Grand Teton National Park
|Snow covering Grand Teton National Park. (Jeremy Woodhouse/Photodisc/Getty)|
Since John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway stays open long after most of Yellowstone is closed for winter, Grand Teton becomes king of the hill during the season of snow. The cross-country skiing is fine, fine, fine. Downhill skiers head to Jackson Hole for its world famous resort. And for the internal combustion set, Teton has many snowmobiling venues, including the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail.
Here's a rundown on major cross-country ski trails...
Difficult. Round-trip: 6 miles. Begin directly across from Flagg Ranch in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Ski northward to the boundary of Yellowstone National Park, then follow the unplowed road to the South Gate of Yellowstone (be alert for snowmobiles). The trail follows the edge of the scenic Snake River, first along riverside meadows then along a canyon walled with volcanic rock. The terrain is gently rolling with a few short steep sections that are easily avoided. Use caution and avoid cornices where the trail follows the edge of the cliff above the Snake River. Return via the same trail or the unplowed road to Flagg Ranch. For information on ski trails in southern Yellowstone National Park, check at the South Gate Ranger Station.
Swan Lake-Heron Pond Loop
Easy. Round-trip: 3 miles. Park near the Colter Bay Visitor Center and ski south to the trailhead. The trail follows an old road for the first 1/2 mile then forks to either Swan Lake or Heron Pond. Ski in either direction on the gently sloping loop trail to return to this junction. The first part of the trail provides views of Jackson Lake and the northern Teton peaks. The trail to the ponds leads through forests of lodgepole pine and other conifers. View the jagged Teton Range and Jackson Lake from the edge of Heron Pond. Beyond Heron Pond, unflagged trails lead to Hermitage Point; this loop adds 5.8 miles to the trip.
Moderate. Round-trip: 10 miles. Park at the end of the road near Signal Mountain Lodge. Ski the unplowed road (be alert for snowmobiles) southward for approximately one mile until you reach the unplowed road that goes eastward (left) to the summit of Signal Mountain. The Signal Mountain Summit Road winds gradually uphill through conifer forests. The summit affords panoramic views of Jackson Hole and the Teton Range. The return trip is all downhill.
Jenny Lake Trail
Easy. Round-trip: 9 miles. Begin at the Taggart Lake parking area at the end of the plowed road. Follow the unplowed road 1/4 mile to Cottonwood Creek (be alert for snowmobiles), then ski north along the creek. The trail follows the west side of the creek and crosses several large meadows, then gently climbs a low ridge of glacial moraine and ends at an overlook of Jenny Lake. The trail skirts the base of the Teton Range and on clear days provides close views of the snow-draped peaks. The terrain is mostly level and is excellent for beginners. Skiing on Cottonwood Creek is not recommended. Return via the same trail. Another option is to follow the unplowed road (not flagged) to the east side of Jenny Lake (be alert for snowmobiles). To reach the flagged ski trail from the unplowed road, cross the bridge over Cottonwood Creek and head west along the edge of Jenny Lake.
Taggart Lake-Beaver Creek Loop
Difficult. Taggart Lake and return round-trip: 3 miles. Taggart Lake/Beaver Creek Loop round-trip: 4 miles. This loop through a forest that burned in 1985 has steep sections. Park at the Taggart Lake parking area and ski directly toward the mountains. Turn north (right) and follow the trail as it climbs over the moraine (ridge of glacial debris). The trail forks about one mile in. One direction (right) climbs one mile for a view down to Taggart Lake. The other direction (left) takes you directly to Taggart Lake nestled at the foot of the Tetons. If you return the way you came, you will encounter a steep, treelined section that is at times icy and treacherous, requiring downhill skiing ability. Another option from Taggart Lake is to turn south, cross the bridge over the lake outlet, and follow the trail that climbs the moraine. Then ski down the steep, open slope and follow the trail to the east to return to the parking area.
Phelps Lake Overlook
Moderate. Round-trip: 5 miles. Drive from Moose south on the Moose-Wilson road for 3.1 miles to a small parking area on the right. The trail follows a narrow unplowed road through a forest of mixed conifers for the first 1.7 miles, making a gradual ascent to the Death Canyon trailhead. Then the trail climbs southward through a lodgepole pine forest and over an open slope to reach the overlook of Phelps Lake framed by towering Douglas firs. Do not continue beyond the overlook because of high avalanche hazard. The return trip is all downhill. When the trail is well packed, skiing can be fast.
Easy. Round-trip: 4 miles. Park at either end of this unplowed portion of road. The trail follows a winding unplowed road (be alert for snowmobiles) and is mostly flat but has enough changes in terrain and scenery to make it interesting. This trail through conifer and aspen forest is a good choice for beginners.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication