The Cascade Canyon Trail in Grand Teton National Park is often rated as one of the best trails in the United States. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to hike this gem, my guess is that you would probably concur.
Having such notoriety bestowed upon it, the trail is naturally going to be one of the most popular hiking destinations in the park. Our hike in September of 2001 was no exception. In fact, this hike is probably the most memorable one we’ve ever had – and it wasn't just due to the majestic mountain scenery.
Roughly a mile-and-a-half from the Jenny Lake boat dock we caught up with a large group of hikers making a quite a bit of a commotion. Based on their accents we made the assumption they were tourists from Germany. The “leader” of this group, a muscular guy without a shirt and wearing a bandana, whom we appropriately nicknamed “Rambo”, was banging the ground with a large stick. He and his fellow travelers were all yelling at a young black bear walking along the trail directly in front of them.
The absurd part of the story is that the bear really didn’t care how loud these people yelled. He just continued strolling down the trail at his own leisurely pace. With the Germans leading in front of us, we literally followed the bear for nearly a mile before he decided he'd had enough and meandered off into the woods. We took this opportunity to double-time it in order to get away from this loud and obnoxious group.
Don’t try this at home! I never would’ve gotten this close had there not been so many other people around:
Later on, near the Forks of Cascade Canyon, we came across another commotion. This time there were several people off the side of the trail watching two bull moose engaged in a turf battle. Naturally we wanted to check out the struggle ourselves. However, just as we arrived, the smaller moose waived the white flag, licked his wounds, and wandered out of the danger zone. Most of the people continued to stick around to snap a few more photos of the victor. But as the group grew in size, and people tried to get a little closer, the moose became visibly agitated. Giving everyone fair warning, he began thrashing his antlers in the brush before suddenly rushing across the creek towards the onlookers. In an instant everyone scattered to the wind. Fortunately, it was only a bluff charge that ended just as quickly as it started, but I guarantee that everyone’s heart was racing for a few seconds. That ended the photo shoot.
We continued onto the Forks. On our return, I was able to get a shot of the moose with no one else around:
The hike to the Forks of Cascade Canyon is roughly 6.8 miles one-way. However, you can subtract two miles each way by taking the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake. Along the way you'll pass Hidden Falls, a 200-foot cascade just 0.6 miles from the shores of the lake. Less than a half-mile beyond the falls hikers will reach Inspiration Point. Many people prefer to end their hike at this popular overlook, satisfied with the spectacular panoramic views of Jenny Lake, Jackson Hole and the Gros Ventre Mountains towards the east:
Just beyond Inspiration Point, 13,770-foot Grand Teton and 12,928-foot Mt. Owen come into view:
Soon you'll enter the mouth of the spectacular Cascade Canyon, a classic U-shaped, glacially carved canyon. Here's Cascade Creek and Mt. Owen roughly a mile-and-a-half above Jenny Lake:
From Inspiration Point to the Forks of Cascade Canyon, the trail gains only 650 feet over a distance of 3.8 miles. In addition to close-up views of Grand Teton, Mt. Owen and Teewinot Mountain towering a mile above the valley floor, the trail offers abundant wildlife and wildflowers along the way. Hikers should note that Grand Teton National Park does have a few grizzly bears. If unfamiliar with bears, it's a good idea to understand how to be safe while hiking in bear country.
From the Forks, hikers will have the option of continuing on for another 2.7 miles up to Lake Solitude, a spectacular alpine lake. This extension would include another 1200 feet of climbing.
Parting shot: this photo was taken the morning we left for home. We were extremely lucky to come across this vantage point near Moran Junction just as a cloud bank was passing mid-way below the summit of Mount Moran. This is one of my all-time favorite shots:
Trail: Cascade Canyon Trail (using the shuttle boat)
RT Distance: 9.6 Miles Inspiration Point
* RT Distance = 2 Miles for Inspration Point
Total Elevation Gain: 1050 feet
* Elevation Gain = 400 Feet for Inspration Point
Max Elevation: 7840 Feet at Forks of Cascade Canyon
TH Location: Jenny Lake Trailhead
Map: Grand Teton NP Trails Illustrated Map
Top Trails Yellowstone & Grand Tetons - has all visitors need to enjoy for 45 of the best trips in the area: tranquil backcountry lakes, panoramic summits, glacier-carved canyons, steaming geyser basins, vast meadows teeming with wildlife, and much more. Hikes range in length from a half-mile stroll, to a 30-mile trek past intriguing thermal features and wildlife galore. Each hike features easy-to-follow trail notes, maps, distances and approximate times, and ratings and rankings for each trail.