Day 5: Alaska Basin lakes to Sunset Lake via Static Peak summit; 7.5 miles, 2100 ft gain
We did another side hike on day 5 before spending a second night in Alaska Basin at Sunset Lake. The side hike to summit Static Peak is an incredible one and one I would recommend it to anyone hiking in the Tetons!
In the summer of 2021 I hiked the Teton Crest Trail with friends. Set in Grand Teton National Park, it is one of the most beautiful hikes in the country. It varies in length depending on the trailhead you use, but the basic TCT is about 40 miles with ~9000 ft of elevation gain. You can easily customize the hike length by adding side hikes; we ended up hiking 53 miles and ~11,000 ft.
It can be hard to get permits online when they become available. However I just showed up the day before I wanted to start hiking and got walk up permits. I did this with the JMT as well. There are walk up permits available everyday. Just go in with several itineraries and the rangers are happy to work with you. Also, the Teton Crest Trail goes in and out of National Forest where you don’t need permits to camp making it relatively easy to put a route together. I had booked a campsite at Colter Bay in the National Park for the first two nights so we had a place to stay while we prepared for an early morning queue at the ranger station to snag permits. However, we got permits the first afternoon we arrived and were able to start hiking the next day.
Day 4: Sapphire Lake to Big Pete Meadow 9.5 miles, 1300 ft elevation gain
Day 4 I began with a climb up to Muir Pass. I had already camped at ~11,000 ft so it was only another 1000 ft to the top, but at this altitude there is still huffing and puffing involved. Already above the tree line, the terrain is rocky and barren, but beautiful. I walked past Wanda Lake before climbing. At the top of the pass (11,975′) also sits Muir Hut which is also pretty cool.
The North Lake/South Lake loop is a really perfect slice of the Sierras. At 55 miles and nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain its a nice 5-6 day hike with easy logistics out of Bishop, CA. More than that, it covers some of the prettiest sections of the Sierra such as Piute Pass, Muir Pass, Bishop Pass, Evolution Basin and Dusy Basin.
I had wanted to do this loop as part of a 200 mile hike with my son in the summer of 2019. But an injury cut the trip short and we only did half our planned route. With the craziness of 2020 I realized mid summer that I didn’t have a hike planned, so on a whim I flew out to California to do this loop by myself.