Distance: 2 miles (one way)
Best time of year: Spring, Summer, Fall
Last hiked: 2016 June
Located just east of Grand Teton National Park, high above the valley of Jackson Hole, lies a lone boulder secluded in its recession on a hill that delivers tremendous views of the region. This is Coyote Rock. Though the trail only brings you two miles from the road, the feeling of isolation and disconnection from the valley below is easily attainable.
I made a short, overnight backpacking trip to this rock late in June with the purpose of acquiring some new night photography imagery while also catching a quick escape into nature. Due to my timing, the mosquitoes were aggressively anxious for attention, but are typically only in the area from mid-June to early July, so don’t expect them if you’re visiting outside of that time. Prior to that, snow will still cover much of the area, and any time after early July it becomes too dry for them to be any kind of distraction.
The trail, found along Gros Ventre Road just beyond the Grand Teton National Park border, ascends quickly up the western foothills of the Gros Ventre Mountains. A few hundred feet are gained within a short distance, so this is not a casual jaunt through the hills. As you climb through the open grassland hills, the Tetons come into spectacular view to the west. Though the trail is steep and tiring, it fortunately lasts for less than a mile.
After most of the ascending is complete, you come to an old and unused gate with the backside of the Gros Ventre River Ranch below. A short distance beyond, you’ll be skirting the border of Grand Teton National Park on the Bridger-Teton National Forest side, marked by a cattle ranching fence. At this point, the trail levels off considerably but still ascends and descends the tops of the foothills that you’ve just worked your way to the top of.
The rolling, grassy hills soon yield to patches of aspens with more lush vegetation underneath as the trail meanders past. Past a few hills and groves, you then reach a fork with either route taking you up to Coyote Rock, either from the front or back. You’ll notice that the rock doesn’t actually overlook the valley, though a short distance to the west is a tremendous view of not just the valley, but also the Teton Mountains and even the Gros Ventre Mountains to the south and east.
It was on this side of the hill that I decided to make camp, partly for the view, partly because there was a bit more of a breeze which admittedly rarely kept the mosquitoes at bay. I immediately set up my tent and took refuge inside, but as the light began to grow increasingly interesting, I forced my way out and braved the onslaught.
As the light got softer and Earth’s shadow rose, the mosquitoes began to subside ever so slightly, but the light was too enticing not to participate in. I then set up a couple of time-lapses and welcomed in the emerging stars, dozens at a time. I began some night shots at this point until I began to fade and feel a bit tired. Then it was time for bed below a spectacular Jackson Hole night sky.
Overall, if you’re looking for a short but rewarding hike if you’re in the Kelly area, Coyote Rock is an excellent option.
From Jackson, head north on Highway 89 for roughly seven miles until you get to the Gros Ventre Junction (well signed). Turn right and continue for another nearly six miles which will bring you past the town of Kelly. The road turns 90 degrees north here where you want to continue on for another mile or so until you get to the right turn for Gros Ventre Road. Follow that another two miles back and you’ll get to the border of Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. There will be a parking area on the right (south) side where you’ll want to park and the trail will be on the other (north) side just a short distance back up the road.