September 4, 2010

Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton NP

While in Grand Teton National Park we decided to hike up Cascade Canyon. The hike was recommended to us by a friend and is one of the most popular trails in the park. To start the hike you need to head over to Jenny Lake. There is a visitor center at Jenny Lake, along with restrooms and a general store. There are two choices to begin the hike as the trailhead is actually across the lake from the visitor center. One of the options is to walk two miles around the southern part of the lake and the other option is to take a shuttle boat across. The shuttle boat costs $10 for a roundtrip ticket and the ride only takes about eight minutes. The shuttle operates daily from 8am to 6pm with boats leaving every 15 to 20 minutes.  We elected to take the shuttle boat across to save us from a few miles of hiking. Once across the lake we began the hike up. About half a mile into the trail we reached Hidden Falls, a pretty but small waterfall. We took our pictures and continued on. Another half mile on a very rocky trail got us to Inspiration Point. This gives a great view of Jenny Lake down below. Up to this point in the trail was the most difficult part of the hike, where most of the elevation was gained. This first mile tends to be extremely busy. The hike to Inspiration Point is the most popular hike in the park. The good news is that probably 90% of people turn around at Inspiration Point. We were of course continuing on up Cascade Canyon. From here the trail follows Cascade Creek up the canyon. The rise is very gradual and easy to hike. There are alternating sections of shade and exposed areas. The trail gave us great views of the the canyon itself. We saw small waterfalls off to one side along with great views of Teewinot Mountain and Mount Owen. We reached our turn around point which is known as Cascade Fork. From the the fork you can go to the right and travel another 2.7miles to Solitude Lake on the North Fork Cascade/Lake Solitude Trail. Going to the left would take you to Sunset Lake and to other connecting trails via the South Fork Cascade/Teton Crest Trail. We sat on the rocks at the fork to take a break, along with a few other people. For most day hikers this is the turn around spot, while there are many backpackers who pass this point and continue on. We threw our packs back on and began heading back. We didn't see much wildlife on the hike mainly just pika and a snake that we almost stepped on. Just before Inspiration Point we took a brief detour off the trail where we get a better, unobstructed view of the lake. Once we got back to Inspiration Point around one in the afternoon the area was really busy. We headed to the dock and jumped on a boat back across the lake. The out and back hike ended up being nine miles roundtrip with an elevation change of about 1100 feet and took us five hours with a 20 minute break at the fork. This was probably the easiest nine miles we have ever hiked. We definitely recommend this hike to others. Its popularity is well deserved. If you want a post hike meal head over to Dornans at Moose Junction for a pizza and beer like we did.