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.
At the end of August—in many ways, an ideal time to hike there—three friends and I backpacked a 36-mile traverse of Grand Teton National Park, mostly on the Teton Crest Trail. While I’ve backpacked it several times now, it was the first time all three of them had hiked the TCT.
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.
After at least 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.”
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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).
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’ve helped many readers plan an unforgettable backpacking trip on the Teton Crest Trail.
Want my help with yours? Find out more here.
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.”
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6 thoughts on “Photo Gallery: Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail”
You and I carry shared images in our heads. For instance, we both know that some of the photos you posted with this story were taken on, and below, the Death Canyon Shelf. Heading north, you would leave Marion Lake behind and approach Alaska Basin.
My Grand Teton memories are six decades earlier than yours though. I patrolled the Teton Crest Trail on horseback many years before there even was a Teton Crest Trail. As a new graduate (UW, English Lit) In 1959 I was the first (and next to last) seasonal to be posted for the summer at the Death Canyon Ranger Station. You’ve probably passed the cabin.
At the time, the Granite Canyon watershed had been incorporated into the park only recently. One of my tasks that summer was to find out how many visitors were using the south end of the park. On my first patrol into Granite Canyon, I saw only two people in three days. My busiest day in Death Canyon was 14 people, all in one party of backpackers. Most days I saw no one.
Your excellent and informative article on bear safety was what got me poking around your site. Sixty years ago the grizzlies were not yet retuning to the Tetons, and even black bears were not that common. One day when I was trying out a new saddle horse, a cinnamon bear surprised us both by crossing the trail 15 yards ahead. A curious yearling stuck his head in the cabin door once while I was eating lunch.
A dozen and a half stories from that summer are posted on my FB interest group, Don M. Ricks – Stories of Growing up in Old Wyoming. The key word searches “a robust man” and “Don saw a wolverine” will bring up two you’ll especially like.
Don, those are wonderful tales, thank you for sharing them. I just signed up for your Facebook page and I look forward to reading more of your tales. How fortunate and unique an experience you had growing up and exploring and working in the Tetons during that time period. We’ll never see the Teton Range the way you did.
Reading about your time on the Teton Crest Trail brought back great memories when I & 3 ftiends hiked it ten years ago. It was a wonderful experience that I would love to redo, but at 74 and not the best of health… My backpacking days are behind me. Thanks for the article and pictures. I’ll make a point to get back to the Tetons in the near future.
Thanks, Mick, glad you enjoyed it and I hope you do revisit the Tetons.
It’s gratifying to share those stories with others who know and love the area too.
Very true, Don.