Distance: 24 miles
The Valley Trail is a strenuous 24 mile hike extending along the base of the Teton Mountains, mostly in Grand Teton National Park. The trail begins near the Tram in Teton Village and traverses over numerous glacial moraines, ending along the String Lake Loop. The Valley Trail both doubles as many popular trails, while also featuring some of the least used trails in the park. The trail can be hiked in one continuous hike over multiple days, or a sectiome for day-hikes.
Valley Trail Description
Teton Village to Grand Teton National Park Boundary
Beginning in Teton Village, head behind the Bridger Center near the Teewinot Lift to locate the southern terminus of the Valley Trail. Quickly beginning to ascend in elevation, the trail zigs and zags up along a seasonal drainage rushing through aspen forests and wildflowers sandwiched between ski runs.
You’ll soon emerge into another ski run with some vacation homes on your right as you continue to climb. You’ll pass the Aprez-Vous Lift as you also cross a dirt road. Paralleling this road for a short distance, the trail will make a crossing one more time before dropping into the woods and away from the ski runs.
After passing a maintenance yard just up the hill to the left you reach the boundary for Grand Teton National Park shortly after. Here the noise from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort begins to fade away as you become more immersed in the woods and the feel of wilderness finally begins to take over. At one mile in, you officially reach the border with Grand Teton National Park.
Grand Teton National Park Boundary to Phelps Lake Overlook
The thick evergreen forest quickly transitions to an extensive aspen tree grove, providing a sense of calm and tranquility along the trail. Through brief breaks in the trees, glimpses of the Sleeping Indian rise on the opposite side of the valley, as well as many other great views of Jackson Hole. Throughout the course of the aspens you’re hiking through you’ll be on a long gradual descent.
At 1.6 miles in you’ll reach the bottom with an unnamed junction. This is a private equestrian trail so continue straight to stay on the Valley Trail. It’s just past this junction that the aspens will begin to thin out and the evergreens will once again become more dominant.
After entering back into the evergreens, you’ll begin a brief climb up a small moraine, giving you a nice vantage point of the terrain you just climbed through once on the crest. From here, you’ll twist down into an older forest as you begin to near the mouth of Granite Canyon.
After a brief descent, you’ll reach the junction to access the Granite Canyon Trailhead at 2.5 miles in. Continuing straight, you’ll cross Granite Canyon Creek shortly after and in 0.1 miles from the previous junction, you’ll reach the junction for Granite Canyon itself, forking off to the left. Continue straight to proceed along the Valley Trail.
Beyond Granite Canyon the Valley Trail snakes through mature woods and even a serene meadow before reaching a forested overlook starting down the trail through the dense trees. Following the trail down from the overlook, you’ll cross a small stream and then find yourself in a beautiful meadow with grand aspens surrounding the trail. Sharp eyes will notice plenty of younger aspens struggling to grow due to an excess of elk and other deer species.
The trail begins climbing out of the meadow where you’ll begin a steep climb up another moraine. After passing through another tranquil meadow and creek, this one overlooking a bit of Jackson Hole, you’ll at last crest the moraine where the trail then gently descends down to the runoff of Open Canyon high above. From here it’s a gradual and peaceful climb to the moraine along the south side of Phelps Lake. You’ll pass a junction to access the Open Canyon Trail at 4.7 miles in, continuing with some easy hiking through the forest, making it a relatively easy climb up the moraine.
As you crest the top of the moraine, you get your first glimpses of Phelps Lake through the forest and trees on top. Zigzagging along the top of the crest, the trail makes an easy ascent along the rocky forested top with Phelps Lake consistently below on the right. Depending on your timing, you may even hear the occasional screams from people leaping off of the “jumping rock” at the other end of the lake, sadly disturbing the silence. It’s through here you’ll also reach the Open Canyon Cutoff Trail at 5.1 miles, another trail to access the seldom-visited canyon. Beyond here, you make a steep descent down to the Phelps Lake Loop.
Along the Phelps Lake Loop, you’ll make a gradual descent down through the forest where you’ll soon cross Death Canyon Creek just before it pours into Phelps Lake. Just beyond the crossing, as the forest clears out into a meadow, you’ll zigzag up to a junction, where you’ll want to head left. This short connector along the Valley Trail climbs up 0.2 miles to another junction with the Death Canyon Trail, which heads left. To continue along the Valley Trail, head right, taking in the breathtaking scenery of Phelps Lake below the distant Gros Ventre Mountains rising above. Early in the season, you’ll also have a beautiful waterfall pouring down the opposite cliffs above the meadow.
Heading right, the trail maintains a steady ascent as you begin up a few long switchbacks. These climb through the forest, offering an occasional view of Phelps Lake. The final stretch opens up with absolutely stunning views of the lake below, continuing to climb, before reaching the popular day-hike destination of the Phelps Lake Overlook.
The trail will get significantly easier for a while at this point, so enjoy a well-earned rest if desired.
Phelps Lake Overlook to Taggart Lake
From the Phelps Lake Overlook, the Valley Trail makes a gradual descent through beautiful quaking aspen trees and meadows stretching downward. An occasional creek crossing makes the landscape incredibly pleasant as the aspens ultimately give way to an older, more mature forest. After 1 mile from the overlook, and 7.75 miles total, you’ll reach the junction for the Death Canyon Trailhead. Head straight to continue along the Valley Trail.
The next 3 miles or so cover what is likely the least visited segment of the entire Valley Trail. Though not as picturesque as many other parts of the trail, it still provides a wonderfully serene hike through the old forest, broken up by an occasional meadow with Teton views. A smattering of creek crossings also gives you the opportunity to fill up on water if it’s needed. The entire stretch also sees minimal elevation change, so it’s a great way to relax and enjoy yourself without feeling the need to prepare for anything too daunting.
At the end of that 3 miles, you’ll cross Beaver Creek, and almost immediately after come upon the junction with the Beaver Creek Trail at 11.2 miles in. Beaver Creek itself also makes for a great place to top off any needed water.
At the Beaver Creek Trail, head left to begin ascending up the moraine that holds Taggart Lake. The trail emerges from the forest as it begins a short but steep climb up, offering some outstanding views of the valley of Jackson Hole to the south. A mix of young forest vegetation awaits at the top, where you’ll enter back into an older forest as you begin to make your way down to the lake.
As you wind your way down through the peaceful forest, glimpses of the lake come into view through the trees, where you arrive at a footbridge along the lakeshore crossing a small inlet of Taggart Lake. You’ll weave a short distance along the lake’s perimeter before reaching the junction with the Taggart Lake Trail, another popular day-hiking destination.
Taggart Lake to Lupine Meadows Trailhead
From the junction with the Taggart Lake Trail, continue straight where more outstanding views of the lake come into view after winding through the forest some more. These alternative views are also typically void of the crowds that reach the lake by the junction, so if you were hoping to relax along the shores, one of these later points would be an ideal location.
Once beyond the lake, the trail will begin a meander through the forest, broken up by an occasional meadow, initially showing off the Grand Teton rising high above. You’ll ascend a few switchbacks as you begin to climb the moraine that separates Taggart Lake from Bradley Lake. Along the way are some more great views of Taggart Lake and beyond. Once upon the crest of the moraine, you’ll descend through a thick forest toward the shores of Bradley Lake.
Just prior to reaching the shores of Bradley Lake, you’ll reach a junction that connects the Valley Trail to the Bradley Lake Trail, forking off to the right. Continue straight, and after a bit more meandering through the woods, fantastic views of Bradley Lake begin to come into view. A few quick points allow for shore access where you can look straight up into Garnet Canyon rising steeply out of the opposite shore. A short distance beyond that is a larger area to relax just before a footbridge crosses the lake to begin another ascent.
On the other side of the footbridge, the trail wastes no time beginning to gain elevation as you begin to make your way to the highest point along the entire Valley Trail. The forest will remain consistent until you reach a large meadow with the Tetons looming ahead, before catching a switchback to make the final ascent up this moraine, overlooking Jackson Hole along the way.
Once crested, the trail wraps easily around the opposite side of the moraine as you begin a very gradual ascent along a meadow populated with occasional evergreens and lush wildflowers. Unbeknownst to most people, you’re also traveling directly below the Amphitheater Lake Trail, ultimately converging at a junction at the top of another moraine. The easy hiking remains consistent as you reach the junction, often a popular stopping point along the way for many accessing the trails at higher elevations. This is also the highest point of the Valley Trail itself, topping out at nearly 7,400 feet above sea level.
From this junction, the Valley Trail drops down along the crest of the moraine as it begins its descent toward the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. For approximately a half-mile, the trail will wind down along the crest of the moraine, occasionally dropping to the north side, consistently forested below the dense evergreens. At the end of that half-mile descent, the trail will cut back to the north where it takes a more casual stroll through the woods. Along the way are an occasional, but brief glimpse of Jackson Hole to one side, and the Teton Mountains to the other.
As you near the end of the descent, you’ll cross a milky creek, the runoff from Delta Lake high above. At the opposite end of the bridge the trail begins a slightly steeper descent, where a large meadow comes into view on the right before the trail bottoms out. A short distance later and the trail takes a straight shot through the forest to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead where it opens up into its namesake at 16.75 miles in.
Lupine Meadows Trailhead to Jenny Lake
From the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, the Valley Trail follows the dirt road out of the parking area and north along the road for a half-mile. Once through the half-mile dirt road walk, you’ll see a trail veering left into the treeline of the nearby forest. Here you’ll connect with the Moose Ponds Loop, where a sign directs you to proceed along the Valley Trail to the right.
Paralleling the dirt road, the trail is surprisingly relaxing and easy-going, despite the road just a short distance away. Across flat terrain, the trail winds through the immense meadow with Teewinot rising sharply and steeply into the sky to the left. Waterfalls cascade down its lower elevations just above the vegetation, seemingly the only thing separating you from the falls.
It doesn’t take long before you reach the Moose Ponds Trailhead, where a small parking area sits tucked away under the sparse evergreens. From here, the trail makes a short meander through a forest and small meadow, climbing gently up to the Jenny Lake Loop at 17.8 miles in.
Heading right along the popular Jenny Lake Loop, you’ll likely notice an increase in people along the trail, as this is one of the most popular trails in the park, and for good reason. An occasional gorgeous view along the shores of Jenny Lake show off the picturesque lake’s waters with the Tetons dramatically rising above. The woods remain consistent throughout this stretch, as will likely the other hikers.
After 18.5 miles along the Jenny Lake Loop, you’ll reach a bridge also doubling as a boat dock for the Jenny Lake Shuttle. For a brief distance, you can expect the crowds to increase. On the other side of the boat dock, stay left to remain along the Valley Trail, as you work your way through the fringes of the main Jenny Lake area.
Jenny Lake to Northern Terminus
The main Jenny Lake area is a populated and even paved area accommodating numerous crowds that may or may not be there to venture beyond the overlooks you’ll pass by. As part of the Jenny Lake Loop, continue along lake’s shores where a more traditional single-track trail will resume once beyond the crowds. Passing along the shores, the trail will climb steeply for a brief distance as it tops out on a ridge, skirting the outside edges of the Jenny Lake Campground.
The trail will hug the banks above the lake, gradually climbing slightly higher above the lake’s surface. The trail will remain heavily forested as well through this area, where you soon begin to parallel the one-way-in-the-opposite-direction scenic drive. Throughout the next mile-and-a-half, the trail makes an indiscernible ascent staying consistently in the thriving forest. Views of the lake are most frequently enjoyed through the trees, with only sporadic breaks allowing for larger views. The exception to this is where the trails connects with the popular Jenny Lake Overlook, a frequent stop along the scenic drive that offers drivers the opportunity to catch a scenic vantage point of the lake.
The trail maintains a northerly course along Jenny Lake’s perimeter, bending west around the northeastern side, before cutting north again along the runoff from String Lake. As the trail parallels the rushing current upstream, you’ll encounter a bit of elevation change, though nothing too strenuous, or even very long at all. The forest will open up for an occasional glimpse of the large stream before emerging into an old forest fire burn. Just beyond the burn, you’ll reach a junction with the String Lake Loop. Despite the beautifully constructed bridge to the left tempting you in that direction, continue straight to close out the last miles along the Valley Trail.
The trail will wind along the shores of String Lake as the first parking area is left behind. The Teton Mountains will rise sharply out of the waters of the lake as the trail follows the lake’s bends and curves, veering overall northward.
After passing another parking area on the right, you’ll soon reach a peaceful wetlands area, complete with a footbridge crossing over the saturated break in the forest. Bending and wrapping around the lake a bit more and you’ll reach the Leigh Lake Trailhead, a large parking area where large crowds and numerous visitors converge to take advantage of String Lake’s shores and shallow waters. Passing through this area, you’ll climb a few steps and return into the forest for a short distance before rejoining the lake’s shores.
For the next mile, the trail will bend and twist with String Lake’s perimeter as it offers up one captivating view after another. There’s no end to the natural beauty of seeing the Grand Teton and Teewinot rising high beyond the clear waters of String Lake, regardless of time of day. As such, the trail features plenty of vantage points to admire the changing views.
At the end of the mile, you’ll reach another junction where you’ll want to head left to continue around the String Lake Loop. This will direct you to a large footbridge that crosses over the runoff from Leigh Lake into the northern reaches of String Lake, once again, another stunning glacial lake vista.
Moving away from the shores of the lake, the trail heads deep into the woods, decorated with the occasional large granite boulder gently placed in its location from glacial erosion. Initially beginning as a gentle climb, the elevation will increase considerably as you make your way up the final ascent. Passing through woods broken up by an occasional meadow, you continue to climb until you reach the junction with the Paintbrush Canyon Trail, aka, the Northern Terminus of the Valley Trail. From this point, you can either head back to the Leigh Lake Trailhead from the way you just came up, or complete the String Lake Loop, which will bring you back over that tempting bridge from a couple of miles earlier. Either way, this arbitrary junction tucked away in the woods is the northern terminus at 23.6 miles.
That’s the Northern Terminus?!
Initially unsure of where exactly the northern terminus was, I was under the impression the Valley Trail terminated at Trapper Lake, since no (maintained) trail extends beyond that point. Eager to put my uncertainty to rest, I asked a backcountry ranger in Grand Teton National Park if I was correct. While asking that question, another hiker insisted it was the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, to which I replied I had seen signs for the Valley Trail north of there. Finally the ranger chimed in, saying it was where the String Lake Loop meets the Paintbrush Canyon Trail. And so there you have it. That’s where it ends.
From the Tram at Teton Village, head up the stairs along the Bridger Center, and look for the southern terminus at the backside of the building.