Ask Me: Where Can I Backpack in the Tetons Without Needing a Permit?
Could you please recommend a four- to five-day backcountry trip in the Grand Teton Range that could include campsites located outside of the park (maybe the Jedediah Smith Wilderness area), so I would not need to get an overnight permit in the park? I do have a one-night permit for Paintbrush Canyon, so I was hoping to make that my last night for camping inside the park, then walk out to Jenny Lake on the last day. I was thinking the starting point could be around the top of Rendezvous Peak via the tramway? I have done day hikes in the Tetons, but never a backcountry trip, so I would appreciate your input. I’m going to be going the last week of August. I have basic skills with compass and map reading, so some off trail hiking is okay. I’m looking for solitude and will be solo hiking. Thank you for your time. Much appreciated!
[Originally posted as a comment at thebigoutside.com/ask-me]
Take a look at a map of Grand Teton National Park and you’ll see that you have limited options for camping outside the park and still reaching Paintbrush Canyon for your last night. You can start at the top of the Jackson Hole Ski Resort tram and hike down into Granite Canyon, but that’s inside the park; to get outside the park to camp, you’d have to hike a bit south on the Teton Crest Trail out of Granite Canyon, and I’m told that Moose Lake in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness is a nice spot to camp. Then you’d turn around the next day and hike north on the Teton Crest Trail to Alaska Basin, which is outside the park, to camp your second night.
From Alaska Basin, it would be a big day, over 13 miles with two passes (Hurricane Pass, which is easier, and Paintbrush Divide, which is a big climb), to reach Upper Paintbrush Canyon camping zone.
But it’s easier to get a first-come permit for camping in the southern areas of the park than it is for Paintbrush Canyon, which you already have. My suggestion: When you arrive at the park, go to the backcountry desk and try to add nights in the park to your existing permit for a night in Paintbrush. Death Canyon Shelf and South Fork Cascade Canyon offer some of the park’s best camping.
I have not backpacked much in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness (only the southern end of the Teton Crest Trail and a dayhike up Table Mountain from Teton Canyon on the west side). If you want to explore that area, you’ll see there are trails through it on the west side of the Tetons, but only a few spots where they link up with trails in the park. The vehicle shuttle is also much longer and more complicated (or expensive) if you start and finish at trailheads on the west and east sides of the Tetons instead of trailheads in the park (east side).
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