Teton Crest Trail with Side Hikes – Part 2

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!

We hiked across the Alaska Basin, which is a very beautiful area. Few trees, lots of wildflowers. Little streams everywhere. Then we left the basin and entered a moonscape as we climbed up toward Static Peak Divide (10,800 ft). Then just a final push up to the peak (11,303 ft). And what views!

We hiked back to Alaska Basin and camped by Sunset Lake. Another afternoon storm blew through as we hiked showering us with cold rain and hail. But by the time we camped it was another beautiful clear evening in the Tetons.

Day 6: Sunset Lake to South Fork Cascade Canyon via Avalanche Divide side hike; 8.5 miles, 2000 ft gain

Day 6 would have us hitting two passes. First we hiked through fields of wildflowers as we finally hiked out of Alaska Basin. We then climbed up to the bare Hurricane Pass (10,600 ft) where finally visible, the Tetons loomed mightily before us. Then we climbed down into South Fork Cascade canyon passing Schoolroom Glacier along the way. Magnificent!

After descending into the canyon we took yet another side hike to climb up to Avalanche Pass (10,679 ft). We left our packs by the trail and started climbing once again. There were fields of flowers giving way to the rocky landscape. The pass is bare and beautiful with two glacial lakes down the other side. As we sat on top of the divide eating our lunches a marmot grabbed one of our poles and ran across the length of the ridge. I ran after him, retrieving my pole before he could disappear down the ridge. The salty handgrips were in high demand!

After Avalanche divide we headed down into South Fork Cascade Canyon. Like most permit areas in Grand Teton National Park, the permit lets you camp anywhere in a zone/area. It is a really beautiful section with waterfalls and white water, canyon walls rising on both sides.

Kathryn had been struggling with blisters so as we hiked we decided to cut our trip short. Rather than continuing on over Paintbrush Divide the next day and then spending night 7 in Paintbrush Canyon we would hike out the following day via Cascade Canyon.

Day 7: South Fork Cascade Canyon to Jenny Lake; 10 miles, 200 ft gain

We had camped in a beautiful spot overlooking the river. We had no climbs on our final day as we descended gradually down to Jenny Lake. I had not researched Cascade Canyon and didn’t know what to expect. It was really beautiful as it followed Cascade Creek, and we had ripe huckleberries and raspberries to eat along the way. We also saw a Marten to add to our collection of wildlife sightings.

Jenny Lake was beautiful as we walked several miles around it. Finally we encountered lots of clean tourists after 7 days in the Teton backcountry. Now we needed a place to camp that night since we did not have reservations for any NP campsites. I had read about a walk in hiker/biker site at Jenny Lake. Sure enough, we were able to easily score a couple spots there. Finally, we had left our car at the Taggart Lake TH a week earlier. Jenny Lake is crowded, and I was able to easily hitch a ride to the car and drove it back.

The Tetons were one of the most beautiful places I’ve backpacked. With so many trailheads it’s easy to do a 2 day or an 8 day backpacking trip there. Permits are easy if you just allow yourself to be flexible and get walk up permits. There is no in park transportation so logistics of getting around can be complicated. After our week in the Tetons we headed up to Yellowstone to spend a few days there before returning to Jackson for our flight home. Another great backpacking trip!

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