Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is known for their steep ski trails and relentless vertical during the winter season. However, during the summer season you can hike 4,139 vertical feet uphill to the summit of the famed ski resort. If you think that their double black trails look intimidating during the winter, wait until you see the terrain during the summer! Some trails look completely unskiable. For example, Alta 1 is a sheer rock face, the Expert Chutes are huge craggy outcroppings and Toilet Bowl looks like it’s better fit for a rock climber than a skier. But don’t worry, there is a trail system and access road that allows you to hike among these double black diamond trails. No climbing harness necessary.
We begin at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village, Wyoming. There are a few trails that can take you to the summit. Currently, the bottom half of the Summit Trail is closed while JHMR is preparing to install a new chairlift. The alternate route is up the Wildflower Trail, a meandering trail that has beautiful vistas, park benches and of course, wildflowers when they are in season. The trail starts in the base area just to the right of the red Bridger Gondola. After about 3 miles, the Wildflower Trail meets up with the Summit Trail, which is essentially the access road for JHMR. The road switchbacks up the mountain and is the main trail used to access the summit. The total mileage of from the Wildflower Trail to the summit via the Summit Trail is approximately 6.6 miles long (one way).
If you prefer a single track trail I would suggest hiking up to the top of the Gondola and taking the Cirque Trail to the summit. There will be signage on the Summit Trail on how to access the top of the Gondola (approximately a mile after joining the Summit Trail from the Wildflower Trail). A local favorite is hiking down from the top of the tram to the top of the Gondola via the Cirque Trail or Summit Trail for drinks on the Deck. The Deck doesn’t open until 4PM so nothing is open at the top of the Gondola until then.
The Cirque Trail is steep and becomes a little bit of a scramble after you pass the top of the Sublette Chairlift. For the skiers who know Jackson Hole, the trail follows the East Ridge Traverse trail. For those with a slight fear of heights or prefer something more mellow, I would advise sticking to the Summit Trail. The summit trail passes the top of the Thunder Chair and then traverses into the bottom of Rendezvous Bowl and up to the top of the Sublette Chair, where it has one long traverse across the bowl and then zigs back up to the top of the tram.
At the top of the tram you can enjoy a delicious waffle at Corbet’s Cabin, snap a few photos and then decide whether you would like to take the tram down or hike down. Hikers can take the tram down for free. Conversely, some people prefer to take the tram up the mountain and then hike down to the base. Downhill only hikers must pay for a ticket for the tram. Unfortunately (for me), dogs aren’t allowed on the tram. However, dogs are allowed on the mountain, which isn’t the case for any of the trails in the neighboring Grand Teton National Park. For a trail map and a list of all of the trail descriptions visit Jackson Hole’s website. As always, bring bear spray, food and plenty of water on your hike.
You’re hiking along with your family, deep into some family bonding when you round a corner and see a bear about 20 feet down the trail. What do you do??
The first tip starts in town, way before you even hit the trail. If you are thinking about hiking or mountain biking in the Teton area it is imperative that you purchase bear spray. There are a variety of different sprays ranging from a small size and a larger size but they all do the same thing – deter bears. The larger size is good if you are only planning on buying one can of spray. However, it is suggested that you have more than one person with bear spray in a group of 3 or more. For this, the smaller size will do the trick.
Now, you have the spray, you are in the woods and spot a bear. What do you do with the darn thing? First, make sure that the spray is accessible. Wear it on your hip belt of your backpack or on your belt. The spray doesn’t do you any good if it’s in your backpack. By the time that you take off your pack, unzip it and get out the spray you could already be charged by a bear. Next, remove the safety, which is a wedge between where your thumb should be located and the canister. Do not spray until the bear comes within 40 feet of you. Do not make eye contact with the bear and try to back away slowly while talking in a soothing voice to the bear. Say things like “Hi, Mr. Bear. I’m not here to hurt you. I am backing up slowly.. etc.”
If the bear starts pawing the ground on all fours and puts its head down like it is going to charge, prepare to spray the bear. Be aware of the wind. If the wind is coming toward you, you will most likely get sprayed a little too. In this case, wait until the last possible moment to spray the bear. Hold the canister out away from your body and spray at the feet of the bear when it is far away. Since the spray will rise, the bear will have to run through the mist of pepper spray in order to get to you. If it is within 10 feet of you, aim for its head. Deploy the spray in 2 to 3 second bursts in a sweeping motion. This will prolong the amount of time that you can spray the bear. If you hold down the trigger the whole time the spray may be out in as little as 8 seconds. Try not to use the whole amount of spray in the first attack since more than one application may be needed.
If for some reason the bear remains undeterred by the spray and continues to charge you, get on the ground and lie with your stomach on the ground. Spread your legs so it is difficult for the bear to flip you over. Cover your head with your hands. Maintain this stance until the bear becomes disinterested and leaves the area. Do not stand up until the bear has left the area.
After any attack be sure to retrace your steps and clear the area. Also, warn others about the bears presence, including the National Park or National Forest staff.
How do you avoid a bear encounter all together? Noise. The primary reason that a bear attacks is that it was surprised by the people – it is scared and views you as a threat. If you carry on a conversation while hiking or biking it will help prevent you from sneaking up on a bear and surprising it. It is debatable whether bear bells have any effect. Overall, conversation or singing works best. Just remember, the bear is more afraid of you than you are of it. It attacks because it feels threatened, not because it is naturally viscous. Hopefully you will not run into any bears when you are on a hike or bike ride in Jackson Hole, but if you do, remember these tips -
1. Always carry pepper spray
2. Avoid eye contact with the bear
3. If charged use a sweeping motion and spray in 2 to 3 second bursts
4. If attacked, drop to the ground, cover your head and spread your legs. Do not drop to the ground unless the bear actually hits you.
With these tips in mind you should be able to survive a bear attack.
It is very difficult to plan your summer vacation in Jackson Hole – there are so many different activities that compete for your attention. Do you want to go horseback riding? Hiking? Biking? Golfing? Sight seeing? Shopping? The possibilities are endless! But if you are looking for a crowd pleaser, something that is destined to be a highlight of your trip, look no further than an overnight rafting trip with Barker-Ewing Whitewater! After hours in the car trying to make the decision on what sights to see and where to eat, stay or play it’s nice to put the reigns into the capable staff of Barker-Ewing. The overnight trip is full service, providing you with snacks, dinner, dessert, breakfast and good ole’ fashioned cowboy coffee in the morning. They even provide sleeping bags and lanterns. All you need to do is bring a change of clothes. No, really!
We arrived at the Barker-Ewing office at 3:15PM and checked in. They gave us some wet suits and booties for the whitewater portion of the trip and provided us with a cooler so that we could have a cold beer once we got to the campsite. We introduced ourselves to our camp-mates, a family of four from Florida. Their two excitable children were ages 8 and 10. After some pleasantries and instructions from the staff about what to expect on our trip we boarded the bus which would take us to our put in on the river, 20 minutes South of the town of Jackson.
We met our guide at the put in, an affable fellow, Austin, whose fondness of nature was abundantly apparent. As we started the scenic portion of our float down the Snake River he pointed out different wildflowers and listed their genus names. Additionally, we kept an eye out for birds and otters. We saw plenty of birds, but unfortunately, no otters. After an hour and a half of floating we arrived at camp, which was a short walk from the river bank. The camp at Pine Creek was set in a draw, flanked by the river on one side and surrounded by mountains on the other three sides with a creek running by it.
The camp was comprised of a cook tent, a dining tent, two outhouses, a fire pit and six “cabins”, which were canvas tents on platforms with three twin beds in them. After meeting the camp cook, Will, we headed up the trail to select our cabins. Each cabin had a Adirondack chair on the small deck outside, which I thought was a nice touch. It was easy to relax at camp, knowing that our meals were being prepared for us and we didn’t have to partake in any camp chores. In fact, I tried to help Will carry wood from where he was chopping it to the fire and he refused my help. The staff provided top notch service and Will worked his butt off for us!
Dinner was steak, beans, corn, garlic bread and salad. Will cooked each of our steaks to order and they were delicious! After dinner, spurred on by the kids, we went for a short hike up one of the hills by the camp. From the top of the hill we had a nice vista of the Snake River and the surrounding mountains (and the highway). After we hiked back down to the camp we started the fire. We played camp games and ate s’mores and peach cobbler. As the sun set, we spotted a moose up on the hill where we had hiked earlier. After the sun set Austin broke out a “star finder”, which was essentially a laser pointer that he used to point out constellations in the sky. He told us about the mythology behind some of the different constellations and taught us how to find Polaris, the North Star.
The next morning we had a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage, pancakes and fruit cocktail. We washed the deliciousness down with coffee, tea and hot chocolate. After breakfast we packed up our belongings and headed across the river to the whitewater put in. There, around 9AM, we loaded our belongings on to the bus so that they would stay dry during our 8 mile whitewater float. I was excited because we had such a small group so we were able to raft in an 8 man raft. An 8 man raft is more exciting than the larger 16 man rafts because the rapids are more intense in a smaller raft.
The whitewater section was exciting. The largest class of rapid that we went through was a mild class 4 rapid, Lunch Counter. We all got soaked and had a great time. After an hour and a half of floating, swimming and a dozen rapids we arrived at the take out. There we said good bye to Austin, changed into dry clothes and headed back to town. We were back in town around noon.
The cost per adult for the trip is $210 for adults and $160 for children. It is a great deal because it includes a scenic float, whitewater float, overnight accommodations, dinner and breakfast. I would highly recommend booking an overnight trip with Barker-Ewing on your next trip to Jackson. It is a great way to get out of the car for the day and a very relaxing experience. It’s the perfect thing to do with your family or your significant other, even if they aren’t super outdoorsy! The staff at Barker-Ewing is top notch and will make sure that you don’t have to worry about a thing during your trip.
By far one of the most popular day hikes in Grand Teton National Park is the hike to Inspiration Point. The view from the rock outcropping provides a spectacular vista of the lake and the valley below. It is mellow enough for the novice hiker and family friendly. In fact, if you are looking for a short hike, you can take the Jenny Lake Ferry across the lake and save yourself 5 miles of hiking. The ferry costs $15 round trip for adults and $8 for children. It departs every 15 minutes from the Jenny Lake Boat Dock.
Make sure that you bring bear spray on your hike, or any hike for that matter, in Grand Teton National Park. Bear Spray can be bought in town at the grocery store or at any of the sports shops in town – Skinny Skis, Teton Mountaineering, Sports Authority or Hoback Sports.
The hike begins at the Jenny Lake parking lot by the boat dock. For a map of the hike, follow this link. If you plan on hiking to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls you should park on the boat dock side of the parking lot, not the parking lot by the visitor’s center. The hike around the lake is relatively flat. You will hike 2.4 miles to the junction where you can hike 400 feet up to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls.
After a moderate hike of .6 miles you will see a path to Hidden Falls on your left. Walk about a hundred feet and you will come across an 80 foot cascade. After visiting Hidden Falls the trail gets steeper. Continue .4 miles along the trail to reach Inspiration Point. This is a great place to hang out and have a snack while soaking in the view. From Inspiration Point you can continue up Cascade Canyon on a relatively flat trail. There are good opportunities for spotting wildlife in this canyon, moose in particular. The hike is an out and back, so turn around whenever you feel ready to head back to your car.
You can make it into a loop if you want to hike around the entire lake. The loop will add 4 miles to your hike, whereas if you retrace your steps to your car it is 2.4 miles from the junction with the lake trail. In order to turn it into a loop, take a left at the Jenny Lake trail junction and head towards String Lake. Once you reach String Lake, take a right and then follow the trail around the lake until you reach the Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center where you parked.
There are great opportunities to spot wildlife on this hike and it isn’t a very challenging hike. It’s a great way to get out of your car and stretch your legs. If you are short on time, take the ferry across. It will turn the 7 mile hike into a 2 mile hike. I promise you won’t regret visiting Inspiration Point and Jenny Lake!
If you have ever driven through Grand Teton National Park during the summer you have probably noticed the overflowing parking lot just off the road on the left hand side a mile or two after you have entered the park. Thousands of people hike to the Taggart and Bradley Lakes throughout the summer season. It is hands down one of the most popular hikes in Grand Teton National Park, and for good reason! It is a relatively flat hike, family friendly, it has beautiful scenery and there are many different mileage options.
The easiest option is an 3 mile round trip out and back hike to Taggart Lake. To reach Taggart Lake park at the Bradley/Taggart trail head and then pick up the trail by the out house. Take a right when the trail forks and then take another right when the trail forks again shortly afterwards (the trail on the left goes uphill and should be marked by some branches stacked across the trail). You will cross a creek and slowly climb 350 feet to the next trail junction. To reach Taggart Lake take a left at this fork. To reach Bradley Lake and hike the loop that goes by both lakes head right.
The Bradley/Taggart Lake loop is 5.9 miles round trip with 800 feet of vertical gain. Another option is to hike to Taggart Lake and then create a loop by hiking back to the car by Beaver Creek. This loop is 3.9 miles with 500 feet of vertical gain. It is a very pretty hike and you will walk next to a creek for most of the hike. Just as a reminder – always bring at least one can of bear spray with you when hiking in Grand Teton National Park (bring more than one canister if you are hiking in a big group). Bear spray can be bought at the local grocery store or any of the sports shops in town (Teton Mountaineering, Skinny Skis, Sports Authority, etc.).
Both lakes are beautiful and provide distinctly different views. From Bradley Lake you will be able to see the Grand Teton reflected in glassy water. It also tends to be slightly less visited than its neighbor, Taggart Lake. Taggart provides a sweeping view of Avalanche Canyon and its surrounding peaks as well as views of the Tetons if you take a left once you reach the lake and hike along the trail for a few minutes. You are allowed to swim in the lakes, but if you decide to take the plunge be prepared for a chill. These glacial lakes never really get warm during the summer because they are fed by snow melt and glacial melt. If you decide to do the loop which takes you by both lakes note the glacial moraine that separates the lakes. It is quite spectacular to see how glaciers shaped the mountains and lakes in Grand Teton National Park.
This hike is so popular because it is a good hike for all ages and abilities. It’s a great way to get out of the car and stretch your legs, even if you aren’t much of a hiker. I highly suggest getting out of your car and exploring Grand Teton National Park. While the Tetons are specular for your car they are even more stunning once you step into the woods and get up close and personal with them. Trust me, you won’t regret taking a walk in our backyard!
Every April the Grand Teton National Park interior road gets plowed from the Bradley/Taggart Lake trail head to Signal Mountain Lodge. The road is then open to the public to use on foot or by bike or roller blades. The time where you can use the interior road without motor vehicles is very short – this year it is three weeks long, with it opening yesterday (April 8th) and closing to foot traffic (bike paths will be open instead) and opening to motor vehicle traffic on May 1.
If it’s a beautiful sunny weekend expect to see lots of people out using the road. One of my favorite things to do is to pack a picnic lunch or pick up a sandwich from Creekside Deli on the way out of town and bike up to Jenny Lake or if you are motivated – up to String Lake. There is still plenty of snow on the ground off of the road, but you can still trudge to the edge of the lake for a little picnic. If you are a serious road biker, biking the interior road is really fun and you can make it a nice day ride. I would suggest doing an out and back on the interior road since the snowbanks are still quite high on the highway (which normally provides a nice loop option) and the shoulder is rather sandy, which don’t provide for ideal riding conditions.
If you are looking for a hill climb, bike up to the top of Signal Mountain. The narrow windy road to the top is also closed to motorized vehicles and the view of Jackson Lake and the Tetons from the top of the mountain is well worth the effort!
Road running is also really fun on the interior road. I guarantee that it will be one of the most scenic runs that you have ever had. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks though, because none of the visitor buildings are open. Same goes for the toilets – though you will be able to find outhouses at the Bradley/Taggart Lake trail head and at String Lake.
Just because the interior road isn’t open to motor vehicles doesn’t mean that you don’t have to purchase a park pass. It’s possible that they may be manning the gate sporadically, but if there is someone at the gate you do need to pay the entry, which is $25 for a 7 day pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. I highly recommend taking a walk, run or bike ride on the Grand Teton National Park road before they open it to motorized vehicles on May 1. It is a unique experience that is so amazing you can’t pass it up!
We have the luxury of having a breathtakingly beautiful National Park in our backyard. Thousands of people explore Grand Teton National Park during the summer months, but during the winter the park becomes rather inaccessible due to the fact that they don’t plow the majority of the park road and you need to have skis or snowshoes to explore it. The road from the South Entrance in Moose is plowed until the Bradley and Taggart Lake trail head. On the north end it is plowed until Signal Mountain Lodge and Flagg Ranch (see A Trip to Polecat Hot Springs for a fun excursion in the north end of the Park). The South end of Grand Teton National Park is a haven for the winter enthusiast – there are lots of backcountry ski objectives, miles of trails for snowshoers and the Park grooms the road for cross country skiers.
I have done a number of different backcountry ski objectives in Grand Teton National Park, but last weekend’s objective was by far the prettiest. My friend Katie and I decided that we were going to sacrifice a long, consistent ski run for breathtaking views on a blue bird day. She suggested that we ski the Delta Lake shots. Delta Lake is one of my favorite lakes in Grand Teton National Park and I’ve hiked to it numerous times during the summer, but I’d never been to it in the winter, let alone ski down to it so we packed up the car and headed to the trail head. The one thing that I don’t like about skinning and skiing in Grand Teton National Park is that there are a bunch of small foothills that you must negotiate between the trail head and the beginning of the mountains. This means that there is some up and down on the skin track, which is one of my pet peeves – I hate having to go down just to go up again.
After the foothills we reached Bradley Lake. The lake, which is frozen for the majority of the winter, provides a gorgeous up and close view of the Teton Range. After the lake, we finally reached the base of the mountains. We skirted around face of the mountains for a little bit and then began our ascent. Thankfully, someone had already put in a skin track. It took us 4 hours of zigging and zagging up the mountain side until we got our first view of the Grand Teton. It was absolutely gorgeous. Until we realized that we were on the wrong ridge. Thankfully there wasn’t a huge depression in the mountain to get to the ridge that we needed to be on. I did protest a little bit as we started downhill towards the correct ridge. After a short uphill we were standing on top of one of the Delta Lake Shots, staring down on Delta Lake. The mountains were silhouetted by a brilliant blue sky. I took about a million photos and then started to take off my skins and prepare for the descent.
After a quick assessment of the snow pack and discussion of where our safe zones were, Katie dropped. I watched as she skied the smooth powder down to the agreed upon safe zone. I dropped after her and met her at the safe zone and then she skied down to the lake and watched from afar as I took my turns in the wide chute. The view from the lake was equally stunning. All I kept thinking was “this is heaven on earth.” I feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place! After taking more photos on the lake we skied out of Glacier Gulch and traversed across until we got closer to Bradley Lake. The snow had warmed up under the sun to soft corn. We both laughed giddily as we skied down to Bradley Lake. Once on the lake we put our skins back on and trekked back to the car.
We both agreed that a celebratory beer was in order so we drove to Dornan’s and cheers-ed to our ski tour while admiring the peaks that we were just skiing in. Dornan’s was packed with fellow skiers, all sharing the tales of their ski objectives and trading high fives. It’s a really cool atmosphere and it’s a must if it’s your first time touring in the Park. In fact, I took my Avalanche 1 test at Dornan’s after skiing in the Park for the first time for my avalanche course.
Please note – Backcountry skiing is inherently dangerous and I do not suggest that you try to go for a ski tour in Grand Teton National Park unless you have proper training, gear (beacon, shovel, and probe), are in excellent physical shape and have a good awareness of the area and your objective. With that being said, touring in the Park is an unbelievable experience and I highly recommend it to any serious backcountry enthusiast.