Hitting the many Grand Teton hiking trails is one of the best ways to spend time in the national park. Trail options range from difficult climbs and overnight backcountry treks to easy lakeshore walks with little to no elevation gain. Whether it’s your first time in the park or you’re a repeat visitor, I highly recommend adding one of these trails that are rated as the best Grand Teton hikes to your itinerary while you’re there.
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Choose the best Grand Teton hikes
Deciding which of the many Grand Teton hiking trails is tough. Most visitors just don’t have enough time to hit all of them, as much fun as that would be. Your skill level and amount of time are two major factors in choosing Grand Teton hikes, but you also have to pick between types of scenery. Some trails bring you to stunning mountain lakes, others are hotspots for wildlife viewing, others offer close up views of peaks or glaciers. There’s a variety of scenery to choose from, so plan your visit accordingly. And, while you’re in the national park, don’t forget to check out the other incredible things to do.
Length: 9 miles out and back (13 miles without taking the Jenny Lake shuttle boat)
Time: 5-6 hours
Difficulty: Moderate, due to the steep elevation change at the start/end (1.5 miles), but most of the hike is flat and easy.
Cascade Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in Grand Teton National Park. The canyon is a narrow valley carved by glaciers with craggy peaks on both sides. The hike starts with a steep 1.5-mile climb from Jenny Lake up into the canyon. As you enter the canyon, you are wowed with stunning views of the peaks, woods and Cascade Creek. The trail follows alongside the creek through the length of the canyon. You may see moose, river otters and even black bears in and around the creek, so keep your eyes peeled.
The canyon is named after the waterfalls that cascade down the side of the steep hills, from glaciers perched at the top, all the way down the creek at the bottom. The views are truly spectacular.
The trail ends at a fork in the path. You can continue even further along the right fork to Lake Solitude and do a loop back through Paintbrush Canyon, but this requires camping overnight. For a day hike, this is the place to turn back.
On the way back, near the trailhead, it is worth taking a short side trail to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls.
The trailhead is at the West Boat Dock on the other side of Jenny Lake from the Visitor Center, parking area and campground. To get there, you can either take the Jenny Lake shuttle boat or hike around the lake. The hike to the trailhead is two miles each way from the visitor center. Jenny Lake is an extremely popular area and the parking lot often fills early, especially in summer, so I recommend getting there early to secure a parking spot. Take bear spray or a bear whistle with you, as this is bear country.
By James Ian from Parks Collecting
Length: 9.1 miles out and back
Time: 5-6 hours
Death Canyon is a beautiful glacier-formed canyon located in the southwestern corner of Grand Teton National Park. It’s one of the lesser visited areas of the park which makes it a perfect hiking destination for anyone looking for a challenging, off the beaten path half-day hike.
Although multiple hiking trails start at the Death Canyon Trailhead, the most rewarding hike is the 9.1 mile out and back trail to the patrol cabin. On this trail, you’ll hike along a glacial stream, see multiple waterfalls, and take in beautiful alpine views of the Teton range and an overlook of Phelps Lake. The hike is very strenuous but extremely rewarding with an elevation gain of 2,000+ feet and lots of switchbacks. Hikers should allot 5-6 hours to complete this trail and bring plenty of water, snacks, and clothing layers. Bears also frequent the area so bear spray is also highly recommended.
To get to the Death Canyon Trailhead, drive down Moose-Wilson road until the pavement turns to dirt. At this point, a high clearance AWD vehicle is strongly recommended to continue otherwise low clearance vehicles have the option to park at this point and walk the remaining one mile to the official trailhead start. Parking options are limited, so make sure to arrive early in the day to get a parking spot!
By Stephanie from Travanie Travels
Length: 8.1 mile out-and-back
Time: 3.5-5.5 hours (depending on how many photo breaks you take!)
Delta Lake is a partially unmaintained trail to a gorgeous alpine lake, with robin’s egg blue waters and stunning mountain vistas. To get to this 8.1 mile out-and-back trail, you should start at the Lupine Meadows trailhead parking lot, easily accessible from the Moose Junction entrance. Unlike most of the roads in Grand Teton, the road here is paved with gravel, but well-maintained and passable with any normal passenger car. That being said, many popular hikes depart from this lot, so it’s best to get here early to secure a parking spot.
While the trail starts in a deceptively easy manner, it gets extremely steep in some areas, even requiring crawling up certain sections on your hands and knees. So while any moderate to advanced hiker can conquer this trail, it would not be recommended for hikers that are afraid of heights or in wet or icy weather. Despite its challenging nature, this hike is a not-to-be missed experience while in Grand Tetons National Park.
By Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
Taggart Lake Hike
Length: 3.8 miles round trip
Time: 1 – 2 hours
Hiking is one of the best ways to see the National Parks, and the Taggart Lake hike has just about everything you could want: wildlife, mountain views, a waterfall, forest, meadows and a beautiful lake! It’s a great family hike as it is easy enough for young children and interesting enough to keep all ages engaged. The terrain changes as you walk through woods, along a river, past a waterfall and through a meadow of wildflowers, eventually making your way to Taggart Lake. The blue-green water of this lake, set among the trees and underneath the towering Tetons, is a sight to behold.
The Taggart Lake Trailhead is well marked from Teton Park Road. Make sure you arrive early as the parking lot fills quickly and be prepared for wildlife – we saw a bear (from a distance). You could easily spend several hours on this hike if you spend a significant amount of time at the lake. Otherwise you can finish it in around an hour and a half. If you want to lengthen it, add in the loop to Bradley Lake, which makes it about 6 miles and slightly more strenuous. The best time of year for this trail is summer or early fall to avoid snow.
By Julie Espinosa of Family Travel Lifestyle
Length: 3.7 mile loop
Time: 2 hours
This easy, family friendly trail loops around narrow String Lake and offers great views of the Cathedral Group peaks. With minimal elevation gain and a heavily-trafficked path that’s even paved for a portion, it’s one of the best Grand Teton hikes for beginners. As you loop around the lake, you’ll be able to see mountains reflected in the water, pass through thick forest, and have access points to get close to the lakeshore.
The String Lake trail is accessed off of String Lake Road along the Jenny Lake Loop. It’s one of the most popular spots in the park, so plan on arriving early to secure parking. While you’re in the area, enjoy a meal at the picnic area or head out on the water in a kayak or canoe. The lake is relatively shallow, so you’ll find warmer water late in the summer if you want to cool off with a swim after your hike.
Length: 13 miles roundtrip, out and back
Time: 10-14 hours
Hiking up the Middle Teton is a tough walk physically, but it’s not too difficult technically for avid hikers. From the 12,808-foot top, the view is panoramic and the feeling of accomplishment high, without having to hire a guide or rope up for an exposed climb as on the Grand Teton. The Middle Teton is a fun addition to a Yellowstone and Grand Teton itinerary.
Start the hike at Lupine Meadows Trailhead. From the Teton Park Road, turn west on the well marked Lupine Meadows Road and drive 1.5 miles to the trailhead. Climbing the third highest peak in the range includes a 3rd Class Scramble, route finding, and more than 6,000 feet of elevation gain. This hike is for the very physically fit and those with backcountry and mountain experience. Since afternoon thunderstorms are frequent in the Tetons during summer, be sure to start the hike early. Most people are on the trail by 5 am.
From Lupine Meadows, hike four miles up Garnet Canyon to the Garnet Canyon Meadows. Another option is to hike the Middle as an overnighter and camp at The Meadows the night before summiting. A backcountry permit is required. From the Meadows scramble up the boulders for 3-4 hours to the saddle between the South and Middle Tetons. There isn’t a trail, but a few cairns pointing the way. Be sure to bring a map with your route marked. Then climb up the Middle Teton’s Southwest Coulier to the top. Be prepared to walk on snow and climb up rock using your hands.
Hiking the Middle Teton isn’t for new hikers or anyone who isn’t in great shape, but it’s an impressive peak bagging experience for which technical climbing skills are not needed. Do your research before hitting the trail.
By Mel from YellowstoneTrips.com
Length: 6.8 miles out and back
Time: 2 hours
Signal Mountain is one of the most rewarding Grand Teton hikes, opening up panoramic views of nearby Jackson Hole and the entire Teton Range. Located at an elevation of 7,720 feet, Signal Mountain can be accessed by foot and car, which helps to explain why it has become one of the most popular stops at Grand Teton National Park.
The Signal Mountain Trail begins at Signal Mountain Lodge, which is about 3 miles south from the Jackson Hole Junction. The trail is about 6.8 miles out and back and is considered moderate. There are numerous markers along the way, so you can enjoy the many overlooks along and see how much distance is left ahead of you.
While you will get to enjoy the stunning alpine views along the way, you will also enjoy a good variety of scenery along the way from gorgeous lily ponds to sprawling meadows and even some aspen trees. Don’t forget to bring some bear spray.
By Daria from The Discovery Nut
Jenny Lake Trail
Length: 7.9 miles
Time: 4-5 hours
One of the premier Grand Teton National Park hikes, the Jenny Lake Trail encircles crystalline Jenny Lake in a 7.9-mile loop. While many visitors travel to the lake’s opposite shore in a boat, hikers who walk around the lake won’t be disappointed. The majestic Grand Tetons reflected in the lake’s surface are stunning from every point along the path.
The Jenny Lake Hike begins near the boat rental area at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. The trek gains 632 feet of elevation as it loops around the lake and is rated as moderately difficult. Highlights of the trail include the String Lake Outlet at the lake’s northern end and the Moose Ponds area to the south.
The trail also passes the boat dock area on Jenny Lake’s western shore. At this point, hikers can choose to leave the trail and visit Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. This detour will add 1.8 miles to the hike’s overall mileage. Hikers can also return by boat here to shorten the trip.
Jenny Lake is one of the most popular areas in Grand Teton National Park. There is a large parking area near the Visitor Center but it can get crowded during summer months. Consider arriving in the early morning or mid-afternoon to avoid the crowds. A ranger station, flush toilets, campground and a store are all available near the Visitor Center.
By Katy from A Rambling Unicorn
Distance: 10.1 miles out and back
Time: 5-7 hours
Amphitheater Lake is known as one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the park. This challenging trail climbs up into the mountains via steep switchbacks, but rewards you with views of its namesake Amphitheater Lake as well as Surprise Lake along the way. The grand finale at Amphitheater Lake offers spectacular views of Grand Teton and – my favorite mountain name – Disappointment Peak. You can also combine this with an extra couple miles round trip to see Garnet Canyon where the trail forks off if you have extra time and energy.
The Amphitheater Lake trailhead is located at the Lupine Meadows parking lot just south of the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. This area is very popular and several of the top Grand Teton hiking trails can be accessed from here. It’s recommended that you arrive early, especially at popular times.
Distance: 2.5 mile loop
Time: 1 hour
The Lakeshore Trail is one of the best Grand Teton hiking trails for families – or just visitors who don’t have the time or skillset for longer, more difficult trails. It leaves from the Colter Bay Village Visitor Center, so the trailhead is easy to find and there is lots of parking. You can even grab food from one of the restaurants or pack a picnic with supplies from the general store in the area.
What makes this one of the best Grand Teton hikes is the scenic payoff in relation to the amount of effort required. The trail heads out onto a peninsula in Jackson Lake, mostly hugging the shoreline so it remains pretty flat with little elevation change. You still get spectacular views of the mountains to the west though and they’re particularly beautiful on calm days when the water acts like a mirror reflecting them. As we were hiking, we passed several small groups who had set up camp chairs along the water to linger and enjoy the view. It’s perfect for sunset if you don’t mind hiking back in the dark.
Teton Crest Trail
Distance: 40 miles one way
Time: 3-5 days
The most challenging but potentially most rewarding of the Grand Teton hikes, the Teton Crest trail passes through not only the national park, but two different national forests and the Jedadiah Wilderness Area. The trail passes through incredible mountain scenery with ridges offering views of the Tetons’ most famous peaks, close-u views of a glacier, and canyons that take you down to crystal clear rivers and streams. Most of the trail is above 8000 feet in elevation, so be prepared for the altitude.
The Teton Crest Trail can be accessed via several different trailheads, and some hikers even choose to begin it with a ride up the aerial tram from Teton Village to bypass a few miles and a couple thousand feet of uphill hiking. Along the way, there are eleven camping areas including some group sites for parties of more than 6 hikers. Permits are required for the trail, but campsites are on a first come, first served basis. Bear canisters can also be checked out when permits are obtained. Note that only experienced hikers should attempt this trail.
Length: 1.8 miles out and back
Time: 1 hour
Inspiration Point is accessed via the same trailhead as previously mentioned Cascade Canyon. The trailhead is located across Jenny Lake from the visitor center and parking area and can be accessed via boat shuttle or trail (an extra 4 miles round trip). It ranks among the best Grand Teton hikes due to its scenic payoff and short distance. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this one and it’s a great option if you’re short on time but want to do a little hiking.
Most of the trail to Inspiration Point is an easy walk. Along the way you’ll definitely want to make the short detour to see Hidden Falls, an impressive cascade that’s a popular destination in its own right. After this, the trail starts to climb heading toward its namesake overlook. Portions of this section are narrow with a drop off on one side, so wear good shoes and take care while hiking. It may not be the best hike for small kids or people who are afraid of heights. Once you reach Inspiration Point, you’ll love the views over Jenny Lake and the Snake River as well as other peaks in the Teton Range.
Tips for Grand Teton hikes
- If you’re planning on hitting any of the Grand Teton hiking trails, be sure to practice bear safety. Bears roam throughout the park, and hikers should travel in groups, make noise as they walk, store food and scented items safely, and carry bear spray. The national park website has a whole section on bear safety for those planning to try one of the Grand Teton hikes.
- Be prepared for all weather when hiking in Grand Teton National Park. Even summer days that reach the 80s can dip down into freezing temperatures at night. Layering and packing appropriately are important. It can even snow year round at higher elevations.
- Be sure to bring enough water or come prepared with sterilizing filters or drops for any backcountry hiking. It’s especially important to stay well-hydrated at altitude.
- Afternoon thunderstorms are common, so plan to leave high elevation peaks with enough time to avoid potential lightning strikes. One of the Teton mountains is called Static Peak for a reason.
- It’s always a good idea to stop at a visitor center to get the latest trail information from park rangers before setting out.
- Several contributors have mentioned it, but it’s worth restating that parking at the trailheads for the most popular Grand Teton hiking trails fills up rapidly. It’s highly advised to get an early start, particularly in peak season and on weekends or you may find yourself unable to find parking. Pay attention to posted No Parking signs as the national park will write tickets if you are parked illegally.
What to bring for Grand Teton hikes
- Sturdy hiking boots are essential for most Grand Teton hiking trails. You’ll want something with solid tread on the soles and plenty of support for rocky terrain and climbing. I’m a fan of my trusty Columbias.
- Water bottle. I favor these Contigo water bottles due to their convenient size, functionality, and pretty colors.
- Most of the hikes mentioned here are short enough that you can carry enough water for the trail, but if you’re doing any longer hikes, it’s recommended to bring a water filtration or purification tool so that you can safely drink out of the lakes and streams. I like these Lifestraw water bottles with the filter built right in for convenience and the ability to drink on the go.
- Bug spray is a must during warmer months.
- Sunscreen is essential as you tend to burn faster at higher elevations and lots of these Grand Teton hikes take you through exposed areas with little shade.
- Bear spray is strongly recommended, but note that it can’t be shipped to all locations and you can’t fly with it even in a checked bag so you may be better off buying it close to Grand Teton (or in the visitor center gift shops) if you’re traveling.
- Bear bells are also recommended for safety to alert animals to your presence and avoid startling them. You can use any sort of bell or noisemaker that jingles, but these bear bells are designed with magnetic silencers so you can have a few moments of quiet when needed.
- Camping and cooking equipment is needed if you plan on doing the Teton Crest Trail, so pack accordingly.