Hidden Falls and Jenny Lake Loop
Distance: 8 miles
Jenny Lake is easily one of, if not the most visited area of Grand Teton National Park. Most people however will simply take the shuttle to access Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls, while fewer will hike the easy two miles to the remarkable features. Fewer still will ever actually hike the entire seven mile loop around the lake, offering you the chance to have a trail to yourself in one of the busiest parts of the park.
Jenny Lake Loop Trail Description
From the main South Jenny Lake parking area, follow the access trail toward the boat dock, but once there, continue past to begin the loop. At .25 miles beyond, you’ll reach a public access boat launch that features a spectacular view of the glacial lake at the base of the Teton Mountains.
Continue through the old forest where a shallow bit of up and down will bring you over a minimal amount of elevation change, and then up to the Moose Ponds overlook. Here the trail will begin to wrap around the lake from the south side to the west side, where, at 1.5 miles in, stunning views of the lake begin to resume with the Absaroka peaks in the distance. The trail will continue north along Jenny Lake’s shores where you’re treated to relaxing views and softly splashing water from the small waves in the lake. Watchful eyes will also spy the occasional marmot along the trail, always working to gather food. Please do not ever feed marmots, however, or any wildlife you encounter. If you feed a marmot, it will learn to associate food access with humans. When the long winter comes around, there will be no humans around to feed it and it will starve to death. So please, never feed the wildlife.
After strolling along the lake’s shores, you’ll reach a switchback ascending along the gushing and powerful Cascade Creek. At 2.5 miles in, you’ll reach the fork to access Hidden Falls. It’s only a few hundred feet off the main trail, so if you’ve never seen it, it’s well worth the quick detour.
Once back on the main trail, you’ll ascend a staircase to climb higher, where you’ll parallel the thunderous Cascade Creek some more. Follow the trail past the boat dock and Cascade Canyon access, and you’ll notice the traffic on the trail drops off substantially. You’ll soon reach the forest fire burn from 1999 after crossing a few seasonal trickling creeks. From here, you have magnificently open views of Jenny Lake and the western Gros Ventre Mountains far in the distance.
Once at the northern end of the lake, the trail will continue to head north along the runoff from String Lake farther ahead. It’s not long after that you reach the junction for the String Lake Loop, where you’ll continue straight to remain on the Jenny Lake Loop Trail. If you’d like to add another wonderfully scenic 3.75 miles, you can head left to take the String Lake Loop Trail, which will bring you back to the Jenny Lake Loop Trail just another .25 miles ahead. This will give you a 10+ mile day, as opposed to 7. Otherwise, continue straight through the new forest regrowth.
A short distance ahead, the trail will cross over the southern end of String Lake via a beautifully constructed wooden bridge. As you cross over the bridge, be sure to look back to the south to see an iconically picturesque scene of String Lake rushing into the forest with the Cathedral Group of Teton peaks shooting into the sky above.
Once across the bridge, head right to begin the eastern portion of the Jenny Lake Loop Trail. The new forest regrowth is soon replaced with a much older forest as the trail sinks into the depth of the trees. The peacefulness of the forest is interrupted only by the rushing of the water from String Lake heading toward Jenny Lake. Once you reach Jenny Lake’s northern shore, the dense silent forest opens up into a younger healthier lodgepole pine tree forest, scattered with calming meadows and sporadic views toward the Tetons.
One of the greatest vantage points is also one of the most popular. The trail soon intersects with the Jenny Lake Overlook, accessed by the one way road that spurs off from the String Lake junction. It does see a lot of traffic during midday hours, but for good reason. The crystal clear water of Jenny Lake sprawls out for miles below an unparalleled vantage point of the Teton Mountains. Far on the other side, the sound of the large waterfall pouring out of Hanging Canyon combined with the rushing Cascade Creek can be heard as distant white noise. It’s certainly a spot worth the stop, but then so is the solitude you’ll find by continuing the trail.
The Jenny Lake Loop Trail will continue around the lake’s southeastern shore as it begins to approach the campground. The one way road veers away, leaving you with quiet once again. You’ll find a few small elevation changes as you get closer to the campground, where you’ll ultimately be led back to the main visitor services, closing out the Jenny Lake Loop Trail.