By Michael Lanza
As we hiked up the North Fork of Cascade Canyon on the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park, moments after the path emerged from the forest into a meadow strewn with boulders and still dappled with blooming wildflowers in late August, my friend David turned to look over his shoulder and blurted out, “Oh, wow, look at that view!” Behind us, the sheer north faces of the Grand Teton and Mount Owen towered a vertical mile above us, shooting straight up over the canyon like fireworks (photo above).
By that point on our trip, though, uncontrolled outbursts of awe were occurring several times a day. That’s what it’s like to backpack the Teton Crest Trail.
Three friends and I backpacked a 36-mile traverse of Grand Teton National Park, mostly on the Teton Crest Trail, in late August—in many ways, an ideal time to hike there. While I’ve backpacked the TCT several times now, it was the first time for all three of them.
Seeing the reactions of these friends—every one of them very experienced backpackers who’ve taken numerous trips with me—to the scenery along this classic trek, reaffirmed my opinion that few multi-day hikes offer so much grandeur almost every step of way like the Teton Crest Trail. But I’ll let the photos in this story make that case.
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I count the Teton Crest Trail unquestionably among the top 10 best backpacking trips in America, and two camping areas on it—where my friends and I camped on this most-recent trip—among my list of top 25 favorite backcountry campsites of all time (although, honestly, other spots where I’ve pitched a tent in this park would make almost anyone’s list). After more than 20 trips into the backcountry of the Tetons, I can’t get enough of these sharply serrated peaks and deep, cliff-flanked canyons, the alpine lakes and icy creeks, campsites with jaw-dropping views, or the explosion of wildflowers in summer.
And it’s still possible to get a permit to backpack in the park even if you didn’t apply for one in January, on the day that reservations opened (and disappeared very quickly): The park issues just one-third of available permits in advance, so two-thirds are available first-come, for walk-in backpackers, no more than one day before your trip begins. See “How to Get a Last-Minute, National Park Backcountry Permit” and “How to Backpack the Teton Crest Trail Without a Permit.”
I’ve helped many readers plan an unforgettable backpacking trip on the Teton Crest Trail.
Want my help with yours? Find out more here.
My downloadable e-guide “The Complete Guide to Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park” tells you all you need to know to plan and take this trip, from how to get a very popular backcountry permit to describing the various route options and pointing out the best places to camp, as well as how to prepare for this trip.
I feel so attached to these mountains that I made a point of taking my kids there as soon as they were both capable of a trip that rugged: When our daughter was six and her brother eight, we spent three days backpacking the nearly 20-mile Paintbrush Canyon-Cascade Canyon loop from the Leigh Lake Trailhead, an adventure that concluded with a close-up sighting of two bull moose in Cascade Canyon. Two summers later, we returned for a longer family backpacking trip on the Teton Crest Trail.
The photos below are from my most-recent backpacking trip on the Teton Crest Trail.
Dying to backpack in the Tetons? See my e-guides to the Teton Crest Trail and
the best short backpacking trip there.
See my feature story about my latest trip, “A Wonderful Obsession: Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail,” and all stories about backpacking the Teton Crest Trail, including “How to Get a Permit to Backpack the Teton Crest Trail,” “5 Reasons You Must Backpack the Teton Crest Trail,” and “The 5 Best Backpacking Trips in Grand Teton National Park.”
See also my popular “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”