Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hiking a Classic: Cascade Canyon Trail in the Grand Tetons

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 you would probably have to agree.

Having such notoriety bestowed upon it, the trail is naturally going to be one of the most popular destinations in the park. Our last visit to Cascade Canyon several years ago was no exception. In fact, this hike is probably one of the most memorable hikes we’ve ever had – and that’s not just due to the majestic mountain scenery.

Roughly a mile-and-a-half from the boat dock at Jenny Lake we caught up with a large group of hikers making a bit of a commotion. Based on their accents we assumed they were tourists from Germany. The clear “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 as it walked along the trail only a few yards 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 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 engage 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 proverbial 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 number of onlookers grew in size, and people tried to get a little closer, the moose became visibly agitated. Giving us fair warning, he began thrashing his antlers in the brush before suddenly rushing across the creek towards us. 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 several moments afterward. As you might expect, that ended the photo shoot.

So, to complete our hike, we continued on to the forks. On our return trip I was able to get a shot of the moose while no one else around:

The hike to the forks is roughly 6.5 miles one-way. However, you can subtract two miles each way by taking the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake.

Many people prefer to end their hike at Inspiration Point, satisfied with the spectacular panoramic views of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole:

Just beyond Inspiration Point, Mt. Owen comes into view:

Cascade Creek and Mt. Owen a mile above:

From Jenny Lake to the Forks of Cascade Canyon, the trail gains a little more than 1000 feet. Most of that elevation gain occurs in the first mile or so (above Jenny Lake). Just beyond Inspiration Point, the trail levels out as it passes through the U-shaped, glacially sculpted Cascade Canyon. The trail offers spectacular close-up views of Grand Teton, Mt. Owen and Teewinot Mountain. Although the trail can be quite crowded during peak tourist season, it's still a trek every hiker should experience at least once in their life.

Parting shot: this photo was taken the morning we left for home. We were extremely lucky to have 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:

Must-Do Hikes in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Hiking in


  1. Beautiful pics! I loved GTNP. Postcard views everywhere you look.

  2. I love the sounds of this hike! Putting it on my boomer travel to-do list.

  3. Donna - it is one of my all time favorites!

  4. Great stories and pics (that last one is frame worthy)!

  5. ADKinLA - thank you! Actually it is in a frame! This was taken with my old film camera (as all the photos in this posting), so they've all been scanned and don't quite look as good as the originals.


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