A must-do hike: The Teton Crest Trail

The Teton Crest Trail is a classic; approximately 40 miles of scenic backcountry hiking through one of America’s most iconic mountain ranges. Put this one on your tick list, it’s a hike that every serious hiker should do. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it’s one of the better multi-day hikes in Wyoming.


Teton Crest Trail - Hurricane Pass
On the Teton Crest Trail – The view from Hurricane Pass: The 3 Tetons, and Schoolroom Glacier


The Basics

The Teton Crest Trail is a backcountry hiking route. At around 40 miles, it’s a backpack trip for almost everyone, though I’ve passed (or rather, been passed by) those doing it in a day. At an average elevation of somewhere around 8000’, daily mileages will vary greatly from person to person.

Traditionally, the Teton Crest Trail starts at The Phillips Trailhead on WY Highway 22, and finishes after exiting Paintbrush Canyon in Grand Teton National Park. One can hike in either direction, but going northbound offers some extremely scenic vistas. Hiking southbound is great too, but for those seeking spectacular views, northbound makes sense.


Teton Crest Trail - The view from Fox Creek Pass
The view from Fox Creek Pass


Some start their hike at the top of the Tram, at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. This allows one to shave some mileage off their trip, and start the hike heading downhill from 10,450’. A ride up the tram in the summer costs around $45. Another popular starting point is at the Granite Canyon Trailhead. Hiking up Granite Canyon is pleasant; one of Grand Teton’s quieter canyons, with a rushing mountain creek, plenty of shade in the forests down low, and meadows filled with wildflowers up high. All of these starting points have their advantages; purists may favor the longer hike, and street-cred afforded by the traditional start.

Campsites in Grand Teton National Park require an overnight permit. There are daily quotas, and these are popular areas. The most popular time of year is July and August. Grand Teton holds an early permit lottery, starting in the beginning of April. If you don’t get your permits then, you’ll need to get permits the day before your trip. Do this at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center. Pro tip: get there early! In addition to having an overnight permit, you’ll also need to carry a bear can to store your food. GTNP loans these out, you’ll get one when you get your permit.

Contact: Craig Thomas Discover and Visitor Center 307-739-3399

If you hike in early summer, i.e. June and into July, expect to hike on snow, and cross snow covered mountain passes. In a heavy snow year (as this one will likely be), you may encounter snow on the north side of the passes into August. Such snow travel will require and ice axe and possibly crampons too. Knowing how to use these tools is as important as carrying them. Moosely Mountaineering rents ice axes and crampons.


Mileages and Itinerary

I’ve done a decent amount of hiking in the Tetons, and have done the majority of the TCT twice, both times in two days. I’ve talked with visitors that spend more like 5 days on their hike. There’s plenty to occupy most for 5 days, especially if you’re hiking in a group. This is especially true if you live at lower elevations; acclimatizing to altitude can take days, or even weeks. If this is you, consider limiting mileage, hiking at a slow pace, and leaving plenty of time to explore around camp, without a heavy pack.

For those looking to take it easy, consider this itinerary:

Day 1: Start with ride to the top of the Tram, then hike to Marion Lake – 6.5 miles
Day 2: Marion Lake to Death Canyon Shelf – 5.5 miles
Day 3: Death Canyon Shelf to South Fork Cascade Canyon – 9.5 miles
Day 4: South Fork Cascade to Upper Paintbrush – 7 miles
Day 5: Upper Paintbrush to String Lake Trailhead – 8 miles

Mileages are approximate!

If you’re an experienced backpacker, you may have a different idea! Better weather can mean a lighter pack, and higher mileages.
For example, I’ve twice done a two-day hike of the TCT, skipping Paintbrush Canyon and coming out Cascade Canyon instead, once northbound, and once southbound. This was largely due to permit issues, and the fact that I did it on my weekend. Perfect weather in forecast allowed me to drop some “just-in-case” items, and carry significantly less.

NPS Backcountry Camping Info is here.


Bear Safety

Grand Teton National Park is home to both Grizzly and Black Bears. Carry bear spray in the backcountry, and take bear safety seriously.
Read more on Bear Safety Here.



Gear Up

Moosely Mountaineering is located in Moose at Dornan’s, and has a full selection of gear and apparel for sale. Ice axes and crampons are available for rent too.

12170 Dornan Road, Moose, WY 83012
or call us at 307.739.1801

Skinny Skis in Jackson, WY, has a full selection of gear, apparel, and backpacking food. Ice axes, crampons, and backpacking gear are available for rent.

65 W. Deloney, Jackson, WY 83001


Teton Crest Trail - Looking south across Alaska Basin
Looking south across Alaska Basin


By: Andy Edwards

Read more about Andy’s adventures at outgettinglost.com