Monthly Archives: July 2016

Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park

It’s been over a year since I went on vacation,  so it was time to get out for some travel and adventure. The Tetons have been on my radar ever since I started to plan a climb of the Grand Teton. During my research, I stumbled upon some information on the Teton Crest Trail, a high alpine trail that traverses the Tetons for more than 40 miles. It wasn’t long before my friends were on board, permits were in hand and a plan was in motion. We set out for 4 days and 3 nights of adventure in the high country.

The Tetons
The Tetons

Day 1- We started by taking the aerial tram up Rendezvous Mountain from Teton Village, a unique way to start a hike that shaves off 4000 feet of elevation gain. If you want the extra workout though, you can hike up as well. We carbo-loaded with some waffles at the little cafe with a view, then off we went. Our destination for the night was Death Canyon Shelf, 9 miles away.

setting off from the top of the tram
setting off from the top of the tram

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Marion Lake, one of the camping zones
Marion Lake, one of the camping zones

The weather was sublime and the trail is scenic every step of the way. We did have one mishap, however, when my friend accidentally sprayed herself with bear spray! She was pretty much blinded for about 20 minutes while we poured water in her eyes and waited for it to wear off. Because this trail travels through grizzly country, we all carried bear spray, but unfortunately (or fortunately?)  we did not see a single bear on this trip.

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Headed across country near Fox Pass
Headed across country near Fox Pass

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Eventually my friend recovered and we made it to Death Canyon Shelf to spend the night. This time of year the flowers were out and there was plenty of water available. Our campsite was perched on the cliffs overlooking Death Canyon, a gorgeous spot but very exposed to the high winds we had all that night, and for most of trip.

When we woke up in the morning, a few people had the unfortunate discovery that the marmots had chewed up their stuff during the night. Two Jetboils and a backpack hipbelt must have made for a tasty treat. This was a good reminder not to leave anything outside where the critters can get to it.

Jetboil eating marmot on Death Canyon Shelf
Backpack eating marmot on Death Canyon Shelf

Day 2- Today our plan was to cross Death Canyon Shelf, drop into Alaska Basin, then hike over the top of Hurricane Pass to our next camp zone in South Fork Cascade Canyon. The rangers had told us that the basin would be filled with snow, so with 12 miles to go we expected it to be a full day. Turns out, both the basin and the pass were virtually snow free!

Looking down into Alaska Basin
Looking down into Alaska Basin
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dropping down into the basin
walking through Alaska Basin
walking through Alaska Basin, no permits needed to camp here
Sunset Lake
Sunset Lake

Hurricane Pass in at an elevation of 10,400′ and it lived up to it’s name with strong, sustained winds. Fortunately the temps were warm and the predicted thunderstorms did not develop. We arrived at our camp with plenty of time left to chase away marmots.

Hurricane Pass
Hurricane Pass
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Getting ready to go down Hurricane Pass, Grand Teton in the distance
I'll need to come back and climb that!
I’ll need to come back and climb that!
Camp with a view in South Fork Cascade Canyon
Camp with a view in South Fork Cascade Canyon

Day 3- Originally we had planned to hike over Paintbrush Divide today to camp in the Upper Fork of Paintbrush Canyon. Recent reports said that the pass still had steep, exposed snow. One member of our party decided that this was going to be out of her comfort zone, so we reverted to our backup plan to hike down Cascade Canyon to Jenny Lake and shorten the trip by a day. It was the Fourth of July so we’d end the day with dinner and fireworks in Teton Village.

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getting into the spirit in Cascade Canyon

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Taking the boat shuttle back across Jenny Lake
Taking the boat shuttle back across Jenny Lake

This  was a memorable trip and I’ll definitely be back. We saw only a handful of people until the last day, when we hit the hoards near Jenny Lake. What amazing country!

More info:

Distance (for our loop): 34 miles

Elevation Gain: 7000 feet

Average altitude: between 8,000 and10,000 feet

Backcountry permits required, they go fast so plan at LEAST six months in advance if you want to guarantee your desired camps

Bear canisters are also required and can be rented for free from the ranger station. Bear Spray recommended