Ask Me: Hiking Across Grand Teton National Park in a Day
How are you? I have a quick question. Jerry and I always do a long day hike 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.
Twenty-four years, wow. Congrats. So awesome that you two go on huge dayhikes together to celebrate.
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.
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, high plateau that’s entirely alpine, with sweeping 360-degree views of the mountains. The South Fork of Cascade Canyon is beautiful, especially the upper part of it, taking the spur trail leading south less than two miles to Avalanche Divide—a really nice section. It adds a few miles round-trip to your day, but that would put you right around your distance goal, at 25 miles.
Gear up right for a huge hike like this. See my reviews of the best hiking shoes and the 6 best daypacks.
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—but not too bad. From Snowdrift Lake to Avalanche Divide is low angle, easy, and above treeline. Taking this route misses much of Alaska Basin and Hurricane Pass, but I think it’s worth the tradeoff 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.
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A friend and I once 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. This Ask Me post describing eight big dayhikes in the Tetons includes that route.
Itching to backpack in the Tetons? See my e-guides to the Teton Crest Trail
and the best beginner-friendly backpacking trip there.
The photo in my “7 Pro Tips For Avoiding Blisters When Hiking” shows my friend’s feet at the end of that hike.
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NOTE: Shelli later posted a story and photos about their 24-mile Tetons dayhike at her blog, havemediawilltravel.com.