies in length, but every itinerary includes 30-plus miles of Teton Range alpine environment and some of the best backcountry hiking in the nation.
Where to Stay near Grand Teton National Park for Sightseeing
Grand Teton National Park and the adventure town of Jackson offer numerous great places to spend the night. Spread throughout the town and surrounding Jackson Hole valley, accommodations range from the definition of decadence to dollar-saving digs.
- For the finest stay in the vicinity of Grand Teton, the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, located in Teton Village near Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, provides babysitting services, spacious rooms, and a mountain landscape to admire from every window.
- Not far from the Rusty Parrot, The Wort Hotel is another reputable luxury hotel in the heart of downtown Jackson, within a historic building. It strives to deliver strict attention to detail when it comes to comfort, style, and class.
- For the most amenities at the best price, it's recommended to check out the Cowboy Village Resort on the west end of town, featuring spacious rooms and a well-maintained facility, as well as a rustic appeal that adds an extra layer of comfort.
- Farther west, the Wyoming Inn of Jackson Hole provides big windows with every room and a Grand Western Lobby that encourages comfort throughout your stay.
- Near the north end of town, the Rustic Inn Creekside Resort and Spa at Jackson Hole not only comes with a competitive price, but also features spa services, decadently furnished rooms, and quick access to the national park.
- To save your vacation dollars for daily attractions, there are a handful of budget accommodations that won't have you sacrificing on a quality stay. The Super 8 Driggs in Idaho comes at an affordable rate, with clean rooms and quick access to the western slopes of Grand Teton National Park.
- Within Jackson, both the Parkway Inn and Ranch Inn provide affordable overnight rates and complimentary breakfasts, plus spacious rooms and comfortable beds to grab a good night's sleep.
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