Grand Tetons National Park was a quick stop on our road trip because we previously gone backpacking through the Tetons the summer before. We decided that our main focus was to make it up to Yellowstone National Park, and spend a bit more time there since we read about the crazy amounts of tourists in the summer, limited camping, and so many different sites to see. Seeing as how we were trying to limit ourselves to two days at each park, we left Denver and aimed to make it to Jackson, Wyoming. Once we got to town, we found a great brewery called Snake River Brewing, which also happen to be the oldest brewery in Wyoming! We decided to sleep in the 4runner that night and head into the Grand Tetons National Park super early in the morning to catch some views of the Grand TEETS before heading the short distance to Yellowstone. The naming of the mountains is attributed to early 19th-century French-speaking trappers—les trois tétons (the three teats) was later anglicized and shortened to Tetons. I know what those French gents were thinking…I like where their heads were at!
We found a spot just outside of the park that is known to have some of the best views of the Grand Tetons because I wanted to capture the sunrise. As we pulled in I couldn’t believe how many cars were already there! I walked around and snapped a few pictures and we headed out before the crowds continued to build. It was a short and sweet visit, but well worth these views!
Are you looking for an adventure in the Tetons?
We backpacked through the Grand Tetons via the Paint Brush Divide Trail. We started at Jenny Lake, where we camped and explored for a few days before heading out on our trek. We rented canoes from Jackson and kept them for the few days that we stayed down at Jenny Lake. It was absolutely incredible scenery surrounding us when on the lake and it’s great fishing waters!
Paintbrush Divide Hike stats:
Miles: 18.2 miles through Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
Elevation Gain: 3,975
Time of Year: Hiked in late June, & we were the first group to complete the hike that season due to the snow that remained at the top of the pass.
If you are looking for a real ass kicker with some spectacular views along the way, then this hike is for you! We were super fortunate to have perfect weather throughout the entire hike.
The first day we hiked about 6 miles to Holly Lake, which was still flooded so we were unable to camp in the specific camping areas. Instead we went down a bit below the campground and set up camp for the night. We had to dig out the bear box because it was still covered in snow in order to stuff all our food in for the night. After a long day of hiking, I decided it would be a good idea to wash off in the river flowing through camp. It was like taking the polar plunge! The water was so cold since we were so close to the snow melt area that I stayed on the beach and just bent over trying to soak my hair and splash water on myself. I stepped into the river and my feet instantly went numb! But, we all sucked it up and tried to clean off. We had incredible views of the valley & we could see Leigh Lake/Jackson Lake in the distance.
It was nice to take our time getting into the alpine because there was still quite a bit of snow as we looked to summit Paint Brush Divide and make it over towards Solitude Lake. We didn’t need to use crampons through the snow but most of us did have trekking poles and waterproof hiking boots. It looked as though it would be easier to go straight up and over, but the snow was so soft and slippery it was too risky. You didn’t want to end up in the rock field below. So we continued across the snow field until we reached another point where we pulled out the ice axes. If you are scared of heights, this spot will be a tad bit terrifying! If you fall, you land straight down below in a large rock field. You don’t want that free helicopter ride out so take your time getting to the other side. Although it’s a short distance, it’s important to keep good footing and use the ice axe for stability. Once we were at the summit we took a break, snapped a million photos and continued on our way down to Solitude Lake. You could see the lake in the distance and everyone was one cloud nine! Our adrenaline was pumping as we were so excited to have summited. The way down was 2.5 miles to Solitude with lot of scrambling over big boulders which gets quite exhausting with a huge pack on. Once we reached the lake, everyones boots came off and lunch came out.
From Solitude we were about 8.5 miles away from completing the loop. We had reserved a group campsite for the night in Cascade Canyon, but some of our group had decided they were going to head all the way down. The two of us had this large group site to ourselves. This areas was most definitely bear territory so I was extra cautious walking around, carrying the bear bell, and staying alert. It was also marmotville! There were marmots all over our group site. We set up our tent directly near their home and they were so intrigued by us! We went down below camp to the river to clean off and refill our water, and upon our return there was a marmot snuggled up with my hiking pole licking the handle! That night it was so clear out that we slept without our rain fly on to watch the stars. Something kept rustling around outside our tent, and when I turned over there was a marmot sleeping on our backpack!
We got up early and headed down the mountain. Those last 8.5 miles seemed like the longest miles of the entire trek! As we descended it also became much warmer than it was at the higher elevations with about 85* weather, and the trails became more cluttered with day hikers. I was absolutely shot when I got to the truck dropping my backpack and sprawling out on the ground. It felt so good! We jumped into the lake to wash off before hopping in the truck and driving home to Denver. If we had more time I would have loved to recover one more night down at Jenny Lake before having to drive home. But, we made it work!
Check out some of my recommendations for absolutely necessary items for this trek:
- Pack sandals that way when you get to camp you can let your feet rest outside of your hiking boots. Your feet need to breathe!
- Water filter is an absolute must that way you are not carrying around extra weight with water in your pack. This pump was fast and easy to use and it lasts for a very long time!
- Lots of Mountain House meals! I was not a fan of the breakfast option myself so I ate a lot of Oatmeal, but for lunch and dinner they had such a great variety it was hard to go wrong!
- Use compression sacks to keep things separated and tight in your pack.
- Hat and sunglasses are an absolute must
- Bear spray and bear bell are an absolute must on this hike. The bear bell is so that the bear is not caught off guard, because that is how most attacks happen. If you surprise the bear, they will freak. But, when you wear the bell on your pack they are more likely to hear you coming and be scared off from the area.
- Trekking poles- I was not convinced that I needed trekking poles, but the guy at REI insisted it would help more on the downhill than anything due to the heavy weight of my pack. So, I went for it and it was THE BEST DECISION I COULD HAVE MADE!
Check out the video edit we put together from our trip. Have fun exploring!