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1.      The Grand Teton Crest Trail

Brief Overview

Trail Distance: 35.7 Miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Elevation: 3700 – 4000 Feet

Hike Review

When we consider the best hikes in Grand Teton, the one trail that stands out above the rest is the iconic Grand Teton Crest Trail. It’s one of the most well-known hiking trails not just in Grand Teton, but in the entire country. It’s a long and arduous hike that demands both time and energy from participants, but the views and sights are unmatched and unparalleled.

The whole backpacking trip takes at least 3 – 5 days and ends at the parking area of String Lake.

Hikers can arrive at the trailhead through one of several options. The most widely-taken route is the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram, which transports passengers up the top of Rendezvous Mountain. From there, you descend the South Fork trail, which joins the Grand Teton Crest Trail. You can also skip the Jackson Hole shuttle and start hiking from the Ski Lake trailhead. This route will add an additional 10 miles or so before arrival.

From the top of Rendezvous Mountain, you’ll see amazing views of nearby peaks like Mount Wister, Grand Teton, South Teton, and Middle Teton. Beyond the Death Canyon Shelf, you’ll also see Mount Bannon and Fossil Mountain. At about 4 miles of descent, you’ll find a green meadow with beautiful trees grouped together. Here you’ll find a junction that connects the Teton trail. Take the right turn to start climbing up the steep trail. About 6.5 miles into the ascent, you’ll reach Marion Lake. There’s a bench overlooking the lake and the granite towers to the west. On the east side, there’s a backcountry camping site for those who want to camp in between hikes.

The next stop is the Alaska Basin, which you’ll find around 7.7 miles into the hike. Follow the trail on the east shore of the beautiful Marion Lake as it climbs up the saddle above the Continental Divide. The delightful meadows you pass through will have Spearhead Peak overlooking the eastern plateau. Take the South Fork Cascade trail when you reach the Basin Lakes area. It should lead you shortly to the Alaska Basin – one of the reasons why this trail is among the best hikes in Grand Teton. It’s a great place to camp, but make sure you don’t set up camp too close to the lakes.

From here, move on to Lake Solitude by following the Teton Crest Trail upwards. On the way up, you’ll cross Sunset Lake, which is also a great place to get some rest in between. Continue going up through the moderately steep trail till you reach Hurricane Pass, where you can see Cascade Pass and Death Canyon further away. Start your descent through the boulder fields as you go further down. Once you reach the wooden bridge, circle around the granite hills, and you should reach Lake Solitude.

From Lake Solitude, take the ascending trail heading in the direction of Paintbrush Divide. As you move further up, turn back to see fantastic views of Grand Teton, Mount Owen, the Middle and South Teton, and of course, Lake Solitude. As you cross the Paintbrush Divide, you should see Rockchuck Mountain and Mount St. John at a distance. Start descending from here, and you should soon reach a point where you can see Mount Moran and Thor Peak at a distance. After about a mile of further hiking, you’ll reach Holly Lake. This lake has a surrounding meadow that is ideal for camping. After a few more miles of descent, you’ll reach the String Lake Loop.

From String Lake Loop, you can take the Leigh Lake trailhead and head towards the parking area where you first started. This will complete your journey through one of the best Grand Teton National Park hikes. It’s a long route, but the peaks, meadows, lakes, and natural structures will leave you with memories to last a few lifetimes.

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2.      Lakeshore Trail

Since the Grand Teton Crest Trail is a tough hike, we want to balance out your options with some easy Grand Teton hikes. Besides the Crest trail, a few of the other best hikes in Grand Teton are much easier, while still providing unparalleled sight-seeing opportunities. The Lakeshore trail is one that gives you both ease of access as well as unforgettable natural views.

Brief Overview

Trail distance: 2.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation: 149 Feet

Hike Review

The trailhead for Lakeshore is, conveniently, the Colter Bay Visitor Center. Park your car at the designated spots within the center and take the route heading right to begin the hike. The route is paved and leveled, so you shouldn’t break a sweat as you start this trail. This route will circle the Colter Bay Marina’s northern edge.

The Colter Bay region is famous for being a natural home to a host of wildlife. You’ll find animals such as moose, elk, beavers, river otters, blue heron, osprey, trumpeter swans, deer, muskrats, martens, hares, and sandhill cranes. It’s no surprise that Lakeshore’s rich biodiversity makes it one of the best hikes in Grand Teton.

At about 0.25 miles into the Lakeshore trail, you’ll find a sign that prohibits bicycles and motorized vehicles from going further. This is where the paved road stops, and the real hiking begins. At 0.4 miles, you’ll reach another junction that separates the inner and outer loops. Take the left route here to continue traversing the outer circle of the trail.

At the second junction, you’ll reach a natural bridge between the two landmasses in the bay. Take this causeway to the other side and enter the outer loop junction. About a mile into this outer loop trail, you’ll find a rocky beach that borders the bay with an open space that gives a great view of Teewinot Mountain, Mt. Moran, Grand Teton, and Ranger Peak.

 The trail will continue on level ground through rich conifer forests where you may see more wildlife. About 1.6 miles into this trail, you’ll reach the last part of the outer loop. At the junction, retake the causeway to arrive at the inner loop trail. The internal trail will stick closely to the shoreline, giving you a fantastic panoramic view of the lake and marine birds that flock in this region.

As you reach the final junction, take the right route this time to circle back to the trailhead, where you can head over to the visitor center again.

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3.      Heron Pond-Swan Lake Loop

Brief Overview

Trail distance: 3.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation: 116 Feet

Hike Review

The Heron Pond-Swan Lake Trail is another popular choice among the best hikes in Grand Teton. It’s also easy to traverse, which makes it a family-friendly affair. When you think of easy Grand Teton easy, the loop trail of Heron Pond and Swan Lake is a first-choice for most hikers.

The trail starts some distance away from the parking area. A paved road leads to the boat landing zone on the shore, where you’ll find a sign that marks the trailhead. One of the first mountain-sights you see after a while is the imposing Mt. Moran, as well as the Rockchuck Peak on the western shore.

At 0.45 miles into the hike, you’ll reach a split that separates the Heron Pond and the Swan Lake routes. Since the trail is a complete loop, it doesn’t matter which direction you take. It’s just a matter of which lake you want to see first because you’ll end up on this split at the end of either route. For our description, we’ve chosen to take the right course where you’ll first see Heron Pond.

From this point, hike ahead till you find a dirt footpath in the clearing. Follow this footpath as it traces the outline of a coastal inlet in the Colter Bay area. Move ahead till you reach a small junction that offers a fork. Take the right route once again to head towards Heron Pond.

About 1 mile into the trail, you’ll reach the Jackson Lake Overlook. You’ll find a perch that gives hikers a great view of the surrounding region and the Grand Tetons. A short distance from this point lies Heron Pond. Heron Pond is a gorgeous pond that is covered with water lilies that attract a lot of birds and wildlife. It’s not uncommon to see moose or beavers around the pond.

Once you cross Heron Pond, you’ll reach Hermitage point. Take a hard left in this junction. About 1.8 miles into the hike, you’ll arrive at Swan Lake. This lake is famous for the trumpeter swans it attracts. Swan Lake makes this trail one of the best hikes in Grand Teton for bird-watching. With the high growth of water lilies, it looks more like a marsh than a lake. Once you finish viewing this area, follow the trail further till you reach the split point once again.

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4.      Signal Mountain

Brief Overview

Trail distance: 6.8 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

Elevation: 921 Feet

Hike Review

If you’re looking only for easy Grand Teton hikes, you may miss out on some of the best hikes in Grand Teton. The Signal Mountain trail is one such option. Although it’s not as easy as the other lake trails, it offers an unreal hiking experience in terms of excitement and beauty.

The trail begins at the Signal Mountain Lodge, which is located about 2.9 miles below the Jackson Lake Junction. If you’re coming from the south, head north of Moose Junction and drive for about 17 Miles. You’ll find the trailhead opposite to the entrance of the lodge.

 You’ll start by crossing the Teton Park Road and embarking on the considerably steep climb to the Signal Mountain Road. You’ll soon reach a junction that marks the start of the interior loop of the trail. Take the right fork here so that you’ll come back down on the left.

About 3.6 miles up the trail, you’ll reach the Jackson Point Overlook. Here, you’ll have a superb view of the Gros Ventre Mountains, as well as Jackson Lake and the Grand Tetons. You might also catch a glimpse of majestic birds of prey that are known to glide at this elevation.

On your way down, the trail will trace the southern loop where you’ll see different varieties of animals and wildlife. As you come down to the northern circuit, the forest will clear out to give way to a beautiful meadow that surrounds the trail till you reach the fork junction once again.

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5.      Two Ocean Lake Loop

Brief Overview

Trail Distance: 6.9 miles

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Elevation: 154 Feet

Hike Review

The starting point for this trail is the Two Oceans Lake Trailhead, which is about 2 miles along the Two Oceans Road. It’s about a mile from Moran Junction if you take the Pacific Creek Road.

At the fork for the main loop, you can start in either direction. However, we recommend proceeding from the right. This way, you’ll get a slightly better view of the landscapes, especially the Tetons, if you move towards the west instead of coming from it.

One of the first things you’ll see is the wide-open space that you reach after crossing the picnic area. This part is also known to have bears lurking about. Rangers advise carrying bear spray, and avoid hiking alone. It should, however, be comforting to know that bear attacks seldom happen. Also, from the handful of cases reported since 1994-95, none have been fatal cases.

Around 2 – 2.8 miles in, you’ll see great views of the Cathedral Group as you approach the northern shore of the lake. You’ll also stand a chance of seeing a lot of wildlife as you trace your way around the lake. The Grand View Point is accessible if you take a small side trip away from the trail. It’s an extra one mile with 630 feet of elevation, but the view up there is simply breathtaking.

After you cross a ridge covered with huckleberries, the descent begins. The trail finally starts to move slightly away from the lake as you decline down. From this point, you’ll mostly be crossing denser forests and trees. You may also see more moose, elk, and deer roaming about in these areas.

At about 4.8 miles down, you’ll come to a wide-open meadow that allows you to see the lake in its entirety. Few other spots give you a panoramic view of the lake, so cherish this view before moving on. Once you cross the meadow, you can move on for another couple of miles before reaching the fork at the trailhead.

Download the Two Ocean Lake Loop Trail Map

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Conclusion

There are so many amazing hikes in Grand Teton National Park. From the monster Teton Crest Trail to an easier hike around Colter Bay, there are great hikes for every type of adventurer. Whether you want to spend a day or a month there, following this list will help you to get acquainted with Grand Teton National Park and the wildlife and hiking available there.

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