The Tetons are one of my favorite mountain ranges in the world! With that said, make sure you don’t just drive through it like most visitors, but rather set time aside to explore the mountains!!! If you can, spend at least one week here. Trust me, there are more than enough trails and things to do to keep you occupied!!!!
The landscape mostly consists of mountains, canyons and lakes. The Teton Mountain Range may not be the biggest range of mountains in the world, but these mountains just jet into the sky. They are really jagged, rocky and steep! There is no road that goes through this mountain range, but rather a road that runs north and south along the range. The only way to get into these mountains is by foot. There are several canyons that will lead you into the Teton Range, and all the canyons also lead you to the infamous Teton Crest Trail which I will talk about more later in this article.
Best Peak (Non-technical climb)
This mountain is most accessible on the backside of the Tetons. You will drive through Idaho to get to the trail head. It’s right by the Grand Targhee Ski Resort. This trail can be an out and back trail or a loop. There are two separate trail heads so make sure you pay attention to which trail head you’re starting from. The south side of the trail is shorter but really steep. There will even be a sign warning you at the beginning of the trail on how steep it is. It’s doable. There is not rock climbing involved, it’s just a steep trail. The steepness of the trail doesn’t last long though, it is part of the loop, and you get to see more! It’s easier going up the steep side and then down the longer route. If you do not like steep, then you would take the longer side of the loop as an out and back trail.
This peak is my favorite peak of the whole park because it gives you a spectacular view of the Tetons. The placement of the peak and the height, 11,106 feet, allows you to see pretty much the whole Teton Mountain Range. It really is marvelous to see!!!!
Paintbrush divide is my favorite. It’s the second tallest divide in the park, static divide being the tallest (if your doing Static peak, you go over Static Divide.) This is the last section that opens in the park. It was mid August when I did it, and it just started to get to the point where you did not need an ice axe. This divide is beautiful! You can come up here just through Paintbrush Canyon as an out and back trail, or for a really long day hike, you can do a loop of Paintbrush Canyon and Cascade Canyon which I highly recommend. If you are doing the loop though, start your hike early. I would say no later than 7am.
Hurricane Pass I would say is the best pass in the park. It is located right on the Teton Crest Trail, just north of Alaska Basin. When you are on this pass, it is special because you get to have a view of the mountains on the Idaho side, Schoolroom Glacier (one of very few glaciers of the park), and the very special part is in one view you get the Grand, Middle and South Teton. All three mountains are right next to each other. You can get here in one day from the Idaho side but to get to this pass from the National Park, you need to do at least one night/two days.
Amphitheater/ Surprise/ Delta
These three lakes are all in the same proximity so you can see three really beautiful lakes all in about a half of a day to a full day depending on how long you will be staying at each lake. What you would do is park at Lupine Meadows trail head and follow the signs to Amphitheater and Surprise Lake. Warning: this trail is really really steep! Lots of switch-backs. So if switch backs aren’t your thing, you might want to choose another hike. The trail is marked well and you should have no problem getting to Amphitheater and Surprise Lake. Delta on the other-hand is not a National Park maintained trail, so it will not be on the topo map, but you will see an unmarked trail on your way up heading toward Surprise/Amphitheater. The trail will be on your right when you are making the switchbacks up the mountain.
You can also download Maps.me and this trail appears on this app. It GPS’s your location so you know exactly where you are. When you leave the trail for Delta Lake it is not far. Maybe a half of a mile one-way to get to the Lake.
So depending on the order you want to do all three lakes, you would head up toward Amphitheater Lake and before you would reach Amphitheater or Surprise, you will see the trail to head to Delta Lake on the right, but this trail is un-marked. Hike the half-mile there, see the lake and turn back to the trail. Then keep going up-hill to the other two lakes. You will hit Surprise Lake first, then end with Amphitheater Lake.
Best 2-3 days loops
Alaska Basin- located by Death Canyon off the Crest Trail. It takes a day just to get to the Basin. Then takes another day to hike around it and another day to come back. I recommend if doing this hike to go up Death Canyon, go north on the Crest Trail, go around Alaska Basin and exit the Static Peak Divide coming back into Death Canyon and coming out at Phelps Lake, where you would also start the trail. You can start the trail by parking at the Laurance S. Rocketfeller Preserve, head up on the southwestern side of Phelps Lake and hike up into Death Canyon. Then when exiting, come back down the northeastern side of Phelps Lake, coming back to the trail head.
Cascade and Paintbrush Canyon- The hike I just mentioned in Best Divides.
Death Canyon to Cascade Canyon or Paintbrush Canyon- These canyons I believe are the best Canyons in the Park. The only thing is you would start and end at different trail heads. My advice is to hike up Death Canyon starting at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, go north on the Crest Trail and exit down either Cascade or Paintbrush Canyon. This way, you can see a lot of the Crest Trail too, which is one of the most epic hikes in the Park.
Best Long Trail of the Park- Teton Crest Trail
This trail is done mostly going northbound, starting either at the trail head located to the west of Jackson on Route 22 or some people take the Arial tram (takes you up 4,000 feet) up in Teton Village and start there, taking the trail that leads to the Crest Trail and then heading North. Most people tend to go North up the Crest trail because the mountains get bigger and bigger the farther north you go. The Crest trail follows the Teton Range and it takes anywhere from 2-5 days. Depending on how much you want to see, how fast you want to walk and if your going to add on any extra hikes. When I did it, I added the Alaska Basin Loop which I recommend. Then you either come out Cascade or Paintbrush Canyon. Paintbrush Canyon is the last canyon to open up so if your doing the Crest trail before that pass opens, your kind of forced to take Cascade Canyon out. Cascade Canyon is really pretty but I think Paintbrush is better only because you go over Paintbrush Divide, and that divide is breathtaking. Plus you get to see Lake Solitude.
First and foremost, it takes a while for the snow to melt. So most hikes, wont be open till July and even August. The only exceptions is if you know how to use an ice-axe and have crampons. Or stick to the lower elevation hikes of course. It was in this mountain range where I learned mountaineering. I bought crampons and an axe; well technically a really good friend of mine bought me crampons for my birthday :). I took a class with Exum Mountain Guides to learn about mountaineering since I didn’t really know anything at the time. The guides are located just outside the park. They are a bit expensive of course, but if you don’t know much about it I would highly suggest you taking a course with them. The Tetons take lives every year, even experienced hikers. As far as the forecast, the Tetons usually have afternoon thunderstorms. If you are planning on doing any long hikes, make sure you leave early in the morning. You will better your chances of not getting caught in any storms.
A Hidden Secret Hike
A trail that is not located on the Topographic Map that is absolutely beautiful is called Hanging Canyon. The trail is hard to find since it’s not marked, but I’ll do my best in explaining how you get there. You will park at String Lake trail head and head south toward Cascade Canyon, Hidden Falls, and Inspiration Point. You will be hiking on the trail that is on the west side of Jenny Lake. If you make it to Cascade Canyon trail head you went too far. While you are hiking on the west side of the lake, look toward your right after about 3/4 of a mile from the String Lake Trail head. There is one path, that is not marked and it is not wide. You will look at it wondering if it’s a trail. Yes, that is your trail to Hanging Canyon. It will be after you pass the trail head of Paintbrush Canyon. Maybe about a half mile from that point and before you see a wide path leading you to Cascade Canyon.
The trail leads you up to three lakes, the biggest one called Lake of the Crags. The canyon takes you up to what is called the Jaw, which you can hike up there as well. From the Jaw, it will also lead you to another scramble called Mount St. John. Both are non-technical climbs but you need to be able to read the land. These scrambles are not easy. It’s pretty steep in here. This trail is between Cascade and Paintbrush Canyon to make it easier for you to spot it on the topo map.
One suggestion I have is to download Maps.me. This is a free app and you can download the maps you need when you are in service, then when you are on these hikes outside of service, it GPS’s your location and shows all the trails! All of them. Even Hanging Canyon that is not located on the Topo map. This app is also International so your welcome on showing you the best hiking map out there!!!!!! 🙂 Hahahahahaha.
My favorite Short Hike that is primarily flat and only takes a few hours
Bearpaw and Trapper Lake. To do this hike, you will park at String Lake trail head. The same trail head that takes you up to Hanging Canyon except you will go north instead of south. You will follow the signs to Bearpaw and Trapper Lake. Make sure you do not take the left to go onto Paintbrush Canyon, unless if that is what you are aiming for. This hike will give you spectacular views of Leigh lake and the mountains behind it. I got some of my best photos here!
Stay away from the tourist trap
Don’t go to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. Most people when they come here, mostly hear about the two most popular hikes; Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. I don’t know why these are the two most popular hikes. The hikes I have listed here, in my opinion are so much more magnificent! I feel that you wouldn’t miss anything by not seeing these two destinations. Plus, there is a million people there! It is so crowded!!!!!
Ferry across Jenny Lake
If you do Inspiration Point or Hidden Falls, there is a ferry that will take you across Jenny Lake that operates every ten minutes from 7am-7pm. This shuttle will take you right to the Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls trail head. This is also the same if you want to do Cascade Canyon. Cascade Canyon is about a 15 mile hike round trip. If you want to shave off a couple miles, take the Ferry over. It does cost money. As of 2017, it was 15 dollars round trip.
If you like adrenaline, you can do some lake jumping here
If you like jumping off rocks into lakes then Phelps lake is your lake. You will park at Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, then walk towards Phelps Lake. You will take the right side or the east side of the lake. From the parking lot to the cliff that everyone jumps off of is roughly two miles one-way. You will not see it until you are close to the north side of the lake. You will notice it. It’s a huge rock that will be sticking up on the left side of the trail. Hope you have a great time and stay safe out there!!!
Visit the back way into the Park
Most people just see the park from the National Park side, which is great, but if you get the time, drive up Grassy Lake Road! This will bring you into the north and west side of the Tetons where you can camp for free. Also, if you keep taking this dirt road it will lead you to Idaho. I recommend having an SUV or truck because some sections are a little sketchy. From the Idaho side, you can access the backside of this park. The backside looks completely different than the National Park side. The backside consists of dirt roads and farm land, and of course you see the Tetons sky rocketing up in the background.
You can hike the backside from day hikes to multi-day hikes. There are a lot of trails back there and they are very beautiful. You can just do the loop hikes that mostly just stay in the National Forest and you can also hike into the National Park side from here. Just remember if your camping in the National Park side, to get your permits first. If you stay in the National Forest Land, you do not need a permit.
Here is a link to my Youtube channel with a video of the Tetons. The same video is down below :).
Hope this article helps you out! I just love the Tetons! Even though this is a “small” park, there still is so much to do and see! Thank you for reading!!!
This is the Topo map I used in getting around the park.