Hey everyone, I am so excited to share the story of my trip to the Grand Tetons! It was nothing short of grand and amazing, words and even the pictures don't do it justice. I can't wait to create new art to capture it and share it with you. Though I still feel like a newbie backpacker, I have heard from several people that this is one of the best backpacking trails in the U.S.A so I hope this inspires you to get out there and try it. I'll be breaking down each day and how it went for us on the trail, then at the end I'll give you some tips and things you should know if you are going to hike and camp on this trail. Thanks so much for reading! Be sure to check out my homepage to find out more about me if you are new.
Day 0 - Flying in and prepping
We flew into Jackson Hole Airport then went straight to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and park office to get our physical permit to display at our campsite. We had already reserved this online. The permits were competitive, we originally wanted to get one for the Paintbrush Canyon area as well but we were unable to before they were gone. They offer some permits exclusively online and some in-person available the morning before the date of use. It is required that campers keep food in bear canisters and we were able to rent those for free from the park office. Just a heads up if you are renting, you're gonna want to bring something to clean them with, some of ours were very damp and moldy inside. After the park office we went back to our room in Jackson to organize all of our backpacking gear from the flight and get a good night's rest! I was very thankful that were had allowed ourselves that time to prep instead of flying and and getting right on the trail.
Day 1 - Hiked Cirque Trail, Rendezvous Trail, camped in Middle Granite Canyon
This day we parked at Jenny Lake again and got a shuttle over to Teton Village. There we rode the gondola and arrived at the top mid-morning. We enjoyed delicious waffles before heading onto the Cirque Trail. This trail was very steep and we would have skipped it if the Sky Tram had been running to take us up to the very top, but it was down for maintenance. So we hiked up a couple thousand feet in a couple hours. It was the steepest climb of the trip - about 7 miles and 2,416 feet of elevation gain over the entire day with the majority of the climb in the first few miles. After we’d climbed the great hill and gotten into some forested area that day we saw this adorable little creature ducking in and out between rocks and carrying a leafy branch in its mouth. We all thought it was the cutest thing but had no idea what it was called. When we got off the trail three days later we saw a park ranger talking about wildlife in the area and she informed us that it was a Pika! A small ground dwelling rodent that prefers higher elevation and often carries branches in its mouth for nesting. It was so cute! I don't have a picture of it but I did this sketch afterward when we found out what it was from the park ranger.
We camped and made our first bear-muda triangle. This is when you camp, eat and store your food in three different places to throw off the bears from your sleeping area. Around 3am it started raining. Here are some photos from that first day.
It was really nice to have this marked for where to step. We were super happy to see all the amazing work that the Park Rangers do to keep the trail in good condition. At one point we past a group of them chiseling down rocks with pick axes to form naturally into the trail. It was really cool. Thanks Park Rangers!
Day 2 - Middle Granite Canyon, Marion Lake, Fox Pass, Death Canyon Shelf, Mount Meek Pass, camped in Alaska Basin
We awoke to wet tents and a foggy morning. I couldn’t complain though. The clouds drifting into our valley were lovely against the dark landscape. Throughout this day it rained and stormed intermittently until 7pm. I struggled with the cold when it was raining because I didn’t have waterproof gloves and my hands get really cold. We barely saw the sun that day. We filtered water at Marion Lake - my first alpine lake! For most of the day it was just a little rainy and very cloudy but no storms. But then, just as we were crossing our first mountain pass (Mount Meek) a bad storm rolled in with thunder, lightning and hail. I wasn’t that scared because I didn’t think the lighting was hitting super close but I now realize it could have changed quickly. Regardless, once it hit we pushed on as hard as we could so we could get safely into the valley and to a more sheltered area. As we we crossed the pass we joked that it was like something out of the Lord of the Rings because there was a jagged, rocky section that looked like the path to Mordor in the dark storm. About half way through we got a strong smell of smoke and figured a nearby tree must have been struck by lightning. Once we made it to camp we hurriedly set up our shelters, dried them out with our little towels and then huddled inside to get warm. Once the rain finally stopped a couple hours later we went out to cook a warm meal. It was still very cloudy and foggy so we couldn’t really see the landscape around us. Little did we know it would be one of the most beautiful places to wake up in.
Here are the photos from day two.
Day 3 - Waking up in Alaska Basin, Hurricane pass, Camped at South Fork Cascade Canyon
We thanked God that the sky was clear when we awoke the next morning. After a day of cold drizzle and a storm on the pass I wouldn’t have dealt well with another rainy day. But I didn’t have to worry about the weather anymore because God blessed us with Sunny skies and the most spectacular views on the 2nd half of our journey through the Tetons. The valley that we had camped in, called the Alaska Basin, was nothing short of magical in the morning light. As we walked up out of the Alaska Basin I remember thinking it was the most beautiful place I’d seen - and don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic - but Salt Fork Cascade stole my heart later that day. Around noon we climbed up to Hurricane Pass and then the world opened up into a majestic sight filled with mountain cascades, glaciers, waterfalls and wildflowers. As we got deeper into the South Fork area I realized that we might never top this trip. I don’t usually get emotional, but the sights that day took my breath away. It was hard for me to comprehend the magnitude of the landscape and the size of the mountains above. I loved that there were beautiful, delicate things at my feet like wildflowers and small streams and there were epic and amazing things towering around and above me. I honestly didn’t know the world could be so beautiful.
That was a long day filled with lots of stops to look at pretty views. It’s funny because I still feel like a novice when I’m out there because me and my friends are out there just standing and looking in awe at the nature around us while other hikers pass us cause we’re slow. I don’t mind though, that’s how I enjoy it best. I honestly don’t like to hike as much as other people, I put in the work so I can enjoy the beauty and the seclusion. And for this trip specifically the hardship of Friday (cold, wet stormy day) made the rest of the trip even sweeter. As my husband said “the storm made me feel like I earned it.” And that may be true but I know that God gave that to me as a gift, which I am thoroughly thankful for.
Me geekin' out at the sunrise over the mountains.
Making breakfast in Alaska Basin.
My husband looking epic on a rock by a lake that I don't recall the name of.
This guy was not shy.
Walking down from the pass into Salt Fork Cascade Canyon.
Day 4 - Hiking down South Fork Cascade Canyon and Jenny Lake Shuttle out
This last day was pretty much all downhill and offered more lovely views. It was another blessedly sunny day. We woke up to the sun hitting the Grand Teton. This day was a 6 mile downhill hike to Jenny Lake. Filled with lots of grand mountain views. We opted to take the short route and hop on the Jenny Lake Boat Shuttle. We arrived just in time and didn’t have to wait for it at all. It can be up to a 30 minute wait on that side of the lake. Alternatively we could have added about 2 miles and walked on the lakeshore trail but we opted for the nice boat ride. You don’t need to get tickets for that in advance, you just pay when you get off. As you can see I didn't take nearly as many pictures on the way out, the views were still awesome, but I had a real meal and a shower in mind so I was walking fast!
Things you’ll want to know if you plant to backpack on the Teton Crest Trail
- Things you’ll need in advance
- Camping Permits. You need a permit to camp anywhere in the boundary of the GTNP but some parts of the trail are national forest areas where you do not need a permit to camp such as the Alaska Basin.
- You’ll want to reserve a shuttle if you are planning to hike to your car - that’s what we did, left our car parked at Jenny Lake. Oh and you’ll want to park before 7:30/8 to beat the crowds because that parking lot will fill up quickly.
- You’ll need to use a bear canister for food, but you can get that when you arrive. The park office offers free rentals if you don’t have one.
- Gondola tickets from Teton Village to the Cirque Trail - These are not necessary to buy in advance but I believe they are about $5 cheaper that way.
- Bear Spray. This can be rented from Jackson Airport but if you are staying any longer that 5 days I would just buy it because it would be cheaper at that point.
If you're interested in how I pack for a backpacking trip when flying check out my blog How I Flew With My Pack for Backpacking.
Thanks so much for reading about my adventure, I hope this gives you good info and inspires you to go on an adventure of your own!