Josie’s Ridge via Wildlife Lane

Arrowhead balsamroot wildflowers covering Josie’s Ridge as it overlooks Jackson Hole. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

Distance: 1.9 miles

Type: Out and back

Difficulty: Strenuous

Josie’s Ridge is a local’s favorite hike, and a challenging, though slightly shorter, alternative to the summit of Snow King Mountain. Sharing the same ridgeline, the two mountains are a short distance apart, and can even be strung together for a great loop hike. This post however, simply focuses on Josie’s Ridge itself, originating from the trailhead found at Wildlife Lane.

It should also be noted you’ll see many people trying to shortcut trails. Please don’t be one of those people. Shortcutting trails causes unhealthy and unnatural erosion on the mountain, destroying healthy forest habitat for both new plant life as well as wildlife. Please stick to the main trail. After all, you’re climbing a mountain. Is a few steps really going to save you that much time and energy?

Josie’s Ridge Trail Description

From the parking area, head up the trail as it quickly begins gaining elevation, a trend that won’t let up any time soon. You’ll pass through a couple of houses on your way up, after which you’ll also reach two different trail junctions. Continue straight through each as the trail guides you through serene aspen trees and wide sagebrush meadows.

Beyond the second trail junction, you’ll climb through a large sagebrush meadow where the views of Jackson begin to get increasingly peaceful and beautiful. Once through the meadow, you’ll hit the forest line for the pines, spruces, and firs which cover the bulk of the mountain. Shortly after wandering through the evergreen forest, you’ll meet the trail junction with the Sink or Swim Trail.

An aspen grove lining a meadow as Linda’s Trail winds around the perimeter. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

Sink or Swim Trail to Josie’s Ridge Trail

At the junction for the Sink or Swim Trail, head right to continue up toward Josie’s Ridge. At this point, the trail will become noticeably steeper. This level of ascent will continue for much of the remaining hike, so know your limits and if it’s hitting you particularly hard, know your limits and know when to say when.

A steep ascent brings you up to a meadow where there’s a temporary bit of respite from the elevation gain, as well as a fantastic glimpse of western Jackson and beyond. The meadow comes to a quick end as the trail takes a short dip back into the forest. You’ll wind around a small but steep gully, and shortly after reach another trail junction. Stay to the left to continue climbing up toward Josie’s Ridge. If you find the trail is steeper than you wanted, but still want to make a nice hike out of it, heading right is a great way to make a loop back to the trailhead. The sign will have a map on it that will guide you to other signed junctions to do so.

Continuing up Sink or Swim, the trail makes another steep ascent with another short meadow before making a final push up to the junction with the Josie’s Ridge Trail.

The Sink or Swim Trail winding through the forest on Snow King Mountain in the Gros Ventre Mountains. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

Josie’s Ridge Trail

At the junction between Sink or Swim and the Josie’s Ridge Trail, the trail becomes much more exposed. Heading left will bring hikers straight up to Josie’s Ridge via a series of infamous switchbacks. There’s little shade for the first few switchbacks, though the occasional tree will offer a great resting point, as well as the opportunity to appreciate ever-increasingly gorgeous views of Jackson and the Teton Mountains rising in the distance.

After much climbing, the trail enters back into the forest as you begin to near the saddle. The final switchback is well shaded, though still somewhat steep. Its last push up will take a rocky turn up past a landmark of a dead tree, where the summit waits just above.

The end of the Josie’s Ridge Trail is a bit subjective. Many people will consider the saddle the end. For some, the trail ends another quarter to half-mile up the trail to the right. The National Forest website says that the Josie’s Ridge Trail ends at the top of Snow King, another mile up the trail that veers off to the left. There’s no right or wrong, but the saddle holds some pretty incredible views that should surely be enjoyed. Continuing up the trail to the right brings you over a rocky ridge, and ultimately to some peaceful views overlooking southern parts of Jackson Hole, capped by the Snake River Mountains in the distance.

However you enjoy the higher reaches of the trail, head back out the same way you came, or even add a bit more length on your way down by linking up other trails in the network!

Getting There

From downtown Jackson, head west on Broadway Ave. for 0.4 miles, and at the stoplight with Flat Creek Drive, make a left turn to take Flat Creek Drive south. Follow that road for another 0.4 miles where it will bring to a 4-way stop sign at Snow King Ave. Take a right onto Snow King Ave. and after 0.3 miles, look for a small left turn for Wildlife Lane that immediately dead-ends into a parking lot, which is also the trailhead. If you cross Flat Creek then you just passed it.

Elevation profile for Josie's Ridge
Elevation profile for Josie’s Ridge
Elevation and route courtesy of Route Scout

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