Garnet Canyon

Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming covers the major peaks in the Teton Mountain Range just south of Yellowstone National Park. This mountainous area is popular with hikers, but the difficulty of many of the hiking trails demands a certain amounts of dedication, skill and endurance. Hiking through the Garnet Canyon to the base of the Grand Teton is no different. Grand Teton Mountain is the tallest peak in the mountain range at 13,775 feet and conquering it is a task. The hike leads up to the base of the mountain, but climbing it requires extensive climbing experience. Hikers will need gear and a good bit of skill to climb the 400 feet side summit. The hike is a difficult one, so only hikers in top fitness and have experience with alpine hiking should attempt it.

Quick Stats:

Trail Length: 5.4 miles City/State:   Jackson, Wyoming Bikes Allowed: No
Elevation: 5,650 Feet (lowest)
11,650 Feet (highest)
County:   Teton Dogs Allowed: Yes


Getting There: Getting to the beginning of this trail isn't difficult due to the limited roads running through the area. Off of Route 26, visitors should look for signs to turn off onto Teton Park Road that runs through the park area. From there, look for Lupine Meadow Road and follow it straight to where it dead ends. There is a park lot right near where the trail begins.

The Hike: The hike formally begins at the Lupine Meadows trail marker. The beginning of the trail belittles that difficulty of the rest of the hike by being relatively flat and easy going as it traces along the Glacier Creek. However, soon in begins to rise into the towering foothills and crosses over Glacier Gulch. Visitors should enjoy the gently rising trail through the foothills as well as the shade of the trees since there will be less of both as the trail goes on.

Eventually hikers will come to one of their first junctions where the trail splits off. Hikers should keep to the right as the trail on the left leads to Bradley Lake. It easy for hikers to not pay attention and accidentally take the Bradley Lake trail, which is a long way out of the way and will likely add another few hours onto the estimated hiking time. This also marks where the trail begins to do switchbacks as it climbs higher into the mountain range. For those who were interested in seeing Bradley Lake but didn't take the detour, the trail gives excellent views of both Bradley and Taggart lakes. During the proper months along this section of the trail, hikers can spot beautiful wildflowers to add a little brightness to the area and break up the green foliage and grey snow-capped mountains.

Grand Teton

After the switchbacks have finally let up, another trail junction appears. The right path will lead to Surprise Lake and Amphitheater Lake, both equally intriguing in their names and beautiful, but both are a long side trip, so visitors will want to keep to the left. The trail flattens out for awhile as hikers enter Garnet Canyon, so allow your legs to enjoy the lack of uphills. Within the shade of the canyon is a fine place to stop for lunch or a rest. A stream runs through the canyon area so it is also a good place to cool those hot, sore feet as there is still a long and difficult way to go along the hike. Considering that the hard part is still ahead, weary hikers may want to consider turning back if they are too tired.

After taking a break and continuing through the canyon, visitors should take note of the rocks they are crossing over and those that surround them. While hikers are unlikely to see a garnet, the rocks come in all different colors with the occasional crystal peaking through. As hikers emerge from the canyon, on a clear day they can see the Lower Saddle that connects the Grand Teton and the nearby Middle Teton. As hikers can plainly see, it is a steep climb up the Lower Saddle for the hike's final destination. This steep climb will take hikers over both loose rocks and big boulders. The route looks fairly straight up, but it is actually full of small switchbacks to improve stability. It's likely that hikers will need a rest or two, so plop down on one of the switchbacks and enjoy the view of the canyon below.

After the hard climbing, hikers are rewarded with their destination, striding the top of the Lower Saddle. There is a climbers "cabin" which is actually pretty much a tent and an outdoor toilet for those that want to stay the night, but it will be nothing short of horribly uncomfortable. However, it's not the accommodations that most hikers are interested in, it's the sights. Hikers are sitting in between the Grand Teton and its lesser neighbor the Middle Teton, surrounded pretty much on all sides by these huge mountains. Hikers who have excess energy or time can try scrambling up the sides of the Grand Teton, but they are unlikely to get very far without climbing gear and to try anyway would be dangerous.

This is not a loop trail, so the way back down is the same trail as it was back up. A lot of hikers have a tendency to ignore the sights that are behind them as they press forward, so taking the hike in reverse is an opportunity to see what they may have missed. However, this is a full day hike, so some of the later stretches may end up being in the dark for hikers that may have taken a few long breaks. So hikers should pack a flashlight just in case and even then, they should be careful. Regardless, after a hard day of travelling through foothills, over rocks, up through the mountains and climbing atop the saddle, hikers are sure to feel the rewarding burn in their legs as they make it back to the parking lot below.

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