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Woods Canyon Trail

The Woods Canyon Trail winding through a forest and a talus wall. Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming

The Woods Canyon Trail is a strenuous 2.75 mile (one way) trail that climbs quickly into the Gros Ventre Wilderness in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in the lower Gros Ventre Mountains. Though relatively close to town, its quick ascent into the wilderness in a narrow canyon gives it a more wild feeling than many of its nearby and lengthier counterparts.

Woods Canyon Trail Description

Beginning at the Nelson Drive Trailhead you’ll immediately reach a junction. Right begins the Putt Putt Trail, while left continues to Woods Canyon. Heading left, you’ll climb steeply through a lush forest and into a meadow. In this meadow, you’ll come to another junction at 0.25 miles in. Left heads up the Crystal Lite Trail, while right (straight) continues toward Woods Canyon.

Climbing more steeply through an exposed hillside, you’ll pass through an occasional aspen grove before reaching the junction with the Crystal Butte Trail at 0.4 miles in. Continue straight, where you’ll continue climbing, though not quite as steep. The mostly exposed hillside provides wide views of Cache Creek Canyon ahead, with gorgeous views of town behind you.

Fireweed wildflowers blooming along the Woods Canyon Trail. Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming

As the elevation gain begins to ease up a bit, you’ll pass a sign marking the Gros Ventre Wilderness. Though Woods Canyon is in the wilderness area, this stretch is short-lived. You soon after leave the wilderness boundary as the sounds from Cache Creek far below and chirping birds begins to replace the traffic and urban noise from Jackson.

Ambling through the mostly exposed hillside, you’ll begin to descend a bit as you then pass through a couple more aspen tree groves. You’ll maintain a quick descent as you reach the final junction in a meadow at 1.1 miles in. Head left to begin up Woods Canyon.

You’ll maintain a steady ascent into the woods, quickly reaching the Gros Ventre Wilderness boundary once again. The canyon walls quickly close in with the forest. Following a steady climb up the bottom of the canyon, you’ll notice a rocky slope on the left, something that will begin to become a more common sight with more elevation gain.

Aspen Trees Along Woods Canyon Trail
Aspen trees growing along the Woods Canyon Trail in the Gros Ventre Mountains. Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming

As you continue to climb, you’ll pass more rocky terrain, dense forests, and lush groves. The canyon walls will consistently be steep on both sides. With limited views, this canyon provides a much more intimate wilderness experience. The more or less “officially” ends after about another 1.5 miles of ascending. You’ll encounter an aspen grove surrounding a rocky drainage as the trail seems to go directly up it. An unmaintained trail does continue upward, though there’s not much beyond that point. In addition, the trail begins to fade shortly after. From that elevation, you may be treated to a nice view of Snow King and beyond, but little else keeps most from exploring further. When ready, head back down the same way you came in.

Getting There

From Town Square in Jackson, head east on Broadway Ave. for 0.9 miles. When it dead-ends at the National Elk Refuge, head right onto Nelson Drive. Continue through the small S-curve, veering left at the fork. Look for the parking area just a couple hundred feet beyond to the left.

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