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Apparently, Hidden Falls is one of the most visited sites in the Tetons. Guess who didn’t know that until right now? This girl. It was our first day in the Tetons and we were set on getting pictures of colorful pebbles in the lakes. What a mission, right? Without any kind of plan or goal, we parked by String Lake, where we could find room, thank goodness for Smart cars, and set off.
We followed a trail along string lake, admiring the mountains towering above us and the water glimmering below. People were hanging out along what little shore was hospitable and kayaking and paddleboarding around the little lake. We continued on this mystery trail until we approached a wonderful view over Jenny Lake. We had no idea what trail this was or what lake we were even at until we started seeing signs.
We saw a sign for Hidden Falls and continued on that way, no idea how far it was, but it was now our destination. We crossed paths with quite a few people on our way there. It was a pretty busy trail. While we were hiking to the falls, there is also a ferry that takes you across the lake and drastically shortens the hike. But where’s the adventure in that if you have the time, right? I won’t lie, I was pretty nervous about bears the whole hike. It was my first time in bear country, really. We didn’t end up seeing any this trip (in Yellowstone, either) and I didn’t see my first bear until the day before we left working up there that winter. Then I saw three at once!
Overall, I enjoyed this hike, until I got hungry and my feet started to hurt on the way back. The falls were pretty cool, but I also loved the lake views. I’ve never been super excited about waterfalls, though, so take that into consideration here.
There are some other hikes to choose from in the Jenny Lake area as well, not just this one. When I was there, I didn’t realize how many trails there really were, which seems silly since I definitely would have had a map, but oh well. Nothing I can do about it now other than go back.
Leigh Lake is just north of Jenny Lake, but in the same general parking area. There are three hikes near Leigh Lake. The first is the Leigh Lake hike and it is the shortest of the three at 1.8 miles. This trail takes you along the shore of String Lake, over a bridge and up to Leigh Lake. The next two hikes are much longer. Trapper Lake Hike is 9.2 miles and rated easy-moderate, taking you past String and Leigh Lakes past some smaller lakes with views of Mount Moran. Finally, Holly Lake clocks in at 13 miles and strenuous with 2600 feet if elevation gain. You follow Paintbrush Canyon through forests to wildflowers meadows to an Alpine Lake.
String Lake has two hikes: Spring Lake Loop and Paintbrush-Cascade Loop. The String Lake Loop is 3.7 miles and easy, while the Paintbrush-Cascade loop is much, much longer at 19 miles. This one is very strenuous with 4350 feet of elevation gain. It also takes 13 hours to loop two canyons via Paintbrush Divide. An ice axe may be necessary even through July.
Finally, the Jenny Lake/Cascade Canyon area. I won’t list all of these hikes because there are six, but I’ll list the shorter ones. Two are 20+ miles, so I won’t list them, but you can find all of these hikes (and more) in this hiking brochure.
First, the Jenny Lake Loop on the short end of the scale at 7.6 moderate miles. This trail simply follows and sometimes climbs above, the lake shore. Hidden Falls is a moderate 4.8 miles if you hike the whole thing, and only one mile if you take the shuttle boat. Inspiration Point (does every park have one of these?) is a moderate-strenuous 8.2 mile hike to Cascade Canyon and, you guessed it, Inspiration Point. If you take the shuttle boat it is only 2.4 miles. And last, but probably not least, the Forks of Cascade Canyon. This 14.6 moderate-strenuous trail is popular and takes you into Cascade Canyon with views of the Grand Tetons, Mount Owen, and Teewinot. If you take the shuttle boat it is only 8.8 miles.
- If you do the hike from String Lake, wear good shoes that you know don’t hurt your feet. It’s not a super short hike.
- As always, bring water. It gets pretty hot in the summer. As always, I recommend the Hydro Flask insulated water bottle.
- Go early to beat the heat and the crowds, especially if you’re going out on the lake on kayaks or paddle boards or something.
- Don’t forget, you’re at a higher elevation here, so don’t push yourself to do too difficult of hikes. If you’re feeling out of breath, take a break and drink some water. Brink salty snacks, too.
- Bring bear spray with you. This is bear country and like all the signs say, be bear aware!
- Also, bring layers in your daypack, like a raincoat or light jacket. The weather can change quickly.
Have you been to the Tetons? What did you do there? Did you like it? Do you want to go?