Grand Teton National Park may be best known for it’s mountains; the Grand being one of the most iconic peaks in the United States. But, nestled among these peaks are some beautiful lakes, that are great places to visit, and often the destination of classic hikes in the park. Here are five destinations to put on your list.
1. Bearpaw and Trapper Lakes
Bearpaw and Trapper are two small lakes at the base of Mount Moran, just north of Leigh Lake. They’re accessed by a relatively easy but very scenic hike from the String Lake Trailhead.
To get there, turn off onto the loop road at North Jenny Lake Junction and take a right at the String Lake Trailhead Parking lot. Don’t turn into the first lot on the left, but rather keep going to the picnic area and park here. This is a very popular area, so get there early, especially if you’re hiking on a weekend.
From the parking lot, hike north around the east side of String Lake over gently undulating terrain. At just under a mile, you’ll go right at a trail junction, and hike along the east shore of Leigh Lake. There are a some very nice beaches here, but the water is usually quite cold! There are also a couple of backcountry campsites that you can hike to here, get a permit from one of Grand Teton’s backcountry offices if you’d like a easy and scenic overnight.
2.8 miles north of the String/Leigh Lake trail junction, you’ll come to another trail junction. To the right is the eastern Bearpaw Lake backcountry site. Take the left and you’ll pass 2 other sites on Bearpaw before going uphill to reach Trapper Lake, where there is one other backcountry site.
This is an out and back hike, so reverse the route. If it’s now afternoon, consider a picnic at the String Lake picnic area, and a swim in the relatively warm String Lake.
2. Marion Lake
Located at the head of Granite Canyon above 9000’, Marion Lake is a great option for an overnight campsite. If you can get a permit.
Marion can be accessed from a different directions, but hiking up Granite Canyon is the shortest and most direct route at around 9 miles. One can also reach Marion Lake from the Teton Crest Trail, about 2.5 miles south of the Death Canyon Shelf.
These distances mean you’ll probably reach it as part of a long day hike, or backpacking trip. The lake has 2 campsites, so get to the backcountry office early the day before or day of your hike. Since it’s a high elevation lake, bring a warm sleeping bag and jacket too.
3. Lake Solitude
This is a popular and classic Grand Teton hike, so expect to enjoy Solitude with company. That said, it’s a beautiful hike, and should be done at least once. Located in the north fork of Cascade Canyon, Solitude is another sub-alpine lake. It’s possible to do as a long day hike, or as part of a backpacking trip.
For a day hike, take the Jenny Lake boat across, or hike from the String Lake Trailhead (adds 1.6 miles). From here, hike up into Cascade Canyon. One might need to take the Horse Trail, instead of the Inspiration Point Trail, due to trail closures. Be informed and don’t hike on closed trails!
Once west of Inspiration Point, the next 3.5 miles of trail is mostly flat, and very scenic. At the next trail junction, take a right into the north for, and begin ascending again. Here the trail climbs up a well maintained trail with rock steps next to a creek descending the canyon. Take a look back and marvel at the Grand Teton, soaring a mile above you.
After passing through the North Fork Cascade camping area, you’ll have less than a mile to hike before reaching Lake Solitude. The high traffic in this area has been hard on plant and animal life alike. Please avoid trampling vegetation, disturbing wildlife, littering or polluting the lake! The growing season here is incredibly short, and it takes many years for the area to recover.
Find a nice spot to have lunch, enjoying views of the high peaks, surrounding meadows, and Paintbrush Divide to the north. Leave yourself plenty of time to hike back the roughly 8 miles to your car. Lake Solitude can also be part of a backpacking trip; as an out-and-back, or as part of a loop hike of Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons. Permits required for camping.
4. Timberline Lake
Nestled high among the flanks of Buck Mountain and Static Peak, Timberline is cold, and often has ice floating in it well into summer. It’s also accessed by non-maintained climbers trails, so this one is a bit of a step up from the previous hikes. Make sure to bring a good backcountry day-hiking kit, storms move in quickly in the afternoon, and you’ll need to be self-sufficient.
Start this hike at the Death Canyon trailhead. Soon after leaving the trailhead, look for a user trail near third footbridge, heading off to the right. For a climbers’ trail, this one is pretty good, but it’s easy to lose it in spots, especially if this is your first time here. Hike through sage meadows, and reenter forest before reaching the creek descending Stewart Draw. You’ll cross the stream near a very large boulder, and then continue up on the north side of the stream. Around 9,100’, the trail will level out for a short bit before entering a small cirque. From here the climbers’ trail goes right and switchbacks up a talus slope to the shelf above.
Carefully watching for signs of others’ passage is the best way to find the easiest way here. Once you start to see large boulders, it’s best to head left toward some rocky slabs. Head up into the snowy cirque formed by Static and Buck, and enjoy your time at Timberline Lake. Reverse the route to the Death Canyon Trailhead. There are no backcountry sites in Stewart Draw.
5. Holly Lake
Holly Lake, at around 9400’ in Paintbrush Canyon, is another Jackson Hole favorite. This one can be done as a day hike, or as part of an overnight.
Park at the String Lake Trailhead, and take either trail around String Lake (they’re equidistant). These trails meet at a trail junction on the west side of String Lake. Head north from here into Paintbrush Canyon. It’s a gently rolling trail through pine forest, for a mile or two. This is a good place to see moose, and other wildlife. The trail begins to climb more as the forest opens up, with views of Mt. Moran to the north, and Paintbrush Canyon to the west.
The trail climbs steadily, with switchbacks in steep places, and meets up at another trail junction 4.5 miles after the one west of String Lake. Take a right here, and approximately half a mile later, you’ll be at Holly Lake. Reverse the route for a day hike (approximately 12.5 miles round trip), set up camp if you have a permit for Holly Lake’s backcountry sites, or continue along on the approximately 18 mile loop hike of Paintbrush to Cascade canyons.
By: Andy Edwards
Read more about Andy’s adventures at outgettinglost.com