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Ask Me: Hiking Across Grand Teton National Park in a Day

Posted On June 8, 2017 at 3:01 am by / Comments Off on Ask Me: Hiking Across Grand Teton National Park in a Day

Backpackers on the Teton Crest Trail on Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.

Backpackers on the Teton Crest Trail on Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.

Hi Michael!

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.

Thanks!

Shelli
Lander, WY

A backpacker in the South Fork Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park.

A backpacker in the South Fork Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park.

Hey Shelli,

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, 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. I don’t know the exact distance from Death Canyon Trailhead over Static Peak Divide to Cascade Canyon, 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, but that adds a few miles round-trip to your day.

 

Passing the Schoolroom Glacier in upper South Fork Cascade Canyon.

Passing the Schoolroom Glacier in upper South Fork Cascade Canyon.

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, 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.

 

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to get email updates about new stories and gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box in the left sidebar, at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Backpackers above Sunset Lake on the Teton Crest Trail.

Backpackers above Sunset Lake on the Teton Crest Trail.

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.

Hikers in South Fork Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park.

Shelli’s group in South Fork Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park.

The photo in my “7 Pro Tips For Avoiding Blisters When Hiking” shows my friend’s feet at the end of that hike.

Either route I described above is excellent. Have fun. See all of my stories about Grand Teton National Park, including “American Classic: The Teton Crest Trail.”

Michael

NOTE: Shelli later posted a story and photos about their 24-mile Tetons dayhike at her blog, havemediawilltravel.com.

 

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