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Wilson Canyon

Wild geranium wildflowers blooming along the Wilson Canyon Trail at the base of the Gros Ventre Mountains. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

The Wilson Canyon Trail is a strenuous 5.25 mile trail that ascends up the foothills of the Gros Ventre Mountains to the backside of Snow King Mountain. At its terminus, it connects with the Skyline Trail and Ferrin’s Trail. The trail is shared with mountain bikes so be alert when hiking.

Wilson Canyon Trail Description

From the trailhead, head east between the power grid and private businesses where you’ll quickly reach the boundary with the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Once in the national forest, you’ll wander along the base of the foothills with little-to-no vegetation providing shade. Nearly as quickly as you reached the national forest boundary, you’ll reach a junction that forks off to the A&W Trail. Continue right to head to Wilson Canyon.

A small hill awaits and as you make the quick ascent up and over, the mouth of Wilson Canyon comes into view. The rocky and jagged canyon appears almost as a wall as you approach the imposing mouth of the canyon, the hills growing on either side.

Sticking to the north side of the canyon, you’ll hike easily to the mouth, where you’ll then begin to wrap around small hills below rocky cliffs. At this point the canyon will narrow as the trail gets steeper. Continuing to climb, the canyon walls will start to close in, the trail getting steeper still.

The Wilson Canyon Trail ascending through an old forest and fall ground brush. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

At this point you’ll notice large rocks and cliffs lining the trail. Maintaining a steep ascent, you’ll twist up the canyon through rocks and forest fire burn. In a short distance you’ll then enter an old forest. At an unofficial fork, you’ll want to head left, also indicated by a nearby sign.

Early in the season, a seasonal stream fed by snow melt cascades along the bottom of the canyon just to the left. Climbing more, the rocks close in even more as you may notice at this point that the road noise has faded away. All that’s left is a serene and peaceful forest in a tight canyon.

The consistent strenuous climb continues up the narrow wooded canyon. You’ll soon begin to cross over the stream bed multiple times, ultimately ending up on the left side of it. Though still climbing, at this point the elevation gain will mellow out a bit. Just beyond this point an old dam holds bank a pond where the trail will level out for some easy hiking.

The Wilson Canyon Trail passing by a small pond reflecting the surrounding canyon vegetation in the Gros Ventre Mountains. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

As the density of the forest thins out, you’ll notice a small perennial stream flowing on the right feeding the pond. As you easily hike along the stream at the bottom of the canyon, willows will begin lining the stream, adding an extra layer of lushness to the environment.

The forest fades away as the trail maintains a steady and easy course toward the back of the canyon below mostly bare hills. Following a large bend to the right, you’ll reach a junction at 3 miles in. Head right to continue up the Wilson Canyon Trail.

Immediately crossing a small footbridge, you’ll wander through sparse evergreen trees along the small canyon bottom. Soon the landscape widens as the top of the canyon opens up below larger hills ahead. You’ll then quickly cut upward into the hill through a young forest. Shortly after the quick ascent you’ll reach a junction with the West Game Creek Trail at 3.5 miles in. Head left to keep heading up the Wilson Canyon Trail.

The Wilson Canyon Trail bending as it approaches a forested hill in the distance. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

Easily winding along the open hillsides, you’ll gradually climb back into a small pocket of woods. You’ll twist through the grove before wrapping around an exposed hillside, where you’ll then wiggle through a forest grove once again. After passing through one more mellow meadow followed by an inviting grove, you’ll make the final ascent up an open hillside to the terminus. Along the way the views become more and more dramatic into the Gros Ventre Mountains.

On a wide and open saddle, you reach the junction with Ferrin’s Trail and the Skyline Trail. A quick few steps onto Ferrin’s Trail will yield a rewarding view looking up the valley of Jackson Hole. When ready, head back out the same way you came in.

Getting There

From downtown Jackson, head south on Highway 89 for 5.8 miles. Turn left onto Wilson Canyon Road. Follow that a short distance until it dead-ends near a power grid. Park on the left to access the trail.

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All content © Copyright Mike Cavaroc, Free Roaming Hiker & Free Roaming Photography