Grand Teton National Park Backcountry Camping Overview

Backcountry Camping

Grand Teton is criss-crossed with a magnificent network of long distance trails. Most backpacking takes place in the southwest part of the park. Further north, the trail network becomes much less dense.— and the trails much rougher. The few trail heads that exist are reached by ferry.

Backcountry camping requires a permit in a designated camping zone. Here's a map of the main southwest hiking area with designated camping zones. See the Trail Map for Leigh Lakes, String Lakes and Jenny Lakes Trailheads for mileage and a view of the routes and access to Cascade and Paintbrush Canyons. Backcountry camping sites A-E in the list below show where camping is allowed. Be sure to get the appropriate permits before hitting the trail.

Designated Backcountry Camping Sites

A. Lower Paintbrush Canyon Zone
Begins 2.6 miles from the String Lake Parking Area, 0.25 mile below the first crossing of Paintbrush Creek. The upper camping zone boundary is 1 mile below the lower Holly Lake Trail Junction.

B. Holly Lake Designated Sites
Follow the Holly Lake Trail to the trail marked"Holly Lake Campsites" that begins at Holly Lake. This trail leads north to two designated campsites, each marked with a sign. Group and stock site is 0.25 mile below Holly Lake.

C. Upper Paintbrush Canyon Zone
Extends from about 0.1 mile above the lower Holly Lake Trail Junction to the Paintbrush Divide headwall, on the main canyon trail. From the lower end of the zone to the upper Holly Lake Trail Junction, camp only on the south side of the trail (the left side as you hike up the canyon). From the upper Holly Lake Trail Junction to the Paintbrush Divide head-wall you may camp on either side of the trail.

D. North Fork Cascade Zone
Extends from the second bridge above the fork to where the trail crosses the stream draining Mica Lake. Camping is prohibited at Lake Solitude. Group site is 0.5 mile above the lower boundary of the zone on terraces east of the trail.

E. South Fork Cascade Zone
Begins 1 mile above the Cascade Canyon trail fork and ends 0.5 mile below Hurricane Pass. Group site is 1.75 miles above the trail fork, east of the trail.

F. Surprise Lake Site

G. Alaska Basin (Forest Service)

H. Death Canyon Shelf Zone
Extends from just above Fox Creek Pass to Mt. Meek Pass. Group site is 2 miles north of Fox Creek Pass. A large boulder is east of the trail.

I. Death Canyon Zone
Starts 4.5 miles from the Death Canyon Trailhead at the bridge crossing of Death Canyon Creek. The lower zone boundary is 0.5 mile west of the Death Canyon Patrol Cabin (not staffed). The upper boundary is 0.5 mile below Fox Creek Pass. Group site is between the trail and creek, 2 miles west of the patrol cabin.

J. Marion Lake Designated Sites
Three sites are just east of the lake. A spur trail leads east from the lake. Please camp on tent pads.

K. North Fork Granite Canyon Zone
Lower boundary is 0.25 mile above the upper patrol cabin. The upper boundary is where the trail crosses the North Fork Creek.

L. South-Middle Forks Zone
Lower boundary is 0.75 mile above the upper Granite Patrol Cabin on the South Fork Trail. On the north, the boundary is the ridge between the North and Middle Forks. The east boundary is 1.5 miles from the top of the tram. Group site is 4.6 miles from the top of the tram and 1.4 miles south of Marion Lake. Site is in trees 150 yards east of where the trail crosses the Middle Fork Creek.

M. Lower Granite Canyon
Begins 0.25 mile above the lower patrol cabin (not staffed). Upper boundary is just below the upper cabin. Group site is south of the trail 3.4 miles west of the Lower Granite patrol cabin.

N. Mt. Hunt Divide Zone
Upper boundary is just south of Mt. Hunt Divide and extends down to 0.75 mile above the Granite Canyon trail.

O. Open Canyon Zone
Extends from where the trail crosses Open Canyon Creek to just north of Mt. Hunt Divide.

Not shown Berry Creek, Webb Canyon & Canyons Without Trails
Shuttle boat service is available. Bears, including grizzlies, are frequently observed in this area. Hiking includes stream crossings without bridges that range from difficult to extremely dangerous. Safe use requires that hikers be in good physical condition and experienced with map and compass. Users must be prepared for self-evacuation in case of problems. Horse and llama camping is permitted only at Hechtman Stock Camp.

Lakeshore Sites

Jackson Lake

Bears are common. Bear boxes are provided at each site and must be used for food storage.
Fires are allowed in fire grates only.
Pets are not allowed in Jackson Lake campsites except at Spalding Bay. Pets must be physically restrained at all times and are not allowed out of boats.
Beware of gusty afternoon winds on the lake.

Leigh Lake

Bears are common. Bear boxes are provided at
each site and must be used for food storage.
Fires are allowed in fire grates only.
Pitch tents on tent pads, where provided.
Beware of gusty afternoon winds on the lake.

Phelps Lake

Bears are frequently encountered in this area. Bear boxes are provided at each site and must be used for food storage.
Fires are allowed in fire grates only.
Pitch tents on tent pads.

Planning & Permits

Planning Your Trip
Obtain a topographic map of the park or a hiking guide to choose your destination and route. Use the map on the other side of this guide to select campsites. As you plan your trip, consider the weakest member of your party and the distance and elevation gain to your destination. If you have only one vehicle, you may plan a loop trip that returns to the same trailhead. There is no shuttle service in the park. If solitude is important, consider avoiding the Cascade-Paintbrush loop as it is the most heavily traveled. July and August are the busiest times because there is less snow in the high country. Weekends and holidays are busiest for boaters on Jackson Lake.

Getting Your Permit
To minimize impacts on park resources, the number of permits issued is limited. Thirty percent of the backcountry campsites and all of the group sites may be reserved in advance. The rest are filled first-come, first-served at park permit offices.

Park backcountry is very popular and reservations are recommended. Make reservations at the park headquarters. Requests are accepted by mail, fax or in person from January 1st to May 15th and are processed in the order received. Include your name, address, and daytime telephone number, the number of people, and your preferred campsites and dates. It is best to include alternate dates and campsites. Reservations may be made in person at the Moose Visitor Center.

Group Size
Individual parties consist of 1 to 6 people. Each party is assigned one camp-site. Groups of 7 to 12 people are limited to camping in designated group sites able to withstand the impact of many people.

Stay Limits
Campers may stay in a camping zone or lakeshore site for 2 consecutive nights. On Jackson Lake the limit is 3 nights. Between June 1 and September 15 campers may stay in the backcountry a maximum of 10 nights. In the winter, length of stay is 5 nights in one site.

Backcountry Conditions
Snow usually melts from valley trails by mid-June but remains in the high country through much of the summer. Safe travel over Paintbrush, Static Peak, and Moose Basin Divides and Hurricane, Mt. Meek, and Fox Creek Passes requires an ice axe and knowledge of its use until as late as July. Snow conditions vary from year to year; check with a Ranger for current information. Trails begin at about 6800 feet in elevation. Expect to encounter horses and yield to them by stepping off the downhill side of the trail and standing quietly until they pass.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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