Phelps Lake Loop
Distance: 7 miles
The Phelps Lake Loop is a 7 mile loop trail that circles the beautiful Phelps Lake at the base of the Teton Mountains, originating from the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. It’s considered one of Grand Teton National Park’s must-do hikes and is consistently less crowded than its counterparts of Jenny and Taggart Lakes. Likewise, you can also eliminate the loop and simply hike the Lake Creek Trail to Phelps Lake for the short and sweet version. For those wanting the full loop, keep reading.
Phelps Lake Loop Trail Description
From the parking area, follow the short trail to the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Visitor Center where the official trail begins. Begin by heading up the trail, passing the scenic overlook of Lake Creek and the man-made waterfall on the opposite side of the trail. At less than 0.2 miles in, you’ll reach the first junction along the trail, splitting the Lake Creek Trail with the Woodland Trail. Follow the trail left to begin heading up the Lake Creek Trail, crossing the footbridge across the namesake creek.
The Lake Creek Trail begins by ascending a small hill once across the creek, zig-zagging its way through the woods. At 0.6 miles in you’ll cross the Moose-Wilson Road to continue heading north toward the lake. The trail winds along the top of a bank along the creek where scenic views swoop down below to the creek and up through the forest canopy. At 0.75 miles in, you’ll reach another trail junction, this time for the Aspen Ridge Trail to the left, as well as a connector trail for the Woodland Trail to the right. In this case, continue straight.
Once past the junction, the trail maintains a continuous path along Lake Creek where it still weaves through the forest, reaching a large meadow a bit farther ahead. There are great opportunities to access the creek if desired in the meadow before the trail reenters the forest. After another short climb and subsequent descent, you’ll reach a small seasonal wetlands area at just shy of 1.5 miles. Just ahead the trail climbs out of the wetlands area and ascends to the shore of Phelps Lake.
With a great view of Phelps Lake, you’ll reach the junction for the Phelps Lake Loop, with an optional but spectacular vantage point just ahead. Once ready, head left (or right if you went to the overlook) along the main Phelps Lake Loop trail to begin the loop around Phelps Lake. You’ll pass a small pond on the left before reentering the woods, never losing a great view of the lake through the trees.
At 2.1 miles in, you’ll reach a short 0.1 mile spur trail that accesses the scenic, Huckleberry Point, a small peninsula the juts out into the lake. From the point, a fantastic view of Death Canyon is seen dominating the background above Phelps Lake, its sheer cliffs shooting high into the sky.
Shortly after Huckleberry Point, you’ll reach another junction to access both the Valley Trail heading southbound, as well as Open Canyon. Continue straight along the lakeshore where gorgeous views of the lake persist through the trees. A clearing in the trees where an old creek used to flow will yield great views of the surrounding terrain. At 3.75 miles in, just beyond the clearing, you’ll cross a small footbridge across Death Canyon Creek.
Once past the rushing creek, you’ll find another junction just ahead to access Death Canyon by heading left. Continue straight to maintain the Phelps Lake Loop trail, maintaining a steady pace through the forest with occasional views of the Jackson Peak and the Gros Ventre Mountains rising up above the opposite shore. You’ll soon pass the backcountry campground on the right with increasingly great views of Death Canyon rising up behind you.
At 4.75 miles in, you’ll reach the famous “jumping rock,” from which people often enjoy jumping into Phelps Lake from with Death Canyon rising in the background for a picturesque mountain scene. If you happen to catch it alone, it also makes for a wonderful place to sit and admire the lake and the surroundings. The trail continues heading south past the rock, and much like the opposite side of the lake, peacefully wanders through the trees, occasionally offering a stunning glimpse of the lake.
You’ll finally reach another junction at 5.8 miles in, where you’ll reach the Boulder Ridge Trail. If you’re looking to add another mile or so on your return trip, head left here to take a longer scenic route back to the Woodland Trail. Otherwise, continue straight for another 0.1 miles to reach the Woodland Trail. Optionally, you can also complete the Phelps Lake Loop by heading another 0.25 miles or so to access the Lake Creek Trail if you’d prefer to take that back.
Assuming you head left down the Woodland Trail, you’ll find the makes a few short and easy climbs up and over hills before levelling out on its way back down to the Visitor Center. The Woodland Trail easily scrambles through the dense forest, providing a silent and peaceful soundscape on your way back. At 6.3 miles, you’ll reach a junction where the Boulder Ridge Trail connects back up, and then at 6.6 miles just ahead, you’ll cross the Moose-Wilson Road once again.
From here, the Woodland Trail makes a couple of easy switchbacks down the creek bank and reconnects with the Lake Creek Trail at 6.8 miles in, allowing for an easy and peaceful 0.2 mile remainder of the trail back to the Visitor Center.
If you have time, be sure to check out the fantastic Visitor Center as well. It has a wealth of information about the area as well as the history of the donation that the Rockefellers made to the park. If nothing else, the architecture inside is also stunning and makes for a great place to relax after the hike.
From Moose, turn left onto the Moose-Wilson Road and follow it south for 3.75 miles. Turn left into the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and follow the road till it dead-ends at the parking area.