Grand Teton National Park

My Favorite Teton hikes
  |  Gorp.com

I've hiked enough of the Tetons to see them from just about every angle, except looking down from their summits. In my miles on the trail, four routes stand out as favorites.

For the family, or an evening stroll with wildlife in mind, Hermitage Point is the highlight. The area offers flat hiking around a series of ponds. Options include a short three-mile loop around Heron and Swan Lakes or a full 8.8-mile circuit out to the Point and back. Trumpeter swans are likely to be sailing by on the lakes and herons may be wading in the shallows. If you don't spot a beaver, you will at least see signs of his home. If you are watchful and lucky, a moose may wander by. (For additional hikes in the area especially suitable for kids, see "Family Trails in the Tetons.")

For strenuous dayhikes, Amphitheater Lake and Lake Solitude are outstanding destinations. The trailhead for Amphitheater is at Lupine Meadows. The route is a steep but well-switchbacked climb of almost 3,000 feet in 4.8 miles (one way). My hike included a reddish-brown bear browsing no more than 50 feet off the trail—and paying me absolutely no heed whatsoever.

Lake Solitude is a long 14 to 18 miles, depending on whether you walk around or catch the boat across Jenny Lake. The route runs up Cascade Canyon. The canyon is a classic U-shaped glacial cut, and well-named. An enormous volume of water rushes down the canyon, dropping violently in chute after chute. Lake Solitude, at 9,035 feet, is a spectacular setting for viewing Teewinot, Mt. Owen, and the Grand Teton.

To truly experience the Tetons, nothing is better than backpacking the Teton Crest. The full route is 39 miles, from Teton Pass on Highway 22 south of the park to String Lake, just north of Jenny Lake. A good option is to take the gondola from Teton Village and hike to Marion Lake for the first night and to pick up the Crest Trail. Marion Lake has limited campsites, which require a permit.

The second day takes you out of the park and into Alaska Basin. The basin is one of those magical places in the backcountry where you can laze for days—but of course it is consequently a fragile and overused area, so treat it gently. The next day takes you behind the South, Middle, and Grand Teton peaks and down to Cascade Canyon. You can curtail your hike, walking out magnificent Cascade Canyon, or if you have some more time, head for Lake Solitude, over Paintbrush Divide and out Paintbrush Canyon. The Teton Crest is well-used; you won't find complete solitude. But it may be one of the outstanding hikes of your lifetime.


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