Please note: dogs are NOT allowed in the backcountry of Teton National Park. Sadly, Cooper did not join us for this hike. Instead, he enjoyed the joys of life as a suburban dog in Sheridan, WY with his Grandma and Grandpa.
The Teton Crest Trail is a very popular small 40 mile thru-hike. It is considered to be on a par with the John Muir Trail in AWEsomeness and since it is a 6th of the length of the JMT, we can consider it to be the most spectacular hike for its length in the US. The Grand Teton National Park regulates how many backpackers can be on the trail by requiring that you reserve a specific campsite for each night you will be out. Only one third of the limited campsites can be reserved in advanced through their website. We chose to get up at 5:30am and stand in line for two hours the day before our trip to get our permits. We were first in the ever growing line. It is probable that some of the folks who also got to the Visitors' Center before the doors opened at 8am, did not get the campsites they wanted. The ranger advised us to not finish out through Paintbrush Canyon because the snowy trail in that section would require crampons and ice axes. So instead, our thru-hike was cut short by 8 miles and we exited via Cascade Canyon at Jenny Lake. We claimed the following campsites "by a hair:" night one- Middle/South Fork of Granite Canyon; night two- Death Canyon Shelf; night three- South Fork Cascade. It is possible to backpack this trail without permits because there are two National Forest sections that you can camp in that do not require reservations. It is best to hike North, so that you can see the majestic Grand popping up over the smaller mountains as you progress.
We hiked with our friends "Teeny" and Dana. I met Teeny on our A.T. sobo thru-hike in 2011. She and I were hiking partners for the last 800 miles of the South on our way to Springer Mountain. Her boyfriend is working at the Old Faithful clinic in Yellowstone this summer and was able to take a few days off to meet us. Teeny is an incredible athlete. I owe part of my success in completing the A.T. to her. Her constant, powerful drive also helped to keep me driven- through the snow, bitter cold and pain we experienced off and on during the last stretch of the 2,181 mile hike.
We began our Teton Crest Trail hike from highway 22, west of Jackson Hole Resort. Some hikers choose to use the resort's tram for $30 per person. We're cheap and like the extra sweat factor of climbing up from the parking lot :).
When we arrived at our first night's campsite, we were somewhat surprised to find several groups already set-up, as if they had already been there for hours (they probably had). We found a bare dirt spot on the other side of the stream from everyone, later to be challenged by some tired, grumpy boy scouts who claimed we were "in their group site." That didn't go over great because they were accusatory and we knew the "group site" was a mile back, according to the map. It's a wonder the scouts didn't scout out a site, but instead just followed our tip on walking a few paces up the hill from us to find another flat spot we had seen. Turns out there was a post 15o yards away from our spot that vaguely referenced a "group site" in our vicinity. It would help everyone if the Park Service made this crystal clear, for the sake of keeping grumpy boy scouts at bay.
We ended up changing our plan and only spent two nights in the woods. We arrived at Death Canyon Shelf camping area around 2pm and decided to continue hiking to camp in Alaska Basin instead. No permits are needed there, so besides taking our reserved sites from someone else in the permit line, we did not break any rules. We were so glad we camped there, it was just incredible. The next day, we hoofed it up and over Hurricane Pass and all the way down Cascade Canyon to Jenny Lake. We saw many groups of people around the Teton Crest Trail/Cascade Canyon Trail junction. Pretty impressive to find so many people about 7 miles from the parking lot! They all would have walked 14 miles that day, whereas we did about 12 and saw more incredible views by a factor of 10. Our final day was filled with ice-melt waterfalls, lovely flora and shade by the Grand. Once we got to Inspiration Point at the far end of Jenny Lake, we decided to take the shuttle boat (!) across for a one way price of $8/per person. There were so many people on the two mile stretch of trail to the parking lot. We didn't want to dodge them with our poles and heavy packs and didn't want our stench to interfere with their "serenity," so the shuttle boat ride with 70's mustache dude Captain Dave was perfect. We finished off our caloric-depleting day with a really delicious dinner at the Q Roadhouse in Moose.
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