Just like at Yellowstone, backpacking in the Tetons is the premier way to experience the park. But here you have another option you don’t have in Yellowstone: mountaineering in the area’s classic peaks. For more details on trips and outfitters, see “Climbing,” in the “Other Activities” section below.
The most coveted overnight backpacking trip in the park is the 19-mile Cascade Canyon-Paintbrush Canyon Loop. This route takes you through two of the park’s most scenically blessed canyons, rife with multicolored wildflowers, jewel-like alpine lakes, incredible mountain views, and a chance to spot moose, bears, and harlequin ducks. Starting from the Cascade Canyon Trail west of Jenny Lake, climb to expanding views en route to the North Fork of Cascade Canyon. You can camp here, or continue past Lake Solitude and the Paintbrush Divide to Holly Lake, another lovely tent spot in the cirque rounding Mount Woodring. Finish by descending on the Paintbrush Canyon Trail back down to Jenny Lake. Considering its strenuous elevation gain, loose scree, and the possibility of snow lingering in the high country well into the summer, this trip is best for backpackers with some mountain experience.
This route also links up with the all-star Teton Crest Trail, a high-altitude route that runs roughly north-south through the Teton peaks. If you have more time, you can expand your loop by hiking out through one of the park’s southern canyons. Some of the best views in the Tetons—and truly, in the entire continental U.S.—await on this stunning trail. If you swing south from the top of Cascade Canyon, you’ll skirt behind Mount Owen, the Grand Teton, and the Middle Teton to reach Schoolroom Glacier, a remnant ice field beside a bright blue tarn, and then 10,400-foot Hurricane Pass. Pressing on takes you into the Caribou-Targhee National Forest’s Jedediah Smith Wilderness and Alaska Basin, a wide-open, high-altitude zone dotted with lakes and wildflowers.
Another stellar (and less crowded) trip circles through the southern Tetons via the Death Canyon Loop. This 27-miler takes you to the renowned Death Canyon Shelf, a narrow plateau with cliffside campsites and phenomenal mountain vistas. To get there, hike up Death Canyon and camp in the shadow of vertiginous granite rock walls. From here you’ll cross 9,600-foot Fox Creek Pass and reach the shelf, night two’s destination. Wrap up the trip by crossing 9,725-foot Mount Meek Pass, skirting the southern edge of Alaska Basin, chugging up 10,790-foot Static Peak Divide, and looping back to the start.
The park’s proximity to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has a hidden perk for backpackers: You can take the aerial tram up Rendezvous Mountain, which gives you a fast track into the high country. The tram enables quicker trips north toward Marion Lake or south to Moose Lake (in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness) or connects to loops through Granite Canyon or Open Canyon.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.