Hike the Teton Crest Trail

Teton Crest Trail - Search Nearby - Added by Rob Feakins

In an article in Men's Journal last year, famed National Geographic photographer and adventurer Jimmy Chin called the Teton Crest Trail "a bucket list item". And declared, "If you do one high alpine hike in the U.S., this should be it." That was enough for me. 40 miles, four days and several passes later, I could not believe the beauty and wonderful campsites I encountered in Grand Teton National Park. The trail rarely dips below 8,000 feet, and while there are some arduous passes and of course, climbing the Continental Divide at Paintbrush Divide is no picnic, it is as Jimmy says a glorious high alpine trek. Thank you Jimmy. 

Since this is a high altitude hike, this trip is best done from mid-July to mid-September to avoid too many snow fields. You will need to allow time to get a wilderness camp site permit from one of the Grand Teton ranger stations. You can do this 24 hours before your hike or you can go on line during the winter and reserve in advance. Since time was of the essence, and the trip was already four days, I started this trek by taking the tram from Teton Village to the top (which saves you a steep climb). There I started on the Granite Canyon Trail and headed off to Marion Lake. This is not a bad first night camp. Campsite reservations were slim when I checked into the ranger station,  so my first day, I had to go 16 miles to get outside the park to Alaska Basin (part of the Teton Crest Trail leaves the park at Alaska Basin) where permits are not required. But it was beautiful day passing field after field of wildflowers. Carpets of lupine and other wildflowers exploded across the horizon. If campsites are available, a good stop for the first night is Death Canyon Shelf. Marion Lake makes for an even shorter first day. Alas, since none were available I headed to Fox Creek Pass 9,650 feet and onwards onto the scenic Death Canyon Shelf, and down to Alaska Basin where I was greeted by two moose and 360 view of mountains. Again, since Alaska Basin is outside the park, you don't need a permit. Day two, I climbed out of Alaska Basin towards scenic Sunset Lake and up and over the 10,372 foot Hurricane Pass (it's a 800 foot elevation gain from Sunset Lake). On top of Hurrcane Pass you have a wonderful view of the Grand, Middle and South Tetons) and then down through South Fork Cascade to North Fork Cascade where my campsite was. Both South Fork Cascade and North Fork have wonderful campsites with great views. The view from my campsite in North Fork Cascade was amazing. From my tent I stared until nightfall at the Grand Teton.  Day three I climbed up the North Fork past stunning Lake Solitude (9035 feet) and on towards the 10,720 foot Paintbrush Divide which is truly rigorous. I was travelling solo, so my pack was fairly heavy (the park provides bear cannisters but they are heavy) and the switchbacks are never ending. You need to be in good shape for this day (a 1500 foot elevation gain). It is just a stunning stretch of trail though with wonderful views, particularly of the Grand Teton. The view that greets you at the top is magnificent. I then hiked down Paintbrush Canyon. Be warned that the trail down is extremely steep and even in early August there was a 75 yard ice field. I then camped in Lower Paintbrush Canyon which again offered an amazing view of Teton National Park and the lakes. Day four I got up and had a short hike out along Jenny Lake and took the park ferry across Jenny Lake back to Jenny Lake Ranger Station. See more photos and video at steller.co/rfeakins and please visit my Instagram feed @rfeakins.

Distance

40 Miles RT

Elevation Gain

3775 ft Gain

Type

Point-to-Point

Activities

Backpacking

Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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Overall rating: 

The best way to see Grand Teton National Park

This thru-hike is full of spectacular scenery from start to finish, and takes you through some of the park's most beautiful canyons, to several pristine alpine lakes, and up and over some very challenging, yet incredibly rewarding, mountain passes. The constantly impressive views mean you really can't go wrong with choosing campsites. If you aren't pressed for time, an alternative to the Teton Village tram is to hike up Granite Canyon. You're likely to have more solitude on this less travelled trail, and while it is quite a bit of elevation gain up to Marion Lake, it's got some really nice camping options, and Granite Canyon is really beautiful. Either way, hiking from south to north is definitely the way to go. Water is available near most campsites, though there's a stretch for several miles along the Death Canyon shelf where it can be scarce. Always check with the backcountry rangers for trail conditions, as Paintbrush Divide's permanent snow field may require the use of an ice axe until late summer.

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