Ask Me: Can You Suggest a Backpacking Trip in the Tetons That Won’t Be Hard to Get a Permit For?
I enjoy your website—lots of good stuff on there. I’m planning on doing the Teton Crest Trail from the tram [at Jackson Hole Resort on Rendezvous Mountain] to Cascade Canyon. I had this trip planned last year for the first week in September and we had to cancel. We were going to camp at Marion lake, Death Canyon Shelf, and South Fork Cascade Canyon. So this year all of the permits are gone. I know I could possibly get this permit first-come [up to one day in advance at the park]. For a backup plan, I was thinking of camping outside the park. Maybe the first night just north of Marion Lake and one or two night in Alaska Basin. What are your thoughts on this, and have you ever camped outside the park on the Teton Crest Trail?
Thanks. I look forward to hearing your input.
(Originally a message via facebook.com/TheBigOutside)
That’s a great, proposed hike. You could very well get this permit first-come, especially if you go late summer or after Labor Day, and if you show up very early (get in line at least an hour before they open) the day before you want to start the trip. But as a backup plan, you could find a spot well off the trail near Spearhead Peak (you’d have to carry water from Marion Lake), which is on an amazing high plateau; and then Alaska Basin, which is beautiful.
Alaska would be a pretty short day from Spearhead area, only 5 miles or less, but here’s a suggestion, if you don’t mind one steep, off-trail descent: From Alaska Basin, hike the trail toward Static Peak Divide. (If you have time, make the out-and-back side trip to the summit of Static Peak, with an awesome view of the mountains and Jackson Hole.) Where the Alaska Basin trail forks, with the right fork going to Static Peak, take the left fork looping back toward Sunset Lake (where I think camping may be prohibited). Before long—and well before Sunset Lake—you will reach an unmarked trail junction; the trail bearing left goes to Sunset, but the trail forking right heads to a notch in the cliff band labeled The Wall on the map, immediately northwest of Veiled Peak.
I hiked this trail about 10 years ago, but I bet it’s still quite visible. It was abandoned by the park decades ago but is still intact up to that notch, where it disappears. Then you will have to make a steep, off-trail descent on talus or snow into Avalanche Canyon. There are fantastic campsites at the east end of Snowdrift Lake. You should have no trouble getting a permit for there, few people go. From Snowdrift, it’s an easy off-trail hike up to Avalanche Divide, the 10,000-foot pass leading into South Fork Cascade Canyon, where that abandoned trail resumes; this section leading down into the South Fork is shown on park maps. You would have about a 10-mile downhill hike that day to Jenny Lake, but you might be able to get a permit for a night in South Fork or North Fork Cascade, either of them beautiful.
Short of that plan, a night in Alaska Basin would be very nice. And if you don’t like the idea of the off-trail section, hike over Static Peak Divide and down into Death Canyon. That’s a stellar section of trail that few hikers explore.
I’ll get map out this afternoon and check that out. Thanks.
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