Grand Tetons - Teton Crest Trail Route selection advise

2:28 a.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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We are heading up there in early September and plan to do the Teton Crest Trail. However when I called the Jenny Lake Ranger station a few days ago one of the Rangers suggested that we do not to start on top of the tram but start out on Jenny Lake and end up at the tram in order to get acclimated better and avoid possible altitude sickness. Sounded somewhat plausible to me as a city slicker. Can anyone confirm that this is

a) sound advise

b) a good alternative as I thought starting out on Jenny Lake and going all the way to the top of the tram may be way harder

c) can anyone suggest a good 3 night/4 day route selection starting out at Jenny Lake or on top of the tram. We plan on starting on a Thursday and be back down on Sunday? There are 4 of us – all recreational hikers in our early 40ies. We do day hikes multiple times a year and one 3-4 night backpacking trip a year. (last year we did Glacier) and we are in pretty decent shape but not experts per se.

Thanks a lot

11:02 a.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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I have hiked the Teton Crest Trail many times in the last 30 years. I never heard anything about getting altitude sickness from going up on the tram, but I guess its possible. Jackson Hole (JH) is 6000 feet above sea level. The tram takes you to 10,400 feet.

If you want to start at Jenny Lake to do the TCT, I would suggest this:

Day one:

Start on the Jenny Lake trail and follow along the lake to the northeast to the String Lake crossover and then go on the Paintbrush Divide trail. Hike up and over this trail to Lake Solitude the first camp.

Day two:

Hike down the North Fork Cascade Canyon trail to where Cascade Canyon divides and take the South Cascade Canyon trail towards Hurricane Pass. This will take you to the highest point on the trail at the pass.

Follow on the TCT and head south into the Alaska Basin and the Sunset Lakes area. This is camp 2.

Day three:

Hike up and over Fox Creek Pass to the southwest along Death Canyon Shelf. After the pass continue on to Marion Lake. This is camp 4.

Day four:

Hike down into Granite Canyon along the North G.C. trail until you come to the first trail Jct, take the left and go down Granite Canyon to the Valley Trail. Turn north again when you get to this trail and head north back towards Phelps Lake, staying on the Valley Trail all the way back to your car at Jenny Lake.

This is a map I made for some others a few weeks ago that were requesting a route like yours. The only difference is where you will go along the northeast side of Jenny Lake above near the upper right of this map.

If you have two cars it could be easier to hike down the Granite Creek trail and then take the right hand trail to Teton Village along the Valley Trail, or hike up to the top of the tram from Marion lake by following the North Granite to the middle and south Granite trail and up to the tram. They will let you take the tram down for free being you hiked all the way to the top. The view from the top of the tram is great of all of Jackson Hole.

If you want me to send individual topos showing the daily route email me at with Teton Crest Trail in the subject line and I will be happy to make you up the maps that you can download and view and decide apon till your hike in September. I made the above map at

and you can also go to another USGS site at:

The above link the maps are free and its easy to use and save maps.

View of the Tetons from the north end of Jenny Lake

1:43 p.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Do you have the paper maps or use access to online maps for the area you want to do?

This is the kind of maps I have for the trail beginning at Jenny Lake Ranger Station at lower right.

4:51 p.m. on July 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks a lot Gary - really helpful. I will e-mail you so that I can get the individual topos - much appreciated. Two last questions though since you refuted the rangers claim per se.

1) Is it better then to start on top of the tram and go your suggested route the other way? I'm asking as it sounds a bit "easier" to start on top vs the other way having to hike all the way up vs up and down and then more downhill if you know what I mean.

2) You suggested to "hike down the Granite Creek trail and then take the right hand trail to Teton Village along the Valley Trail, or hike up to the top of the tram from Marion lake by following the North Granite to the middle and south Granite trail and up to the tram" Since we do probably not going to rent two cars would it also be easier on the body to hike "down" to Teton Village vs all the way up to the Tram on the last day. How long is the way down from versus hiking up to the Tram?



7:41 p.m. on July 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes, it could be easier to start at the top of the tram and hike the opposite way than I proposed. There may still be a visitor shuttle ay Jenny Lake to take you back to Teton Village to your car or you can call and wait for a taxi to do so. Just remember that the top of the tram is 10,600 feet, if you think you have trouble breathing at 6500 feet in Jackson, the extra 4000 feet will be worse.

Be sure to take along extra clothing a sweater and long pants as it will be about 20-40 degree's cooler at the top and along the Teton Crest Trails higher elevations.

If you start on top of the tram and hike north to Jenny Lake you will not need to hike down Granite Canyon. Tho for your lungs sake this might be an option.

Start on the top of the Tram then hike down Granite Canyon to the Valley Trail at its mouth. Then head north on the Valley Trail along Phelps Lake, Taggart and Bradley Lakes and finally to Jenny Lake at the lower elevation on the V.T. It will still be a scenic route with plenty of vista's acroos the valley of Jackson Hole and up to the high peaks of the Teton Range above. Then at Jenny Lake arrainge for a taxi ride back to Teton Village, probably about $40.

The hike down Granite from the top of the Tram to the Valley Trail is 10 miles almost all down hill. Look for Moose, Mule Deer and Black Bears along the way. Worry more about the Moose than the bears, but don't approach any wildlife no matter how cute the deer may look. Moose and Deer are going to be in the Rut, the annual mating season in the Fall and will be more aggressive towards anything, man or beast. Bears will be putting on the rest of their winter fat before hibernation and will usually be seen foraging for roots, flowers and plants along the trails edges. If you come across a bear on the trail, wait for them to move away and don't try to scare them off with shouts or throwing anything. This could annoy them just let them be in their home. Some sow bears will still have their cubs from the spring before and may be more protective if you happen to get between them and their young, even tho this was never your intention. I have come across many bears in the Tetons but usually they will give me the right of way.

When you email me for the maps tell me the direction from and to Jenny Lake or starting at the topof the Tram so I can figure your routes out better for you.

The Tetons and Cascade Canyon from the east side of Jenny Lake July 2008

3:44 a.m. on July 14, 2010 (EDT)
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You should know that Gary was working in Jackson Hole, hence acclimatized to the 6000 ft or so before starting, and he presently is working in Flagstaff (AZ) - in other words he lives and works at altitude. If you are coming from sea level or even up to a couple thousand feet, you should really get acclimatized by hiking up from the floor of Jackson Hole (for example starting at Jenny Lake). The max altitude on the trail is not all that high, but people do start noticing AMS symptoms by 7000 ft, if they come from sea level. Some people genetically cannot acclimatize above something like 9000 or 10,000 ft, even if very athletically fit (actually, physical fitness does not preclude getting AMS).

The general rule of thumb for acclimatizing is "sleep low, climb high", combined with "starting at about 9000 ft, raise your sleeping altitude about 1000 ft a day on average." In practical terms, this means hiking no more than about 1000-2000 ft above your sleeping altitude for the following night, then day by day, push the max altitude you climb to by no more than 2000-3000 ft above the next night's sleeping altitude. And watch for signs of AMS. Any good mountaineering book will give the symptoms - headache, nausea, lassitude, and in its more serious form, the "umbles" (mumbling, stumbling, grumbling, fumbling). Take it slow and easy - rushing ahead and striving for record distance and altitude gain (personal records included) is a sure way to suffer AMS. As the guides on Kilimanjaro say "polepole!" (in Swahili, that means "slowly, slowly").

7:37 a.m. on July 14, 2010 (EDT)
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In addition to the advice Bill offers, per AMS, make sure you stay well hydrated. Dehydration will exasperate the probability and severity of AMS.

10:00 p.m. on July 14, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes, as Bill says you should really start at Jenny Lake and hike up. Plus if you have not done much mountain hiking, it will be more visual to do it from Jenny Lake up to Hurricane Pass going up Cascade Canyon. Once on Hurricane Pass the trail will become much easier all the way to Lake Marion and then down Granite Canyon and back to Jenny along the Valley Trail at its mouth.

A Elk cow grazes along the east shore of Jenny Lake with the Teewinot (left high point) and Grand Teton (lower looking lighter blue point in middle) behind. Shot in mid July 2008.

Why so much snow in July? The winter before the Tetons recieved over 650 inches (54 feet+) of total snowfall. It lasted well into late August and September 2008.

September 23, 2018
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