Distance: 8 miles (one way)
Type: Out and back
The hike to the Static Peak Divide is a strenuous 8 mile (one way) trail that ascends up a small side canyon of Death Canyon in Grand Teton National Park. From the divide, hikers can choose to continue another mile to the Alaska Basin, hike up Static Peak, or turn around and head back.
Static Peak Divide Trail Description
Beginning at the Death Canyon Trailhead, head up the Valley Trail to the Phelps Lake Overlook where you’ll begin descending toward Phelps Lake and the mouth of Death Canyon. Along the way, iconic and beautiful views of Phelps Lake help the 1 mile descent fly by. After a pair of switchbacks bring you to a large meadow, you’ll reach a junction at 1.7 miles in. The Valley Trail continues to the left, while the Death Canyon Trail begins by heading straight. To ascend up to the Static Peak Divide, head straight.
The trail continues to drop down through the meadow, with a seasonal waterfall splashing down the cliffs to your right. You’ll quickly enter a forest where you’ll soon reach the lowest point of your journey before making a consistent ascent up to the divide. The forest is occasionally broken up by boulder fields, the first of which is reached just a short distance ahead.
You’ll begin a steady climb through the forest, the creek always nearby, its soothing white noise the result of masses of snow melt channeled out of the canyon and crashing over the rocks and cliffs nearby. After another pair of switchbacks, the forest begins to thin as the ground gets increasingly rockier. It’s here you’ll find yourself below the defining cliffs of the mouth of Death Canyon. The imposing rock faces dictate the terrain as the occasional trees provide a small bit of shade from time to time. Throughout, the trail maintains a consistent ascent upward providing increasingly stunning views not just of the creek, but also of Phelps Lake and the valley behind you.
At about 3.6 miles in, you’ll reach the official mouth of Death Canyon. At this point, the landscape changes and provides a brief bit of easy hiking as the trail smooth out, as well as the creek. The rushing creek crashing over jagged rocks and cliffs is now behind you, and in its place is a serene, slow-moving creek with a peaceful forest extending from its banks. In 0.3 more miles, you’ll reach the discrete, but still iconic, Death Canyon Patrol Cabin, a destination in itself for many day-hikers as well.
The cabin is also the location of the next junction. In this case, the Death Canyon Trail heads straight, while the Alaska Basin Trail begins by heading right. The Static Peak Divide is along the Alaska Basin Trail, so head right to begin the unforgiving ascent out of Death Canyon.
Lush aspens quickly begin to line the trail as you’ll bend back through the side canyon and begin a steep series of switchbacks. Wildflowers and other vegetation flourishes in this area with waterfalls splashing down both near and far. Along the way, increasingly scenic views extending up Death Canyon are revealed through the breaks in the forest. There are frequent brushes through evergreens and aspens, all the while maintaining a steep ascent. As the trail gets a little rockier, steep cliffs pop up along the way, also revealing more dramatic views up the canyon. As you begin to enter an old fir forest, the ascent never letting up, you might notice the switchbacks beginning to shrink.
Upon cresting a small ridge at 6.5 miles in, you’ll reach a gorgeous vista overlooking Phelps Lake and lower Jackson Hole. It makes for a great place to catch your breath and stop to admire the scenery. The climb is far from over, however, as the trail continues is steady ascent upward toward the top of Death Canyon and to the Static Peak Divide.
Along the way, outstandingly wide views open up through Death Canyon, interrupted by a forest with many dead trees. These dead whitebark pine trees, an endangered species, are unfortunately the work of the infamous bark beetle, a product of climate change ravaging forests across the west.
After a long switchback, you’ll reach a jaw-dropping crest at 7.2 miles in looking to the north for dozens of miles past the valley of Jackson Hole. Passing treeline, the trail begins to provide one panoramic view after another as you’ll pass over the small crest a few different times, the views up Death Canyon and Jackson Hole each growing more sublime.
Consistent switchbacks through the rocky alpine terrain will begin to define the trail at this point as the trail ascends up vertigo-inducing cliffs. Through the ascent, Static Peak dominates the northern landscape ahead, while the turquoise waters of Rimrock Lake can be easily picked out atop the opposite cliffs of Death Canyon. At 8 miles in, you’ll reach the Static Peak Divide, a panoramic vista of unparalleled alpine beauty.
From the divide, you have the option to either call it a day and head back out the way you came in, or, you can head up Static Peak just a few steps behind you. Another option is to continue up the Alaska Basin Trail, which will drop down a bit through rocky cliffs and then to talus and scree for another mile before reaching the Alaska Basin itself. From here numerous loop options can be explored, though most people exploring those loops will be prepared for at least one night out. The map below shows the route continuing to the basin.
From Moose, head south for 3 miles along the Moose-Wilson Road, turning right at the signed road for the Death Canyon Trailhead. The road will turn to dirt after 1 mile, with the trailhead 1 more mile up the dirt road. Ample parking can be found along the way for those not in a high clearance vehicle, which is highly recommended to reach the actual trailhead.