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Amphitheater Lake Trail
Here's a trail that can get you in and out of the high mountains in a day, presuming that you're in good shape and acclimated to the altitude -- it's a 3,000-foot climb. You'll cross glacial moraines and meadows quilted with flowers, and enter forests of fir and pine (including whitebark pine, a delicacy for bears -- be alert!). Finally, you clear the trees and come into a ring of monstrous rock walls topped by Disappointment Peak, with Grand Teton and Teewinot in view. Surprise Lake and Amphitheater Lake sit in this dramatic setting, with a few gnarled trees struggling to survive on the slopes.
9.6 miles round-trip. Difficult. Access: Use the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. From the Moose entrance station on Teton Park Rd., drive 6 1/2 miles to the Lupine Meadows Junction and follow signs to the trail head; if you're coming from Jenny Lake, the trail head is at the end of a road less than 1 mile south of South Jenny Lake.
Cascade Canyon Trail
Cascade Canyon Trail is the most popular trail in the park for intermediate and expert hikers. You can begin the hike from South Jenny Lake, but you can also shave 2 miles off each way by riding the boat shuttle across the lake and beginning your hike at the boat dock. At this point, you're only a steep mile from Inspiration Point, which is as far as most visitors ever get. From here, you make a brief climb up a sharp grade to the glacially rounded canyon. The trail flattens, allowing for a relaxing exploration of a true wonderland of nature: Wildflowers, waterfowl, and busy pikas abound. On a nice day, the warblers will be singing and you could see moose and bear.
If you want to go farther, you have two choices when you reach forks of North and South Cascade Canyon: Follow the South Fork to Hurricane Pass or the North Fork to Lake Solitude. At 23 and 18 miles, respectively, these are overnight trips for most mortals, so you'll need camping gear and a backcountry permit.
A less taxing alternative to the Cascade Canyon trip mentioned above is a detour to Moose Ponds, which begins on the Inspiration Point Trail. The ponds, located 2 miles from either west or east boat docks, are near the south end of Jenny Lake and are alive with birds. The stretch near the base of Teewinot Mountain, which towers over the area, is populated with elk, mule deer, black bears, and moose. The trail is flat (at lake level), short, and easy to negotiate in 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The best times to venture forth are early morning and evening.
9.1 miles round-trip. Moderate to difficult. Access: The trail into Cascade Canyon begins at Inspiration Point.
Hidden Falls & Inspiration Point Trail
Many people cross Jenny Lake, either by boat or on foot around the south end, and then make the short, forest-shaded uphill slog to Hidden Falls (less than 1 mile of hiking if you take the boat; 5 miles round-trip if you walk around), which tumbles down a broad cascade. Some think that's enough and don't go another steep half-mile to Inspiration Point. Up there you get a great view of Jenny Lake below, and you can see the glacial moraine that formed it. If you're going to only these two overlooks, I recommend a relaxed and easy hike around the south end of the lake.
Whichever route you take to Inspiration Point, start early in the day to avoid the crowds. Then pace yourself. And once you've reached Inspiration Point, what's to stop you from proceeding on to Cascade Canyon?
1.8-5.8 miles round-trip. Moderate. Access: Trail heads at East Shore Boat Dock or at West Shore Boat Dock of Jenny Lake (if you take the boat shuttle).
Jenny Lake Loop Trail
This trail circumnavigates the lake, following the shore. You can cut it in half by taking the Jenny Lake Boat Shuttle from the East Shore Boat Dock to the West Shore Boat Dock. The unblemished lake, which is 2.5 miles long, is in an idyllic setting at the foot of the mountain range, so it presents excellent views throughout the summer.
Keep in mind that Jenny Lake is one of the most popular spots in the park; to avoid the crowds, travel early or late in the day. The trails to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and the Moose Ponds branch off of this trail on the southwest shore of the lake. The trails to String and Leigh lakes branch off of this trail on the northern shore of Jenny Lake.
6.5 miles round-trip. Easy to moderate. Access: Trail head at East Shore Boat Dock.
Leigh Lake Trail
This trail begins at String Lake, which is a small, finger-shape lagoon connecting Leigh and Jenny lakes. The trail for Leigh Lake is well marked and relatively flat, and it goes through a forested area that is always within sight of the lake. Picnickers willing to expend the energy necessary to hike roughly 1 mile from the String Lake picnic area to the end of the lake will find themselves eating in a less congested area with spectacular views of Mount Moran. The trail continues along the eastern shore of Leigh Lake to a meadow with typically wonderful views and then goes on to small Bearpaw Lake. A better option, if time allows, is to return to the picnic area, cross the String Lake inlet, and explore the western edge of Jenny Lake along the trail that circumnavigates its shoreline.
7.5 miles round-trip. Easy. Access: The trail head is located adjacent to the String Lake picnic area.
String Lake Trail
This easy hike along the eastern shore of String Lake has two things going for it: It provides easy access to Leigh Lake, and it's in a forest that is a better alternative for a lunch break than the crowded picnic area. You'll wander in the shade of a pine forest along the shore with excellent views of Mount Moran above. However, because this is a heavily trafficked area, you should not count on seeing much wildlife, if any. This is also the starting point for a more ambitious trip up Paintbrush Canyon.
3.3 miles round-trip. Easy. Access: Trail head is located at the Leigh Lake Trailhead.
Taggart and Bradley Lakes Trail
Want to get away from the crowds on Jenny Lake trails? Just down the road from South Jenny is the trail head to Taggart and Bradley lakes, named for two members of the 1872 Hayden expedition. This hike winds through a burned-out area, in the midst of recovery, to Taggart Lake, which was created by glacial movements. The hike from the parking lot to the lake (where you can fish from the shore) is only 1.5 miles along the southern (left) fork of the trail. Swimming in these cold waters is not recommended. From the lake, you can return by the same trail or continue north to Bradley Lake for a round-trip of 5 miles. This route adds 1.8 miles to the trip, and the elevation gain is 467 feet; but the payoff is that, at its highest point, the trail overlooks all of Taggart Lake and the stream flowing from it. Like other hikes in Grand Teton, this one is best made during the early-morning or early-evening hours, when it's cooler and there's less traffic.
5 miles round-trip. Moderate. Access: The trail head is well marked and located west of Teton Park Rd., approximately 6 miles south of Jenny Lake.
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Fall Reflections-Jenny Lake-Grand Teton National Park-Wyoming
January 15th, 2013
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