Grand Teton National Park offers, in my opinion, the best bang for your buck of any US national park – or, at least, it’s right up there. Staggering mountain views, glaciers, and alpine lakes (not to mention insane wildlife) are all at your fingertips, with less driving from place to place and more time spent out there in the park.
If you’re looking for inspiration or planning a trip, I put together a list of the best hikes in Grand Teton National Park, ranging from short and easy strolls, to half and full-day hikes, to moderate and challenging overnight backpacking trails.
- Short hike: Taggart Lake
- Half-day hike: Delta Lake
- Full-Day Hike: Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude
- Short backpack: Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons
- Longer backpack: Teton Crest Loop
About this list:
This list doesn’t cover every hike in the park; rather, it covers the most popular, which are also the ones that I’ve actually hiked, in part or in full. I left off a couple of hikes that I thought weren’t truly incredible, namely the Jenny Lake Loop, because I think Jenny Lake is best experienced as a picnic rather than a hike. I do believe, however, that this list offers something for everyone, and captures the absolute best parts of the park, making it a complete list in its own way. All photos in this article were taken by me when on-trail.
Short hike: Taggart Lake
Distance: 3.8 Miles
Elevation gain: 423 Feet
Taggart lake is one of the easiest hikes in the entire park, but that doesn’t mean you should think of it as lesser – it provides some of the most spectacular views of the Tetons, reflected in the still water of the lake. It’s an easy hike, just under four miles total, that most people should be able to complete without breaking a sweat.
After a tough couple of days, this was the perfect cooldown hike, and a great place to spend a couple of hours enjoying the view.
See more images from the Taggart Lake hike
Half-day hike: Delta Lake
Distance: 7.4 Miles
Elevation gain: 2,296 Feet
This is a bit of a challenging hike, first because of the sharp incline over the last half mile to the top, and second because part of it technically isn’t a trail. Instead, you’ll take the trail to Amphitheater Lake, and take a right about 3 miles in. Then, crossing and climbing a boulder field, you’ll arrive at Delta Lake, one of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen.
Grand Teton towers 5,000 feet over your head, framed perfectly in a crystal blue alpine lake. Other peaks, like Middle Teton, South Teton, and Mount Owen also adorn the view, and Delta Lake itself is spectacular.
All in all, you’re looking at a little over 7 miles of hiking, and only about 1.2 miles of it is truly challenging. The rest of it will get your heart rate up, but it won’t exhaust you. If you’re up for a small challenge, the payoff when you get to Delta Lake is undeniably worth it.
See more photos from the Delta Lake hike
Full-Day Hike: Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude
Distance: 14.7 Miles
Elevation gain: 2,670 Feet
This trail made up the second day of my backpacking trip. If you do it as a day hike, you’re going to be covering about 14.7 miles and 2,600 feet of elevation gain from start to finish. On this out-and-back trail, you’ll be treated to some of the most incredible views the park has to offer.
The way up to Lake Solitude will feel a bit punishing, as the incline stays pretty consistent throughout and then gets steeper as you get into the North Fork – Cascade Canyon camping area. Once you get to Lake Solitude, I highly recommend stopping for a long lunch by the water. The water is so clear, the views are so captivating, and the silence is so calming that I could have stayed there for days without a complaint.
Lake Solitude really earns its name. Although it’s one of the most popular hiking spots in all of Grand Teton National Park, the lake is large enough that even a few dozen people can be there and feel like they are more or less alone.
Lake Solitude is great, and the way up is fun, but this is one of the rare hikes where your favorite part may actually be the way back down. For most of the 7-ish miles back to your car, you’ll be looking straight at the Tetons, with Cascade Canyon sprawling out in front of you. Pictures, taken on an iphone, can only capture a fraction of the scale of this place. Truly mind blowing.
At the start and finish of the trail, you’ll walk past the ultra-still waters of Jenny Lake, an added treat to an already amazing hike. If you’ve got the energy for a 15-mile day, make this the hike you do – it’s quite simply impossible to regret.
See more photos from the Lake Solitude hike
Short backpack: Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons
Distance: 19-23 Miles (depending on start point)
Elevation gain: 4,124 Feet
Looking for an overnight hike that’ll challenge and wow you? Start by heading up Paintbrush Canyon before spending the night in Cascade Canyon near Lake Solitude. It’ll be pretty punishing, especially the last half-mile up Paintbrush Canyon. When you wake up in the morning, enjoy a nice breakfast and coffee in Cascade Canyon and have a leisurely hike back down toward Jenny Lake.
This is the backpacking trip I took when I was there in September 2023. Originally, we’d planned a longer trip, but a comedy of errors – alongside a crazy 5:30 AM bear encounter – cut the trip short. In hindsight, however, it was probably for the best, because Cascade Canyon was one of the most unbelievable place I have ever been.
Connecting these two trails for an overnight backpack means you’ll crush about 26 miles of trail, 15-ish on the first day, and 10-plus-change on the second. While some people like doing shorter distances on their backpacking trips, myself included, it was a fun challenge to do a little bit more mileage than I was used to.
This is a wonderful challenge for anyone who wants an overnight trail that checks most of the Teton boxes, but it could also be a perfect two-nighter. You could stay the first night at Lake Holly, then in the Cascade Canyon – North Fork camping area the second night, before heading back to Jenny lake the next morning.
One note: you can do this hike in either direction, but if you start with the Cascade Canyon, you’ll have your back to the Teton range the entire time, sacrificing the most incredible views. You’ll also have a much tougher time going down the Paintbrush Divide than you will going up it – that’s why I recommend starting on the Paintbrush Canyon trail and finishing with the Cascade Canyon.
See more photos from the Paintbrush/Cascade Canyon backpack
Longer backpack: Teton Crest Loop
Distance: 39.5 Miles
Elevation gain: 9,045 Feet
The Teton Crest loop is the only trail on this list I haven’t hiked in full. I’ve been on parts of it, because it involves the Paintbrush Canyon and Cascade Canyon trails, but I haven’t done the full Teton Crest loop.
This 45 mile loop is perfect for a 3-5 day backpacking trip and is considered the quintessential backpacking route in Grand Teton National Park. You’ll spend a few days in absolute splendor as you encircle the three Teton mountains, being treated to views of incredible peaks, glaciers, and lakes the entire time.
The Teton Crest Loop will be the best backpacking trail for anyone looking for a 3-5 night trip that will show them the best that Grand Teton National Park has to offer. There’s a reason it’s the most popular trail in the park for backpackers – it’s got everything. From the Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons to the sweeping views of the Tetons themselves, it checks every single part of your bucket list.