Family Trails in the Tetons
Trail Distance: 3.4 miles around
Elevation Gain/Loss: 200 feet up and down
How Strenuous: Mostly easy, with some upward stretches on the mountainside. Not recommended for toddlers or preschoolers who haven't done much walking.
When to Go: May to October.
Animals to Watch For: Marmots and other small mammals, eagles, ospreys, moose, elk, deer, songbirds, and waterfowl
Main Attractions: Very nice scenic views, swimming, and wildlife-viewing
Getting There: Drive 14 miles north of Jackson on Highway 89 to Moose Junction. Turn left (west) and drive 11 miles to the North Jenny Lake Junction and turn left (west). Drive 2.5 miles to the String Lake picnic area and park at the first parking lot near the footbridge.
String Lake is a great place to get wet. Families come to String Lake to splash and swim, canoe, or just float on inner tubes. The lake is shallow, only about ten feet at its deepest. It's a great place to relax at the picnic tables and soak up the view of the Tetons. But don't forget the trail that circles the lake.
The String Lake Trail in Grand Teton National Park features two fun footbridges across the lake's inlet and outlet. The hiking is mostly easy and offers nice views of the valley and nearby mountains.
Going clockwise from the trailhead around the lake plunges you into a dense lodgepole pine and Douglas fir forest. The trail soon forks; the left route takes you around Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls. Take the right fork and continue around String Lake. On the west side of the lake, the trail begins to climb and distance itself from the lake, giving hikers a nice view of the lake and valley.
When the trail climbs sharply into a rocky, scrubby area about three-quarters of a mile from the outlet stream, keep a sharp lookout for marmots. These chubby little fellows, otherwise known as rockchucks, will usually perch on top of a rock and will occasionally whistle to one another until intruders scare them back into their burrows. If you spot one as you approach the rocky area, stop and remain still. They will often linger out in the open longer if you give them some distance. Pausing also allows your children the opportunity to see them. Marmots can be very friendly at times. I've had them follow me from rock to rock as I walked along the trail. But they vanish in the rocks as soon as you invade their comfort zone.
About a quarter-mile past the rocky area the trail passes an avalanche zone. Evidence of past snowslides down the slopes of 11,144-foot Rockchuck Peak will be obvious. Here, all the trees have been swept clean off the mountainside almost to the valley floor. The tremendous power of avalanches can be seen in the effects on the trees and rocks. Point out to children some of the large trees that have been uprooted or snapped in two and stripped of limbs. Fortunately for hikers, the danger of avalanche is long gone by late spring. Snow often covers this stretch of the trail into early summer. If snow is present, be careful with your footing as you cross.
The trail continues to climb until it comes to another fork. The left fork goes up Paintbrush Canyon, a very strenuous hike into the heart of the Tetons. Take the right fork. From here, the trail goes downhill to cross another footbridge over the Leigh Lake outlet or the String Lake inlet, depending on your point of view. Head left to pick up the Leigh Lake trail or right to return back to your vehicle and the picnic area.
There is an unmaintained trail heading north from the String Lake inlet bridge that leads to some nice backcountry campsites. This is a good trail for first-time backpackers and family backpackers looking for an easy overnight trip. The trail heads north along the west side of Leigh Lake. There are some nice sandy beaches and lots of woods to enjoy.
© Article copyright Pruett Publishing.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication