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Hermitage Point

A driftwood log lying on the shore of Jackson Lake at Hermitage Point during a low period in the water levels. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The Hermitage Point Trail is a moderate 10 mile loop originating from Colter Bay of Grand Teton National Park, passing Swan Lake and Heron Pond along way. The trail culminates its namesake, a peninsula jutting out into the expansive waters of Jackson Lake below the iconic Teton Mountains. Swan Lake can be excluded from the hike, but if you’re already hiking about 9.5 miles, why not just add another half mile to include a spectacularly calm and serene lake along the way?

Hermitage Point Trail

The Hermitage Point Trail begins at the trailhead near the boat launch, and crosses the road down that goes down to the boat launch and picks up again once on the other side. It heads up toward a utility building and heads behind a gate to keep vehicles out. The trail is wide as it starts out paralleling the calm waters of Colter Bay of Jackson Lake. Along the way are fantastic views of the bay with Mount Moran and the northern Teton Mountains towering high above. You soon pass a small maintenance building on the left where the view becomes even grander as the trees clear to reveal the full extent of the vista.

You reach the first of many junctions shortly after the maintenance building. Head right to skip Swan Lake, but as discussed, why would you? It’s well worth the extra half-mile. Assuming you agree, continue straight through the sagebrush meadow and reach another junction after just another 0.1 miles. Head straight through to continue to Swan Lake where the trail soon reenters the forest.

Wetland grasses poking up through the ice forming on Swan Lake at Colter Bay early in the winter season. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

After a short bit of snaking through the trees, you’ll begin to see Swan Lake through the trunks of the evergreens comprising the forest. The trail will make a few breaks to the shore of the lake before veering slightly away to climb a bit higher above the love, but still paralleling the shore. It soon descends back down to the back side of Swan Lake for some beautifully serene wetland views before the trail climbs back into the forest and away from the lake.

With Swan Lake now behind you, the trail climbs a small ridge and as you descend you come straight down to the stunning Heron Pond. With a dramatically tranquil view spreading out in front you, you’ll find yourself at another junction. On the left side of the junction you’ll see the trail fork. Right is the shorter route to Hermitage Point, while left takes a more scenic route. In this instance, I opted to head right and then return via the scenic route.

Mount Moran of the Teton Mountains rising high above Heron Pond at Colter Bay, freezing over early in the winter season. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Heading right will wrap you around a small part of the perimeter of Heron Pond where more expansive and serene views open up around you. The Hermitage Point Trail then veers back into the woods for a short distance before Half Moon Bay of Jackson Lake becomes visible through the trees. You’ll pass by this view and head back into the forest, but shortly after another section of the bay greets you with an expansive vista.

From here, the forest becomes more dense as firs and spruces become more common. You’ll pass through another junction where you’ll want to stay to the right and continue through the woods. This section of the trail calmly meanders through the dense forest with minor spurts of elevation change, both up and down.

At last, the trail opens up into a meadow, signaling a change in the scenery. The northern Teton Mountains rise up in the distance over the opposite end of the meadow, providing a welcome break from the forest. After reentering the woods once again, Jackson Lake can be glimpsed briefly through the trunks of the trees with Mount Moran towering above.

Mount Moran and the Teton Mountains rising high above Jackson Lake at low water levels near Hermitage Point. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

You’ll reach a large sagebrush meadow with Jackson Lake clearly visible, as well as Elk Island resting below Mount Moran and the northern Tetons. Continue through the meadow with Jackson Lake and the Tetons paralleling the right side of the trail and meadow. While you may be tempted to step off trail to get some better views, please respect the signage and stay on the trail. There are much better views ahead so there’s really no need to trample the fragile vegetation.

After a bit of meandering, you’ll begin heading out along the peninsula toward Hermitage Point, spitting out at the end below Mount Moran. From here, you have stunning views of Jackson Lake with the Teton Mountains sprawled out beyond, capping the western landscape and reaching far into the north and south. It’s a beautiful sight and unique vantage point of the park that many don’t take the time to see, so be sure to soak it in. Once you’ve had your fill, you can either head back out the same way you came in, skipping Swan Lake to get back sooner, or you can head out via the scenic route back to complete the loop. The rest of the post follows this course.

Continuing along the loop, Donoho Point, another island in Jackson Lake comes into better view on the right. You’ll soon enter back into a forest, though never straying too far from the shore, the lake’s waters visible through the trees most of the way. You’ll reach another large meadow overlooking the lake, this one with a campsite on the lakeshore itself, accessible to boaters as well, featuring fantastic views of the lake.

A depleted Jackson Lake disappearing into the distance below hills along the Hermitage Point Trail. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Just beyond the campsite, you’ll make a short climb up a hill overlooking Jackson Lake and Donoho Point, the Tetons rising high in the south. Once again, you’ll head back into the woods with the lake occasionally visible through the trees. It soon breaks away from the lake to head deeper into the forest. The Hermitage Point trail from here descends into a large meadow and drainage above Jackson Lake. You’ll pass through the peaceful meadow, wandering in and out of its edges once on the other side. Here it reaches a gorgeous vista above Jackson Lake, the Jackson Lake Dam clearly visible on the opposite side.

The trail cuts back into the woods before passing through another meadow, this one with a junction on its opposite end. Left will bring you back to the original trail if you’d like a shortcut back out, while straight will extend the loop a short distance. Take the route you feel more comfortable with. The rest of this post will describe heading straight.

Past the junction, the forest begins to thin out a bit as you reach a peaceful stream along the right side. The stream will join the trail a few times as you pass in and out of the forest before reaching another junction. Right in this case will extend the loop an extra few miles, so in this case, I headed left to close out the loop.

The northern Teton Mountains rising high above Colter Bay of Jackson Lake while the water level is unusually low. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Heading left, the trail makes a steady climb through the woods, where it soon crests the ridge it was climbing and begins the steady ascent back down. At the bottom you’ll reach the previous junction at Heron Pond, where you now have the option to continue back along Heron Pond to close out the loop. To do this, head straight, and then take the fork on the left.

At this point, the trail drops down along the shores of Heron Pond, yielding some breathtaking views of the pond and the Tetons rising above. It will wind along the perimeter of the pond before veering away and back into the woods. An unsigned fork shortly after will wind up in the same place a short distance ahead, so feel free to take whichever direction you’d like. Heading right, the trail pops back out at Jackson Lake where you’ll want to head left at the next unsigned fork. This will bring you back to the trailhead along the shores of Jackson Lake. You’ll then reach another junction, signed this time, which will direct you left to complete the loop and head back to the trailhead along the shores of Colter Bay.

Getting There

From the Moran Entrance Station, head north on Highway 89 for 9 miles and turn left into Colter Bay Village at the large intersection. Follow the road until it dead-ends at another large intersection forcing you to head right or left. Head left and just before the road makes a U-turn, park in the parking area near the signed trailhead.

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Mike@FreeRoamingPhotography.com