Distance: 3 miles (one way)
Best time of year: Spring, Summer, Fall
Last hiked: 2016 September
The Bannock Trail is a great way to experience all the dramatic elevation change that Grand Targhee has to offer. The trail brings you through stunning aspen groves and up to rocky ledges that overlook massive canyons and basins in the Teton Mountains.
The trail begins just to the north of the Dreamcatcher chair lift. Interestingly enough, it will also end at the top of the lift nearly three miles later.
As it begins its immediate ascent, it winds through some calming aspen trees, often referred to as nature’s wind chimes. If the trail looks like a mountain bike trail here, it’s because it is. You’ll soon see a brown carsonite sign that leads you off the bike trail and onto a standard hiking trail.
Here the trail climbs and winds through more majestic aspen groves, the leaves creating the sound of the natural wind chimes. Both under the light green shade of the trees and in between groves in the meadows are endless fields of wildflowers, the season permitting. Wild geranium, larkspur, lupine, and many more splash the green landscape in soft pinks and bold violets.
The trail continues onward through one aspen grove after another, meadow after meadow, until you reach the top of the Shoshone Lift. Here you merge with a dirt road and climb more steeply for a bit. A sign soon marks where the Bannock Trail begins to veer north.
By this point you’ve probably begun to notice outstanding views of Teton Valley below and even the eastern Snake River Plain farther north. This amazing view is capped off by the mighty Beaverhead Mountains breaking up the level plain far in the distance. It remains a steadily more scenic sight as the trail gains elevation while traversing the mountain northward. Ultimately the trail hits a rocky ridge where expansive views peering deep into the Tetons open up. Over the complex of canyons and the abyss of basins, the west side of Mount Moran’s summit can be seen poking out above the masses of granite.
With no other direction to go, the trail begins a steep assault up the rocky ridge. Switchback after switchback brings you higher along the ridge with each emergence back onto the ridge providing grander vistas than the last. For a short stretch, a ski traverse is used before the trail cuts back to the north. Here the trail begins straddling a ridgeline as it climbs ever higher. Above an enormous basin, the Grand Teton and Mount Owen peek out from behind the nearest ridge. All at once, you feel absorbed into a mountain wilderness. Waterfalls far below cut through the deep canyons with the majestic granite peaks high above creating a true mountain landscape.
The trail follows the ridgeline higher and higher before joining a dirt road once again. The dirt road maintains a steady ascent as it meanders up to the top of the Dreamcatcher Lift just ahead. From here, you can take the lift back down for free, or explore more trails accessed in the same area.
From Driggs, Idaho, follow Ski Hill Road east for nearly 12 miles where it will dead-end at the Grand Targhee Ski Resort parking area. Head toward the main Dreamcatcher Lift to find the trail.