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Ask Me: Hiking Across Grand Teton National Park in a Day

Ask Me: Hiking Across Grand Teton National Park in a Day

Hi Michael!

How are you? I have a quick question. Jerry and I always do a long dayhike for our anniversary. This year is our 24th, so we’re looking for a 24- to 26-mile epic dayhike and we want to do the Teton Crest Trail. But we can’t swing the entire 40-miler this year. We heard that there’s a 25-mile route that is epic in itself, from Death Canyon to Static Peak Divide to Cascade Canyon.

Where do we start and end? I read your great blog post on the entire hike, but curious about the 25-mile section.

A backpacker in the South Fork Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park.
A backpacker in the South Fork Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park.

Thanks!

Shelli
Lander, WY

Hey Shelli,

Twenty-four years, wow. Congrats. So awesome that you two go on huge dayhikes together to celebrate. And the second half of summer is an ideal time for hiking in the Tetons.

Start at Death Canyon Trailhead, ascend to Static Peak Divide, cross Alaska Basin, then follow the Teton Crest Trail past Sunset Lake, over Hurricane Pass into South Fork Cascade Canyon, and finish at the boat ramp on Jenny Lake, at the bottom of Cascade Canyon. If you miss the last boat, it’s a long two-plus miles around Jenny Lake.

It’s a big hump from Death Canyon to Static Peak Divide, more than 4,000 vertical feet, so try to hit it early, in cooler temps and some shade. Static Peak has a short spur trail to a very worthwhile summit view at 11,303 feet.


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It’s just over 22 miles from Death Canyon Trailhead over Static Peak Divide to Cascade Canyon, so maybe not quite as far as you were planning. But I’ve hiked that entire section and it is awesome. The alpine stretch of trail from Static Peak Divide to Alaska Basin feels really remote and wild, and you don’t see many people there, if any.

From Alaska Basin to Hurricane Pass, you cross an undulating, alpine plateau with sweeping 360-degree views of the mountains. The South Fork of Cascade Canyon is beautiful, especially the upper part of it, following the spur trail leading south to Avalanche Divide—a really nice section. It adds three miles round-trip to your day, but that would put you right around your distance goal, at 25 miles.

Dying to backpack in the Tetons? See my e-guides to the Teton Crest Trail and
the best short backpacking trip there.

 

Passing the Schoolroom Glacier in upper South Fork Cascade Canyon.
Passing the Schoolroom Glacier in upper South Fork Cascade Canyon.

I’ll suggest a variation on this route for you guys that’s slightly more direct, but more rugged, too, and I think more scenic: Well beyond (north of) Static Peak, hiking north toward Alaska Basin but before you reach it, you’ll see (if it hasn’t disappeared) an unmarked but obvious trail (it was obvious when I hiked it some years ago) branching right and going uphill. It leads to a notch at the south end of The Wall (that name is marked on maps) where you can easily cross over into the head of Avalanche Canyon. It’s actually a trail the park decommissioned decades ago, but still partly exists on the ground.

The spur trail from South Fork of Cascade up to Avalanche Divide is the continuation of that same trail, and the only piece of it still in maintained condition. The park gave up trying to maintain the section of trail across the head of Avalanche Canyon, and there’s no trace of it remaining on Avalanche Canyon; but it’s reasonable cross-country hiking after you make an initial, steep and loose descent of scree—not too bad for anyone with experience on steep scree. From Snowdrift Lake to Avalanche Divide is low angle, easy, and quite obvious. Taking this route misses much of Alaska Basin and Hurricane Pass, but I think it’s worth the trade-off for the greater sense of adventure and the scenery. However, it would be slower and much rougher. If you’s prefer a cruiser hike, stick with the maintained trails on the route I described above.

I can help you plan this or any other trip you read about at my blog. Find out more here.

 

Backpackers above Sunset Lake on the Teton Crest Trail.
Backpackers above Sunset Lake on the Teton Crest Trail.

I have also dayhiked up Avalanche Canyon, over Avalanche Divide, and down Cascade Canyon to Jenny Lake, about 20 miles. But Avalanche only has a rough user trail, and only through part of it, so it’s steep and hard. See a description of that hike in my story “8 Great, Big Dayhikes in the Tetons.”

The photo in my “8 Pro Tips For Preventing Blisters When Hiking” shows my friend David’s painful heels at the end of that hike.

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Hikers in South Fork Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park.
Shelli’s group in South Fork Cascade Canyon.

Either route I described above is excellent. Have fun.

See all of my stories about Grand Teton National Park, including “American Classic: The Teton Crest Trail.”

—Michael Lanza

 

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About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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