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Aspen Ridge to Boulder Ridge Phelps Lake Loop

Phelps Lake from Lake Creek Trail Overlook
A large evergreen tree framing Phelps Lake and Death Canyon in the background at a popular overlook along the Phelps Lake Loop. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The Aspen Ridge to Boulder Ridge Loop is a moderate 6 mile route that’s a fantastic way to access Phelps Lake, while also managing to trade the crowds for serene forests. It can also be hiked clockwise or counterclockwise, with options to cut it short if you find you need to head back early.

Aspen Ridge to Boulder Ridge Loop Trail Description

For this writeup, I’ll be describing the route going clockwise and beginning at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Visitor Center, approximately 100 yards up from the parking area.

From the Visitor Center, begin up the Woodland Trail, ie, the only trail heading toward Phelps Lake. You’ll pass a couple of short and scenic spurs along the way that are worth checking out if it’s your first time in the area. After making a small creek crossing, you’ll reach your first junction at 0.25 miles in. Head left to begin up the Lake Creek Trail, which immediately begins by crossing its namesake creek over an impressive footbridge.

Once across the bridge, you’ll head up and over a couple of small hills as the trail begins to parallel the creek. You’ll get a few scenic vantage points over the creek before you reach a crossing with the Moose-Wilson Road.

Rocky Section of Lake Creek Trail
A rocky section of the Lake Creek Trail in the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve lined with ground brush changing for the autumn season. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

After crossing the road, you’ll ascend up another small hill before dropping down to another junction at 0.9 miles in. Here is where you’ll begin up the Aspen Ridge Trail by heading left.

The Aspen Ridge Trail

The Aspen Ridge Trail makes another short climb to the top of a moraine through an old forest before dropping down to the moraine’s base. Along the way you’ll cross an old dirt road, formerly the Rockefeller’s driveway to their property. You’ll continue the descent until you reach the runoff from Open Canyon, a small stream rushing peacefully through the dense forest.

You’ll wind along the creek for a short distance where you’ll then begin to climb back up the moraine. This is where the trail will begin to get steeper as you make the ascent.

Throughout the climb you’re treated to beautifully unique views of the Teton Mountains as you ascend higher and higher up the moraine. Living up to its name, the trail also weaves through a number of calming aspen groves. These groves provide both natural beauty as well as shade while the forest is broken up.

Once atop the moraine, you’ll once again enter the woods and begin descending toward Phelps Lake. Along the way you’ll pass through a brief meadow, then soon emerge onto the Phelps Lake Loop at 3.5 miles in.

Tetons Above Meadow and Expansive Forest
An expansive forest stretching out below the Teton Mountains and above a meadow along the Aspen Ridge Trail. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Phelps Lake Loop

If you’d like to add about 3 easy miles to your hike, head left to hike the full Phelps Lake Loop. Otherwise, to complete the Aspen Ridge to Boulder Ridge Loop, head right.

You’ll only walk a few steps before the junction with the Lake Creek Trail comes into view. At this point, you can either take the Lake Creek Trail right to head back for whatever reason, or take advantage of the iconic overlook directly to the left. This overlook makes for a spectacular spot to stop and rest with a stunning view.

Continuing along the Phelps Lake Loop, you’ll pass another couple of viewpoints as the trail bends toward a large footbridge that crosses Lake Creek as it first begins to empty from Phelps Lake. This too, makes for a great place to stop and appreciate the scenery.

Just beyond the bridge you’ll come to a junction with the Woodland Trail at 3.8 miles in. Again, if you’re looking for a shortcut back to the trailhead for any reason, this will also bring you there, running parallel to the Lake Creek Trail. For those wanting to continue the main loop, continue through the junction. After wrapping around the lake’s shores a bit, you’ll come to the junction with the Boulder Ridge Trail at 3.9 miles.

Death Canyon and Phelps Lake

Boulder Ridge Trail

Take a right at the Junction to begin up the Boulder Ridge Trail, which quickly switchbacks upward as you climb another moraine. Through the deep forest, you gradually climb around the ridge of the moraine. Soon, the trail will fork. Either way is still technically the Boulder Ridge Trail. Left has more of a traditional trail, while right scrambles in and out of a higher concentration of boulders. Both trails connect back up a few hundred yards ahead.

Once the trails reconnect, it’s an easy meander through dense old woods and massive glacial boulders. It doesn’t take long before you reach a junction with the Woodland Trail at 5.25 miles in.

Large Boulder Below Lush Forest
A large boulder lying at the base of a lush forest on a hillside along the Boulder Ridge Trail. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Woodland Trail

The Woodland Trail easily descends through the woods, heading down from the moraine. You’ll quickly reach another crossing with the Moose-Wilson Road before winding down toward Lake Creek. Once you begin paralleling the creek, you’ll close out the loop at the junction with the Lake Creek Trail, where you initially began along the loop. From here, it’s an easy and peaceful walk back to the Visitor Center and parking area.

Getting There

From the Craig Thomas Visitor Center in Moose, head north along the Teton Park Road. At the next immediate left turn, pull onto the Moose-Wilson Road. Continue south for 3.7 miles, turning left into the entrance for the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. The parking area will be just up the road where it dead-ends.

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Mike@FreeRoamingPhotography.com