Teton Range Traverse

In early October, 2016, Greg “Malto” Gressel and I completed a traverse of Wyoming’s spectacular Teton mountain range. Beginning at the Phillips Pass Trailhead (#3001) on HWY 22 just outside of Jackson Hole, we continued north from the Tetons into Yellowstone National Park, eventually finishing our hike at the iconic Old Faithful geyser.

Looking towards the Death Canyon Shelf on the Teton Crest.

Details

Time: 3.5 days

Distance:  106 miles (171 km) approx.

Start: Phillips Pass Trailhead (Trail #3001)

Finish: Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park.

Transport:

  • Southern Terminus: Phillips Pass TH is nine miles from Jackson Hole. Taxis and shuttles are available from town.
  • Northern Terminus: We hitched from close to Old Faithful Lodge after checking out the Geyser basin and surrounding area. Except in the winter, there doesn’t appear to be any public transport to Old Faithful. A shuttle service is available all year round from Bozeman airport to West Yellowstone (31 miles from Old Faithful).

Season:

  • We did this hike in the early Fall. Not unexpectedly, we had a mixed run with the weather. Sun, rain, wind and snow. By going so late in the season, with the exception of one other hiker we met around Lake Solitude, we had the entire route to ourselves until the final descent into Old Faithful.

Final day, snowstorm and temps down to the high teens/low twenties (F).

Maps & Information:

  • Guidebooks: I personally haven’t seen this book, but for what it’s worth Hiking Grand Teton National Park (Falcon Guides) seems to get very positive reviews on Amazon.

Teton Crest Trail below Death Canyon Shelf. The name seemed appropriate considering the threatening storm that was riding up our #*!* for most of the afternoon.

Iceflow lake and Schoolroom glacier.

Route:

I remember hearing about a version of this route some years ago from Francis Tapon, who linked up the Tetons with the Continental Divide Trail during his yoyo hike of the latter in 2007. The notes below basically follow Frankie T’s northbound route up until Jackass Pass, and then take a more direct route into Yellowstone via South Fork TH in order to link up with the impressive Bechler Canyon.

  • Start – The Phillips Pass TH (#3001) is about nine miles on an occasionally busy paved road from Jackson Hole.
  • From the trailhead, ascend gradually to Phillips Pass and continue north on the Teton Crest trail.
  • Follow the TCT north past Marion Lake, Death Canyon Shelf, Alaska Basin and Hurricane Pass.

Alaska Basin

Death Canyon

Alpenglow in the Tetons.

Sunset over Hurricane Pass.

  • Descend to Cascade Canyon and head NNW at the junction to Lake Solitude.
  • Ascend X-Country in a NW direction from the west side of the lake. Upon topping out, you will head over a small rocky plateau.
  • Descend steeply to Leigh Canyon Creek where there is good camping in a stand of trees not far from the watercourse.
  • Ascend steeply to the crest; Littles Peak will be directly south. Drop down into Granite Basin and head north on Trail #800, which you follow all the way to Jackass Pass.

Lake Solitude

Crossing a small plateau before descending to the top of Leigh Canyon.

Granite Basin

  • At Jackass Pass you have multiple choices: 1. Head W on Trail #014 to South Fork TH; 2. Head east on the Berry Creek Trail, which takes you down to Jackson Lake and then north to Grassy Lake Rd; 3. Continue a couple of miles north on the #800 to the junction with #003 and then head west along South Boone Creek to come out about a mile and a half north of the above-mentioned South Fork TH.
  • Continuing with Option 1: Head north from South Fork TH for a few miles to link up with Grassy Lakes Road (around the 70 mile mark). Turn right and continue for another three miles to the turnoff to Loon Lake. (Note: In order to head directly back to Jackson Hole, continue east with your thumb out along Grassy Lake Road to eventually reach Flagg Ranch on HWY 191. From there it’s a fairly straightforward 56 mile hitch down to J.Hole).

A wet and windy Grassy Lake Rd.

  • Head north to Loon Lake and the Fish Lake Trail. A couple of miles from the Grassy Lakes Road you will enter Yellowstone National Park. Continue north to the junction with the Mountain Ash Creek Trail. Turn left and after 2.8 miles join with the Bechler River Trail.

Wading through a dampish section in southern Yellowstone.

  • Stay on the Bechler River Trail all the way until the intersection with the Shoshone Lake Trail. This is a great section that passes through Bechler canyon with its impressive waterfalls and hot springs.

Bechler Canyon

  • At the junction with the Shoshone Lake Trail, consider tacking on an extra six mile loop hike around Shoshone Geyser Basin, an incredible geyser area situated at the west end of Shoshone Lake. Lots of camping options available.
  • From the Bechler/Shoshone junction, it’s an easy 6.8 miles north to the finish at Old Faithful. Be sure to spend some time checking out the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins before leaving. One of the world’s great natural wonders.

One place we were particularly looking forward to was the Grand Prismatic Spring.

Unfortunately the above shot is from Wikimedia Commons. Mother Nature wasn’t so kind during our visit. You get that.

Yours truly at Grand Prismatic Spring.

Notes:

  • Difficulty: This is not a particularly difficult hike. With the exception of the short x-country stretch between Lake Solitude and Granite Basin it’s all on trail. Additionally there is around seven miles on dirt roads in the connector section between the Tetons and Yellowstone. That said, there is a fair amount of elevation gain and loss and there are no resupply points along the way so you will have to carry all your food from start to finish.

    Striding out on the Teton Crest.

  • The Swan Song: This was the fifth and final hike of my US trip last year. The first four, in the order in which they were completed, were the Sangre de Cristo Traverse, Badlands NP Traverse, Beartooth Mountains Route and Wind River High Route. Altogether it was a fantastic trip, full of challenging terrain and conditions, along with some of the most beautiful wilderness areas that I have seen in the lower 48. It afforded me the opportunity to experience parts of the States where I had never hiked before (the exception being the Winds), and being of a curious, nomadic nature, that’s always a good thing.
  • Wildlife: Moose, buffalo and log-walking bears.

Moose in the trees just a few minutes from the Phillips Pass TH.

Man watches buffalo. Buffalo eats while ignoring man. | Yellowstone National Park.

Grizzly Bear walking along a log while holding up a falling tree with its snout | Yellowstone National Park.

 

 

 

 


Comments

Teton Range Traverse — 5 Comments

  1. Wow! That’s quite the trip – 106 miles in 3.5 days??

    I’m guessing you didn’t have as many crowds to fight around Old Faithful in early October? Too bad you didn’t have the wikimedia commons-worthy pic of Grand Prismatic Spring, but the rest of your trip looked like it had good weather on and off, especially in the Tetons.

  2. How much brush (if any) did you have to hike through between Lake Solitude and Granite Basin? And, how many hours a day were you steppin it out? Awesome photos and great review.

    • With the exception of a small amount on the descent into Leigh Canyon, there was no brush. The amount of daily hours varied. On the first day we didn’t start until around 10 am. Due to the periodic thunderstorms we ended up having some longer than usual breaks. Very much on Mother Nature’s schedule. That said, most days we hiked until just before dark and began around first light. As I mentioned in the article, for the most part the hiking was fairly easy.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  3. Very cool, I have spent a fair amount of time in the Winds but none really in the Tetons. Looks like fun!

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