You’ve got an amazing trip to Grand Teton National Park planned, along with some great hikes, but upon arriving, you see snow might prevent you from reaching the higher elevations you were hoping. Every season is different, of course, but if early season snow is preventing you from doing the hikes you want, rest assured there are still some great fall hikes in Grand Teton National Park. Below is a short list of great options.
Phelps Lake and the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve
What’s better than fall leaves? Bears in fall leaves! Each fall, as the berries on countless berry bushes ripen, scores of black bears descend onto the feast during hyperphagia, a phase bears go through each year to fatten up before hibernation. Bears can be found all along the Moose-Wilson Road during that time, but to get away from the congestion and traffic, any of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve trails can be enjoyed in peace and quiet.
The hike to Phelps Lake has four potential and easy routes for you to experience. Two are roughly a mile and a half each way, while the other two are approximately two miles each way. You can use this to your advantage to make a loop hike to the stunning Phelps Lake. Want more mileage? Continue around the Phelps Lake Loop to add about 3-4 miles.
In addition, black bears can be found virtually anywhere heading to or from Phelps Lake on any of the beautifully scenic trails. Keep in mind though that grizzly bears have also been seen in the area in recent years. In the event one is seen on the Moose-Wilson Road, the park will shut down the road for safety reasons.
Regardless of the type of bear you may see along the trails, all bears demand a respectful distance. The park recommends 100 yards. Not doing so will have you competing for a Darwin Award and will most likely force the park to kill the bear. Please respect their personal space.
The shuttles have stopped running across Jenny Lake and most of the tourists have gone home. This means that one one of the most highly trafficked areas in the park, Cascade Canyon, is now left virtually empty. At the same time, aspen groves all over the canyon are changing, leaving splatterings of yellows and oranges up and down the dramatic Cascade Canyon. Red leaves on ground brush lines the trails and mountainsides. It’s also amazing how remote Cascade Canyon can feel when there’s no shuttle boating hundreds of people across the lake. The isolation and solitude along with the changing fall leaves in one of Grand Teton National Park’s signature canyons makes it a perfect fall getaway.
Access the canyon and Inspiration Point from either the Jenny Lake Trail from the main Jenny Lake area at the South Jenny Lake Junction, or via the String Lake Loop.
Trapper Lake is both the flattest trail on this list, and possibly the best for fall foliage. The trail is lined with changing ground brush creating a spectrum of earth tones. Across each lake you walk past, aspen grove leaves are changing across the water. Large patches of oranges and yellows ascend up the bases of Rockchuck Peak and Mount Moran. As you weave through an evergreen forest to reach Trapper Lake, an explosion of color at the base of Mount Moran spreads out from the greenery.
The hike begins from the String Lake Loop and forks off at the northwest side to head past Leigh Lake, which makes for a great shorter destination of this hike.
Hermitage Point is a 9-10 mile round trip that’s accessed from the main trails at Colter Bay, depending on the route in and out. Along the way you pass the serene Heron Pond, and optionally Swan Lake. Hermitage Point itself is a remarkably peaceful and quiet point on the end of a peninsula jutting out into Jackson Lake. While much of the hike is forested, there are plenty of gorgeous overlooks that feature Mount Moran and the northern Tetons rising high above the foreground. With it being a bit off the beaten path from the more popular hiking trails, you may also find it has a nice bit of serenity to it.
Taggart and Bradley Lakes
A classic year-round hike of Grand Teton National Park, the Taggart and Bradley Lake Loop hike, or even simply one or the other, shines in the fall season. Ascending up the glacial moraine that holds the two lakes brings hikers through an extensive aspen grove, glowing with vibrant yellows and oranges in the fall season.
The lakes themselves are beautiful examples of glacial lakes at the base of the Teton Mountains, making this one a must-see for the fall season.
Grand View Point
Though not a great hike for fall colors specifically, the Grand View Point Trail still a great hike to get away from the crowds and get some fantastic vistas of the Teton Mountains. The short but sweet hike travels up an easy then steep hill to reach the titular viewpoint, along the way teasing views of what’s to come.
If you’re itching for more mileage once you’ve sufficiently admired the views, continue along the trail where it will bring you down to Two Ocean Lake, which will have beautiful views as well as dazzling fall foliage!
Be aware that grizzly bears do frequent this area, so be sure to always carry bear spray and know how to use it.
While these are only a few options for fall hikes, plenty more remain throughout the area, so be sure to explore more and feel free to ask any questions in the comments!