Looking for a day hike in Grand Teton National Park that will challenge your body and blow your mind? Might I suggest waking up early and making the trek to Lake Solitude, where absolutely world-class views will await you for lunch, before an even better view guides you back to your card. Genuinely one of the best day hikes in the whole National Parks system.
Let’s dig in:
Quick Facts about the hike to Lake Solitude
|Estimate time to hike
|Link to trail maps
|Paintbrush Canyon loop
|Jenny Lake Lodge
|Slow and steady: 13-15 hours
Medium Pace: 9-11 hours
Hoofin’ it: 8 hours
The Hiking Project
|Cascade Canyon Out and Back
|Slow and steady: 11 hours
Medium Pace: 7-9 hours
Hoofin’ it: 6 hours
The Hiking Project
Lake Solitude is a glacial lake that sits about X,000 feet above sea level in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. About X acres in size, it’s one of the largest lakes above 8,000 feet in the park – larger lakes like Jenny Lake and Lake Jackson sit at the feet of the mountains, while Lake Solitude rests within them.
Two Routes to Lake Solitude
There are two ways to get to Lake Solitude: a loop that takes you through Paintbrush Canyon and down the Cascade Canyon trail, or an out-and-back that sticks to the Cascade Canyon Trail. Personally, I went the Paintbrush Canyon way, but mostly because that was the trail I was using as part of a longer backpacking trip. If I were hitting up Lake Solitude as a day hike, I would definitely use the out-and-back route on the Cascade Canyon trail.
Paintbrush Canyon to Lake Solitude
The Paintbrush Canyon route is longer, tougher, and generally just better for those planning an overnight. You can hike up Paintbrush Canyon trail, cross the Paintbrush divide, and settle down for the night at one of the North Fork – Cascade Canyon campsites. Then, the next day, you can enjoy your whole morning at the lake and spend the afternoon hiking down.
Cascade Canyon Trail, Out-and-Back
The more frequently-used route is shorter and more manageable as a day hike that you can enjoy without constantly looking at your watch to see if you’re making good enough time. You walk six or so miles up the Cascade Canyon trail, where Lake Solitude will be waiting. Once you’ve had your fill of the lake, you simply walk back the way you came.
You can start either from the Jenny Lake Lodge, or the Jenny Lake Parking area – they’re both close to each other, and they don’t change the distance or elevation gain much.
Lunch at Lake Solitude
As you might guess, this lake is a really popular lunch spot for hikers and backpackers visiting the Tetons. The good news is, the lake is large enough that 20-30 people can easily enjoy a bit of the peace and quiet that gives the lake its name. There were about a dozen people there when I was there, and everyone was still spread out and enjoying the solitude they came for. It really is the perfect place to post up and chill for a while.
The Way Down is the Real Treat
Hiking up to Lake Solitude is a nice workout, with lots to admire in the surroundings. Hanging out at the lake is also great, one of the best mid-hike stopping points I’ve ever seen. But it’s the views of the three Tetons on the way down that will truly blow your mind.
For the entire downhill hike, you’re looking directly at the Tetons, with a vast canyon in the foreground. Each mile you hike, the mountains get a little closer, and you get an even more intimate sense of just how grand they really are. As you simultaneously approach the mountains and descend the Cascade Canyon, the three iconic Tetons seem to almost change shape. This makes the hike a perspective-bending wonder of the outdoors.
Hiking downhill often sucks; your knees hurt from the constant dropping of your weight onto stone and hard dirt, your thighs get a workout they aren’t used to, and you eventually lose sight of why you’re there and start to focus on when in the hell you will finally get back to your car.
But not this trail. For a lot of it, I could barely recognize the knee pain or the lingering hunger threatening to crush my vibes. Instead, I just kept staring at these mountains that, despite being several miles away, towered over me and everything around me.
Makes for one hell of a picture, and one hell of a memory.
More hiking inspiration for Grand Teton National Park
- The Best Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
- Hiking to Delta Lake
- HIking to Taggart Lake
- What’s the best time to visit Grand Teton National Park?
(all images are original and taken on a trip in September 2023)