Grand Teton National Park is one of the best places in the world for hiking! In this blog, we’re sharing the 10 best hikes in Grand Teton National Park from easy lakefront trails to epic and strenuous adventure routes!
Hiking in Grand Teton holds a special place in my heart. There’s not a place in the world where mountains so starkly jut our from a flat plateau, and that’s not to mention the beautiful meadows, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife.
The best part is, Grand Teton has something for anyone. Hiking through this park is not solely reserved for advanced hikers. Beginners can enjoy incredible alpine lake walks while advanced hikers have limitless, strenuous terrain to explore.
In this blog we’re breaking down the best hikes in magnificent Grand Teton N.P. so you can find your next hike to tackle this summer!
The best easy hike is Colter Bay Lakeshore trail but the best strenuous hike is no doubt the Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop!
Yes, permits are required for all overnight stays in the national park backcountry. You can obtain these online in advance for 2022 starting January 5th or get a walk-in permit in-person the day before your trip.
July and August have the best weather but the most crowds. September is an amazing time to visit for hiking and if you only want easier hikes, early June is stunning because there’s still snow on mountain peaks.
If you want to escape the crowds and experience incredible views check out hikes from the west side like Fred’s Mountain and Alaska Basin.
Best Time To Hike Grand Teton National Park
Many trails can be hiked by the beginning of June but the higher elevation, strenuous trails usually take until mid-July for the snow to melt off. If you don’t care about the more strenuous hikes, this can be a beautiful time to visit because there’s still snow on the mountains.
July and August provide the best weather but also the biggest crowds. Of course, crowds don’t matter much on the trail, only when it comes to accommodations and permitting.
Personally, I find September and even early October to be the best time in the Tetons due to generally good weather, a bit more solitude, snow-free conditions, and there’s a better chance of getting a backpacking permit.
Best Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
10 | String Lake Loop
Distance: 4.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300′
Trailhead: String Lake Trailhead
Given the ease of this 4-mile stroll, it’s absolutely incredible the views you get of the Grand Teton. String lake is small lake with many outlets. As the trail goes around the lake’s edge, it makes for a variety of spectacular views of not just the Grand Teton, but also Moran other smaller jagged peaks.
This is a truly rewarding hike for beginner and advanced hikers alike!
Are you an advanced hiker? Be sure to combine this hike with the Paintbrush Canyon Loop below.
Bound for Mount Rushmore N.P.? Don’t miss our Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore Road Trip!
9 | Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail
Distance: 2.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 90’
Trailhead: Colter Bay Visitor Center
The Colter Bay Lakeshore area is a surprisingly stunning walk accessed just north of the Colter Bay Visitor Center. The hike takes you around a small peninsula that juts out into Jackson Lake. The angle makes you feel as though you are right beneath Mount Moran, making a great place to stop and enjoy the views.
Pro tip: We love that when you camp at Colter Bay Campground, you can wake up and do this hike at sunrise for incredible Teton views.
Headed to Glacier after Grand Teton? Check out our blog Grand Teton to Glacier National Park Road Trip
8 | Fred’s Mountain
Distance: 3 miles each way
Elevation Gain: 1920 feet
Trailhead: Grand Targhee Resort
Though not technically within Grand Teton National Park, no Best Hikes in the Tetons blog is complete without mention of Fred’s Mountain. Fred’s Mountain is located on the western Idaho side of the Teton range, in Teton National Forest.
This hike brings you to the summit of Grand Targhee Resort and gives you stunning views of the backside of the Tetons.
Though it’s a fairly steep hike up, if you’re looking to make the hike easier, you can opt to ride the ski lift down for free, making it only a 3-mile hike.
7 | Jenny Lake Trail
Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 600′
Trailhead: Jenny Lake Visitor Center
If you’re looking for a hike that isn’t super easy but isn’t super long or strenuous either, Jenny Lake is the trail for you. This trail traverses the circumference of Jenny Lake, which is located right at the base of Grand Teton mountain group.
Jenny Lake is a beautiful, deep blue lake that during the morning and evening hours, provides amazing mountain reflections. The trail also takes you past Hidden Falls and Observation Point, which are beautiful, but are often crazy crowded (you’ve been warned).
If you’re willing to hike just a bit further, continue onto Cascade Canyon which gives you far greater reward!
6 | The Forks of Cascade Canyon
Distance: 13 miles roundtrip (or 10 if you ferry both ways)
Elevation Gain: 1100′
Trailhead: Jenny Lake Visitor Center
While viewing the Tetons from afar is still wonderful, there’s something magical about being immersed in these mountains. Cascade Canyon allows you to immerse yourself in Grand Teton National Park without needing any advanced hiking fitness.
Cascade brings you up along Jenny Lake trail to start with and continues up between the Grand Teton on the left, and Mt St John on the right. The hike brings you through beautiful meadows and you may even spot moose grazing in the forest.
Don’t let the length of the hike deter you. The trail is very moderate and has only one big stretch of uphill hiking. Aside from that, it’s practically flat.
The usual turn around point is at the signposted trail fork, giving the hike its name. This makes for quite a long 13 mile hike for some. Those who need a shorter hike can choose to ferry across Jenny Lake at the start/end making it only 10 miles roundtrip. Strong hikers can also choose to extend the hike to Solitude Lake (13.7 miles roundtrip) or even better, turn it into the Paintbrush Canyon Loop (19 miles roundtrip).
Related: 12 Best Hikes in Wyoming
Best Strenuous Hikes in Grand Teton
Continuing on with our Best Hikes in Grand Teton National Park blog, the next top 4 hikes enter the strenuous arena. while the other hikes listed on this blog are great, it’s a worthy endeavor for advanced hiker to tackle these fantastic trails. The difficulty is exponentially higher but so are the rewards!
5 | Alaska Basin
Distance: 15 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,100 feet
Trailhead: Teton Canyon Trailhead
Much like Fred’s Mountain, Alaska Basin is another under-the-radar hike in Grand Teton National Park that is by far one of the best in park! Many people don’t know about this hike because it’s accessed from the Idaho side of the Tetons and it’s not well traveled.
Though unpopular, the views on this trail are breathtaking as the hike brings you up to a stunning alpine plateau (P.S. It intersects the Teton Crest Trail).
While we haven’t done this hike ourself (yet), we saw the basin from above when climbing the Middle Teton and based on what we saw, hiking Alaska Basin is no doubt a spectacular experience.
Do note that this trek requires some route finding abilities and bushwhacking during the early season.
4 | Teton Crest Trail
Difficulty: Strenuous to Very Strenuous
Distance: 25.7 miles (point-to-point)
Elevation Gain: 3,800 feet
Trailhead: Rendezvous Mountain Summit/Trailhead
The Teton Crest Trail is surely the most esteemed hike in Grand Teton National Park. Beginning at an elevation of 10,000 feet, the hike’s alpine terrain will leave you is a constant state of wonder as you traverse the Teton plateau.
Though not as strenuous as some mountain treks in the range, the Teton Crest Trail is endurance feat like no other…that is if you attempt to do it in 1 day.
Why would anyone hike it in 1 day? Two reasons: 1) Overnight permits are hard to get, and 2) It’s sort of badass status to trail run/hike this entire thing in a day (and who doesn’t love a good challenge).
Now, this is a very popular backpacking route and when done over the course of 1-3 nights, the difficulty is very reasonable. The REAL difficulty is obtaining a hard-to-get overnight backpacking permit (click here to learn more).
Whether you decide to brave the 25 mile trail run/hike or seek a backpacking permit, this hike surely will not disappoint.
Traveling through Wyoming? Don’t miss our Ultimate Wyoming Road Trip: From Tetons to Bighorns!
3 | Middle Teton via The Southwest Couloir*
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Distance: 13 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 6,000 feet
Trailhead: Lupine Meadows Trailhead
This hike is spectacular and one of the best in all of Wyoming! If weren’t for the extreme difficulty, it would be the number one hike in the Tetons.
*Note: This is technically considered a climbers route. Do not attempt this hike unless you have backcountry travel/navigation skills and sufficient class 3 climbing experience.
This isn’t a hike for the feint of heart. In fact, the route involves strenuous off-trail travel, Class 3 scrambling, a pre-dawn start, and 6,000 feet of elevation gain! But the reward of a bird’s eye view of the Tetons plus siting right across from the jagged Grand Teton is an incomparable feeling.
Think you have what it takes to trek the Middle Teton? Click here and read our guide to hiking the Middle Teton for more info.
2 | Delta Lake
Distance: 8.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
Trailhead: Lupine Meadows Trailhead
Delta Lake is probably one of my favorite hikes of all time! Though steep and strenuous, it’s not too long to reach this alpine paradise. The vivid turquoise waters that sit beneath a sheer mountain cirque makes this a view I’ll never get sick of.
Go for a swim, a paddle, or a hang a hammock. But whatever you do, be sure to soak in the views because it doesn’t get much better than this!
This trail does contain some route-finding, boulder hopping, and scrambling so make sure you have experience with these things before tackling this hike.
Related: Best Day Hikes in the World
1 | Paintbrush Divide & Cascade Canyon
Distance: 19 miles roundtrip (as a loop)
Elevation Gain: 4,200 feet
Trailhead: String Lake Trailhead
Paintbrush Canyon is no doubt the best non-technical hike in Grand Teton National Park! Bringing you to the top of Paintbrush Divide, you’re really immersed in the alpine mountains. As you descend from the Divide, the hike gets even more beautiful with views of alpine lakes, alpine, meadows and The Grand towering above you.
This hike is best known as a backpacking trip however it’s not too difficult to make it a day hike. The benefit of day hiking is that you don’t need to obtain a permit which can be difficult to come by in the peak of summer. Of course, the benefit of backpacking is that you get to spend more time enjoying the alpine meadows and views of The Grand Teton.
How To Get a Grand Teton Nation Park Backpacking Permit
Backpacking in Grand Teton is an amazing experience. You get to take your time on the trail and enjoy stunning scenic camping spots. Due to popularity, snagging a backpacking permit in the peak of summer is not always easy. So here are some things to know about getting a permit in the national park.
- Permits are required for all overnight stays in the national park backcountry
- One-third of permits for each camping zone are released in an advance reservation system
- Two-thirds of permits for each camping zone are saved for first-come first-serve. These permits are obtained in-person in Grand Teton National Park the day before your intended trip.
Making an Advance Reservation
Advance reservations open 2022 season on January 5 at 8:00 a.m. Mountain Time. This means you need your preferred backpacking route planned so you know WHAT CAMPING ZONE to reserve and WHEN to reserve it.
Permits for peak dates in July and August will sell out within hours of being released so if these are dates that you’re seeking, be ready to reserve right when they’re realesed.
To reserve the permit, click here and visit recreation.gov. Be sure to login to your account or create a new account before permits go on sale.
There is a $45 non-refundable processing fee charged for each trip upon completion of your reservation.
First-Come First-Serve Permits
First-come first-serve permits are obtained in-person in Grand Teton National Park one day before your intended trip. Of course, in peak summer these are hard to obtain.
You can visit one of three places in the National Park to try and get a walk-in permit:
- Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center
- Colter Bay Visitor Center
- Jenny Lake Ranger Station
Note: All climbing permits and all Garnet Canyon overnight permits must be obtained at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.
There is a $35 fee for a walk-in backcountry permit.
Best of luck in obtaining a permit!
Visiting The Tetons? Be sure to check out our other blogs!
- Wyoming Road Trip: Big Horn Mountains to Grand Teton National Park
- How to Hike the Middle Teton via The Southwest Couloir
- Grand Teton to Yellowstone To Glacier National Park Road Trip
- 10 Things To Do on a Grand Teton to Glacier Road Trip
- 12 Best Hikes in Wyoming
- 13 Best Hikes in Idaho
- Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore National Park Road Trip
- Climbers Guide to Lander, Wyoming
- Climbers Guide to Tensleep, Wyoming
That wraps up our guide to the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park! Whatever hike you choose, you are guaranteed to be blown away by this incredible Wyoming mountain range!
Got questions about the hikes? Did I miss your favorite hike? Let me know in the comments below!
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