Distance: 3 miles (one way)
Type: Out and back
Water: Yes (seasonal)
The Signal Mountain Summit Trail is a strenuous 3 mile ascent up its namesake mountain in Grand Teton National Park, providing an alternate way down for a change in scenery. Both trails are detailed here, with the ascent focusing on the Ridge Trail, and the descent taking the Ponds Trail.
Signal Mountain Summit Trail Description
The trail for the Signal Mountain Summit can be accessed in three different ways. If you’re staying in the Signal Mountain Campground, look for the trail inside the campground to bring you toward Teton Park Road and cross to begin the ascent. Another option if you’re not staying in the campground is to park in the Signal Mountain Lodge area and hike up Teton Park Road a short distance to connect with the aforementioned trail on the opposite side of the road. Finally, if you’d prefer to avoid road walking, you can also take the Signal Mountain Summit Road 1.1 miles to a small parking area next to a large seasonal pond. Backtrack a short distance to access the trail there.
If you’re beginning from one of the first ways, begin from the road up through a sparse forest, climbing steadily before leveling out. As the road noise fades you’ll quickly cross Signal Mountain Summit Road, which is where the third access option also begins.
From here, you’ll wrap around a serene pond tucked away in the old forest. The trail will break away from the pond and climb through a sparse forest before reaching a junction. Both ways will take you to the summit, but one follows the Ridge Trail while the other follows the Ponds Trail. It doesn’t matter which you choose, but it’s always nice to take the other back down. In this case, I went up the Ridge Trail, so that’s what this write-up will reflect.
Heading left up the Ridge Trail, there’s a quick ascent up toward the ridge, evening out through an old but open forest. After winding through the calm trees, the trail opens up into an expansive meadow while gradually ascending. A brief but steady climb brings you up to the ridge with beautiful views opening up just a bit farther ahead. To the west the iconic Teton Mountains rise high above while the lower Gros Ventres stretch from the east to the southeast. The trail continues to wrap around for stunning views of the northern Tetons as well before dropping back into the forest.
You’ll drop in and out of a few more meadows until some beautiful views begin to open up to the south, with the Tetons emerging to the southwest just a bit further. At the other end of the lengthy meadow you reach the junction for the Ponds Trail where you’ll want to continue left. You’ll begin climbing again through a forest that quickly opens up into another meadow where the trail will begin ascending toward the back of a small but picturesque canyon.
Along the way, the forest will get thicker along the trail, but through the breaks in the trees you’ll see a bare hillside rising on the opposite side of the canyon. In early summer you’ll see some remarkable wildflower blooms covering the hill.
The climb remains steady through the old silent forest as it begins to thicken again, road noise from the Signal Mountain Summit Road becoming slightly more audible as you continue. You’ll ascend through a switchback, steadily climbing through the thick forest where you soon reach the summit overlook. You’ll likely encounter other people that drove to the overlook, so private moments with views are best experienced on the way up or back down. Nevertheless, it’s still a stunning view of the Tetons that makes for a great reward.
From here, you can either head back out the Ridge Trail, or take the Ponds Trail back out for a change in scenery. If that’s the case, continue reading.
Back at the junction for the Ridge Trail and the Ponds Trail, head left to begin descending into the forest. You’ll quickly emerge at a large seasonal pond breaking up the peaceful forest. The trail will wind around the side of the pond for ample views before it veers away and heads back into the woods.
Continue following the trail as it wanders gently through the woods where you’ll soon pass a smaller pond on the left, this one surrounded by aspen trees. The trail only catches a brief view of it before maintaining its casual stroll through the woods.
You’ll soon make an easy stroll through a large meadow, where, on the opposite side, you’ll connect back up with the Ridge Trail. From here you can head back out the same way you came up.
From the Moran Entrance Station, head north on Highway 89 for 3.7 miles, turning left at the Jackson Lake Dam Junction. This will put you onto Teton Park Road, where you’ll head south for 3 miles, turning right into Signal Mountain Lodge. The trailhead will be back on the main road, just a short distance farther south.