By Marc Bowen
About three weeks ago I hiked the Taggart Lake-Bradley Lake Loop trail in Grand Teton National Park. If you would like to read about that hike please read my blog post at Hike into Taggart and Bradley Lakes . Today I talked my daughter Nicole into taking a day off from her busy schedule and driving to a trailhead just a mile up the road from where my last hike began.
Jenny Lake Trailhead
Glacially carved Jenny Lake is the second largest lake in the park covering about 1191 acres. It’s also one of the deepest at 423 feet. It’s named after a Shoshone woman named Jenny who married a trapper by the name of Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh. They were both part of the Hayden Expedition to the area in 1872. Richard worked as a guide and Jenny assisted with camp logistics. Nearby Leigh Lake is named after Richard Leigh. Sadly in 1876 Jenny and their six children died of smallpox.
We parked in the Jenny Lake boat launch area, put on our packs and gear and headed down to the east boat dock. Our destination today would be Cascade Canyon.
Cascade Canyon Trailhead
Cascade Canyon is located on the west side of Jenny Lake and we had two options for getting there. We could hike 2.5 miles around the south end of the lake on the Jenny Lake Loop Trail or take a shuttle boat across the lake to Cascade Canyon Trailhead.
Many hikers take the shuttle especially if they are hiking all the way up the canyon to the Forks. The shuttle boat cuts-off 2.4 miles of walking each way and makes what would be about a 15-mile hike a 10-mile hike instead.
The shuttle costs $15 round trip and boats launch every 10-15 minutes from 7am to 7pm daily all summer long. Lake cruises are also available.
The 12-minute ride across the lake was nice with absolutely stunning views of the Tetons!
The Jenny Lake west shore boat dock sets at the base of Cascade Canyon and the mountains tower over this area.
There is a lot to do and see when you leave the west boat dock. Hidden Falls is a half-mile away and Inspiration Point is a mile away. We found out that there is actually an upper Inspiration Point and a lower Inspiration Point. If hiking to the upper point you take the Cascade Canyon Trail and the lower point is just off the trail to Hidden Falls.
We headed up Cascade Canyon Trail on our way to the upper Inspiration Point. This trail is beautiful and the first 1/4 – 1/2 mile was pretty steep and winds through pristine conifer forest and patches of huckleberries.
About one mile from the boat dock is the side trail to Inspiration Point. We were so busy taking pictures that we walked right past this left fork without seeing it and continued on and up the canyon.
Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park
This trail takes you 5 miles up the canyon to north and south forks in the trail. At the forks a left takes you down the south fork of Cascade Canyon and a right takes you in the direction of Lake Solitude.
There were breathtaking views of Mount Owen (12,928 ft) and Mount Teewinot (12,325 ft) as they towered high over the canyon floor.
At this point the canyon starts widening as the trail follows the stream at a gentle grade up the canyon.
Just beyond this point there is some flat water and a lot of willows, perfect habitat for moose. We actually saw a big bull moose just off the trail a short distance farther up from here. He was magnificent, shoulder deep in the brush, dark brown with antlers covered in dark brown velvet. I took a few shots at him with my camera but the resulting images were not satisfactory.
We talked to some hikers coming down the canyon and they warned us of a female black bear with cubs just off the trail about a mile farther up. By now we knew we had missed the trail to Inspiration Point and decided this was probably as good a time as any to turn around and head back down the canyon.
Inspiration Point (upper)
Roughly a mile back down the trail we found the side trail to Inspiration Point that we had missed. A few minutes later we were there. Quite a view of the lake and valley from up there. In the above photo shuttles can be seen running between the east and west boat docks.
When Nicole and I got to this point there were quite a few people out enjoying the view. I used my iPhone to get this pano and thought it was a good representation of the view we had from there.
Hidden Falls, Grand Teton National Park
From Inspiration Point we hiked back down towards the boat dock with the intention of heading over to Hidden Falls. The skies up until this point had been cloudy off and on but now we started feeling a few drops of rain which wasn’t a concern at first. But as we started getting closer to the dock and the side trail to Hidden Falls, a heavy rain began to fall. We could hear thunder echoing down the canyon walls and see flashes of light a short distance up the canyon from us. Lightning! I love watching storms from my front porch but having lightning in the area while hiking is a real concern. There really isn’t a ‘safe’ place to be. As the storm continued the rain turned to hail and we saw dozens of people moving fast toward the boat dock. I knew the boats weren’t going anywhere until the storm ended. People were gathered under trees, umbrellas, coats or what ever they could hold over there heads. Every time lightning flashed I wondered where it was going to hit next. Nicole and I moved into the brush under thick, dense pine trees put rain gear on and waited it out and as the rain began to subside we headed up the trail to Hidden Falls.
Hidden Falls drops about 200 feet down a series of ‘stairs’. We could hear the roar of the falls long before we could see it. There was so much water coming down the falls while we were there that it was creating a thick cloak of mist.
After we left the falls we took a side trail to what is now called ‘lower’ Inspiration Point. The storm had completely passed to the east and in the photo below you can see the dark clouds of the thunderstorm across Jenny Lake.
After a quick hike back to the boat dock we waited for the next boat, boarded and crossed the lake again. Then back to the parking lot, we loaded our gear into the car and headed back home.
Despite the lightning, rain and hail it was a great day for a hike! I really like Cascade Canyon. Definitely one of the most scenic I’ve hiked so far. I’m sure I will be back. But next time I’m there I want to hike all the way up the canyon then north to Lake Solitude, one of the most beautiful lakes in the park.
Till next time…
Get out and hike!