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Granite Canyon to Open Canyon Loop

The steep rocky walls dropping down from the top of Open Canyon in the Teton Mountains. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The Granite Canyon to Open Canyon Loop is a strenuous 20.5 mile lollipop loop using the two canyons in Grand Teton National Park as a wildly scenic loop hike. The hike tops out on the beautiful Mount Hunt Divide and can either be done as a long day-hike or an overnight backpacking trip.

While the hike is most easily accessed from the Granite Canyon Trailhead, it can also be started from Teton Village by following the Valley Trail north. Doing so will only add about two miles total to your round trip distance.

Granite Canyon to Open Canyon Loop Trail Description

Granite Canyon Trailhead to Granite Canyon

Beginning from the Granite Canyon Trailhead, ascend up small hills through the large open meadow as you skirt around the large aspen groves. As you leave the aspens behind on an easy climb up a small hill, the trail will wind past small, isolated groves of evergreens as it begins a descent toward Granite Creek.

Aspen tree leaves changing for the fall season below the Teton Mountains covered in an early snow. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Just before reaching the creek, the evergreens will become more consistent as you enter into the forest. A small footbridge will get you across Granite Creek safely as the crystal clear water rushes below. The trail continues easily through the forest, and at just shy of 1.4 miles in, it will make a short but steep climb onto a glacial moraine. Just beyond this climb, you’ll reach a junction with the Valley Trail. If you originated from Teton Village, this is where you’ll connect with the bulk of this write-up.

Head north by going right at the junction (straight if coming from Teton Village) and within 0.10 miles you’ll cross a small side stream of Granite Creek, and then Granite Creek itself, a rushing torrent of beautiful snow melt. Just beyond the creek lies another junction at 1.5 mile in, this one with the Granite Canyon Trail. Head left to begin the ascent up Granite Canyon.

Granite Canyon to Open Canyon Trail

As a whole, Granite Canyon isn’t a terribly strenuous canyon until closer to the top of the canyon. That’s not to say there aren’t steep areas, but thanks to being a relatively lengthy canyon, the elevation gain is stretched out a bit more than others.

From the junction, the trail begins gradually gaining elevation through the woods, getting steeper as you begin to pass through a series of boulder fields. The Lower Granite Canyon Camping Zone comes quickly after the first one, where the trail will repeatedly then emerge from the woods at the boulder fields and reenter them once past. A more gradual ascent ensues with the white noise from Granite Creek rushing below.

The Granite Canyon Trail winding through boulders and scree below large cliffs as Granite Creek flows below the trail. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Ascending through the woods with occasional views opening up in the boulder fields, the trail soon brushes alongside the creek for a welcome access to water before continuing up through the woods where the trail gets slightly steeper. As you emerge in and out of more boulder fields, the views consistently improve, primarily of the canyon’s opposite cliffs for the time being. With the creek never far and with the views continuing to open up, you finally reach a change in scenery upon entering a relatively recent avalanche area. Through here you get a great sense of solitude and wild as the great canyon walls obscure anything too far up or down the canyon.

Beyond the avalanche area you’ll maintain a steady ascent in and out of more woods, though soon the trail begins ascending higher and away from the creek. Within minutes the creek is far below. Not too far beyond climbing away from the creek you’ll also leave the Lower Granite Canyon Camping Zone. Almost immediately after is a junction with the Rendezvous Mountain Trail, which ascends steeply up to the backside of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Tram. Continue straight through the woods where a steep climb awaits to welcome you to the Upper Granite Canyon Camping Zone.

Here the trail opens up showing off large cliffs straight ahead, and Rendezvous Mountain off to the left. The trail passes through a large subalpine meadow as it makes a couple of back-to-back creek crossings with campsites in between. After passing another pair of campsites, Housetop Mountain becomes visible rising high over the landscape dead ahead. Wandering through another subalpine meadow, you’ll reach the junction for the Open Canyon Trail at 7.75 miles in.

Housetop Mountain rising above willow bushes lining the Granite Canyon Trail in upper Granite Canyon. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Open Canyon Trail Junction to Mount Hunt Divide

At the junction, head right to be welcomed onto the Open Canyon Trail with a sharply steep climb up to the Mount Hunt Divide Camping Zone. Once at the camping zone, the trail mellows out in elevation a bit with big views across the canyon toward Rendezvous Mountain and Cody Peak. You’ll soon enter an old forest, ascending with varying degrees of difficulty, though the overall climb itself is fairly mild. Through the trees of the mature woods, the valley of Jackson Hole becomes visible far below as you emerge into a small meadow. From the meadow, the top of the Tram can also be made out high above and off to the right.

A welcomed and occasional brief descent will guide you through the woods before you reemerge at a large open mountainside, the top of the Tram still visible off to the right. Ahead and to the left, Mount Hunt dominates the horizon still high above, where you unexpectedly begin making a descent below the peak. You’ll continue the descent through a rocky forest reaching another meadow below imposing rocky cliffs before beginning to ascend once again through the trees.

Along the steepening trail, views of Jackson Hole and lower Granite Canyon sprawl out below as you begin to make a few switchbacks upward. You’ll cross below more rocky cliffs with expansive views of the canyon below, leaving the Mount Hunt Divide Camping Zone shortly thereafter. Maintaining a steep and steady ascent, you’ll climb through the partially wooded trail as you round a ridge with the Mount Hunt Divide visible ahead and above. Winding below more steep and rocky cliffs, you finally reach the Mount Hunt Divide at 12 miles in and at 9,698 feet above sea level, a high alpine divide straddling just above treeline with gorgeous and remote views stretching out beyond Granite and Open Canyons. As one of the less visited divides, you’ll likely have some peace and quiet as well.

Rain showers and stormy weather moving in over the Mount Hunt Divide. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Mount Hunt Divide to Open Canyon Cutoff Trail

Heading down the top of Open Canyon, the trail makes numerous switchbacks as it winds back down into the forest, though frequent views of the higher elevations are frequently provided through breaks in the trees. The trail zigs and zags through the woods downward, gaining more and more glimpses of the primary canyon of Open Canyon, skirting treeline which provides outstanding views upward.

A few more larger switchbacks await where grand views finally looking down Open Canyon and into Jackson Hole create a dramatic change in scenery. On the other end of the switchbacks, a small but deep gorge below recedes into the rocky upper elevations of Open Canyon, a labyrinth landscape of granite and rock. The trail steeply descends through large meadows providing ample views down canyon, until you follow the last switchback into the forest.

The dense forest and consistent downhill trend remain consistent for nearly two straight miles, with only an occasional glimpse across the canyon peeking through the trees. It’s a peaceful and quiet descent through a large nurturing forest, amplified by the fact that Open Canyon itself doesn’t get many visitors at all.

An evergreen forest lining the mouth of Open Canyon above a meadow and Jackson Hole. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

As you get closer to the bottom of Open Canyon, the forest will open up a bit to cross over the creek, which makes a great place to stop and get more water, if necessary, or even just to take a break and admire the views up and downstream.

Beyond the creek, the trail pops in and out of the forest for a short distance, providing remarkable views of the bottom of the canyon as it, and the forest, yield to the wide landscape of Jackson Hole, capped by the Gros Ventre Mountains on the horizon. Entering back into a thicker forest once again, you’ll reach a junction for the Open Canyon Cutoff Trail at 15.9 miles in.

Open Canyon Cutoff Trail to Granite Canyon Trailhead

The Open Canyon Cutoff Trail descends easily as it straddles a glacial moraine through the large forest. Toward the bottom of the trail, it will make a few quick switchbacks and then descend directly to the Valley Trail, reaching the junction at 16.5 miles in. Head right to begin back toward the trailhead along the Valley Trail.

The Valley Trail from here is mostly easy going. There will be an occasional small hill and moraine, but the hardest parts of the trail are behind you. An occasional meadow will break up the forest to provide some welcome views into Jackson Hole and of the Teton Mountains rising above. At 19.6 miles in, you’ll reach the original junction with Granite Canyon once again. Head straight to continue along the Valley Trail where you’ll cross Granite Creek once again.

After 0.1 miles from the previous junction, you’ll reach the junction for the Granite Canyon Trailhead, where you’ll want to head left, descending the moraine and guiding you back over the meadows to the trailhead. If you accessed this hike via Teton Village, continue straight instead and cross over the next moraine and ascend back up through the aspens to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, adding one mile each way to your route, staying on the Valley Trail until you’re back at the Bridger Center.

Fall Leaves on Evergreen Trees
Fall aspen leaves falling onto spruce and fir trees along the Valley Trail in the Teton Mountains. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Getting There

From the Grand Teton National Park Visitor Center in Moose, head west on Teton Park Road for 0.2 miles, then take the next left turn onto the Moose-Wilson Road. Follow that south for 5.9 miles, turning right into the Granite Canyon Trailhead.

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All content © Copyright Mike Cavaroc, Free Roaming Hiker & Free Roaming Photography