Distance: 4.6 miles (loop)
Best time of year: Winter
Last hiked: 2015 December
Earlier this season I joined a group of local hikers to hike up onto Phillips Ridge on the southern end of the Teton Mountains. We started off at a large parking area on the south (left) side of the road about halfway up Teton Pass, a short distance before the official Phillips Ridge Trail. Across the street and slightly to the west, a large flat area sits below the highway where we put on our snowshoes and began climbing up a trail that paralleled a small creek, many of the nearby sounds muted by the snow as the traffic noise also began to fade.
After following the creek for a few moments, we soon parted ways with the quaint creek as we began to ascend up the side of the ravine and ultimately connected with a dirt road. We followed that dirt road before branching off to head directly up Phillips Ridge, following a bike trail. This brought us through a thick forest where I was hoping to spot an owl, but never did. Shortly beyond, the trail popped out along the powerlines that run near the top of the ridge. We connected back up with the trail on the other side and made a pleasant ascent up to the top of the ridge.
Once along the ridge, the trail led us up even higher, providing us with panoramic views of the valley below along the way in scenic locations. From there we followed the bike trail in and out of the woods until we finally passed through an old fence. On the other side was a large clearing with outstanding views of Jackson, Wilson, and beyond, everything covered in white. We stopped here for a snack break before moving on.
Rather than heading out the same way we came in, we continued down the trail which began to drop down the backside of Phillips Ridge and back out to the powerlines, where (once we had gotten below them) some fantastic views of the southern Teton Mountains were visible. We all stopped and enjoyed the towering peaks above us getting blanketed with new snow.
We continued along a road that we intersected shortly after the powerlines and made an optional side detour to the Phillips Bench Snotel, which measures the snowfall in the area. If you choose to visit it as well, please do not travel between the four posts. You will alter the readings if you do.
Heading back to the cars, it was mostly all downhill from here. We had started off following the same route that we can in on, but decided for more of an adventurous way out to make it a bit more fun and memorable. Rather than following any particular trail out, we bushwhacked down into a canyon, dodging and scrambling over fallen trees. This put us out just slightly east of our cars. If you want to play it safe, just follow the road back out to where you came in.
It was a great day out on snowshoes and I’m definitely looking forward to giving the trail another go before the end of the season.
From downtown Jackson, take Broadway west to the Highway 22 junction and turn right onto Highway 22. Follow that for 9.2 miles, heading through Wilson and up toward Teton Pass. Look for the parking area on your left.