Part of what makes the Teton Range so visually arresting—the youngest mountains in the Rockies soar skyward 7,000 feet without so much as a foothill to temper their rise—is what makes them challenging to hike. Trails here are often steep, but know that the effort is worth it for the views, which most likely include some resident wildlife—moose, elk, black bears—as well as craggy, snow-capped peaks. Also, not all of the park’s trails are out to punish you—there are mellow-ish ones, too. If you want the knowledge of a pro, The Hole Hiking Experience has been offering naturalist-lead hiking excursions for 25 years. And, yes they lead trips year-round. (Between December and March, expect to be hiking with snowshoes or cross county skis on your feet.) The park has hundreds of miles of trails, but these five represent some of the best ones do-able in a single day and span a range of difficulty.
Phelps Lake Overlook
The drive down the last mile of the dirt road to the Death Canyon trailhead is the most difficult part of this 1.7-mile hike. The trail gently climbs three hundred feet as it winds through lodge pole pine forest until reaching an opening where the trees part to reveal the glimmering, glacial-fed Phelps Lake hundreds of feet below.
Tucked into a ring of sheer cliffs at the back of the North Fork of Cascade Canyon, which lives up to its name with waterfalls of various sizes erupting from cliffs high on either side, Lake Solitude is an ambitious, but do-able, day hike. Cut three miles off—making it 16 instead of 19 miles—by taking the ferry across Jenny Lake at the start and finish.
Bradley and Taggart Lakes
When Grand Teton National Park was first founded in 1929, it included only the range’s major peaks and six lakes at their immediate feet. Neighboring Bradley and Taggart lakes are two of these six. Today, undulating trails take you to one (three-to five miles) or both (six miles).
Your end point is Holly Lake, a high alpine lake hanging into a cirque halfway up rugged Paintbrush Canyon. Your starting point is String Lake, less dramatic, but equally beautiful. Our recommendation is to make it to Holly and back before exploring String. The warmest lake in the park, there is no better way to end this 12-mile round-trip hike than by soaking your feet in String Lake.
Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve
This 1,100-acre preserve within the park was formerly the summer retreat of the Rockefeller family. It opened to the public in 2008 with an eight mile network of trails—some of the flattest in the park—to and around the shore of Phelps Lake. Post-hike, relax in the library of the Zen-ish preserve center, the first platinum-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building to be built in the NPS.