Grand Teton National Park: Hiking at Jenny Lake

We set out early our final day in Grand Teton National Park, heading from our cabin at Colter Bay south to Jenny Lake where we planned to stitch together several hikes — Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and Moose Ponds.

Specifically, we planned to out and back hike the 4.8-mile round trip to Hidden Falls, add the 1-mile round trip climb up to Inspiration Point from Hidden Falls, and then grab the 2-mile loop around Moose Ponds as we were heading back to the trailhead from the waterfall.

Note: What I didn’t realize is that there are two options for Moose Ponds — you can hike a 2-mile loop back to the Hidden Falls trail and out, or you can do what we inadvertently did and take the 3-mile ‘lollipop’ loop which takes you back to the main trail head via Lupine Meadows, an open sagebrush area versus the Hidden Falls trail. By going that route, our overall hike ended up being 7.4 miles with 781 feet of gain, and it took us about 4 hours.

If you are interested in parts of this hike but don’t have that much time or the desire to hike almost 7.5 miles, you’re in luck — there is a ferry that leaves from the trailhead and cuts across Jenny Lake, dropping you off less than a mile from Hidden Falls! We saw lots of people more easily enjoying both the falls and Inspiration Point via this approach.

We didn’t know exactly how long the hike would take but we guessed several hours and we wanted to beat both the crowds and the heat. The bonus of starting out early is that there was wildlife on the move — we saw deer and elk during our drive as well as some beautiful views of the Tetons with the sunlight just brushing their peaks.

Another bonus to getting an early start = parking. We arrived at South Jenny Lake by 7:15 a.m. and there were already a number of cars. We parked, grabbed our hiking gear, made a final pit stop, and then hit the trail for the waterfall.

We set out on the lower loop of the trail, which follows along the lake. There were a few people out trail running, requiring us to pull on our masks for passing, but otherwise we had the trail to ourselves. It was pretty muddy — likely from the storms that had passed through the previous evening — and there weren’t that many clearings where you could see across the lake.

It was cloudy and fog was still rising off the lake so we weren’t missing spectacular views or anything, but I’m not sure it’s the route I would recommend on an exceptional day where there is something worth seeing.

It was obvious when we reached the area where the trail from the ferry intersects with the trail we were on because suddenly there were lots of people! We pulled on our masks and turned down a short out-and-back stretch to the 100-foot cascading waterfall.

I was surprised to find only a few people actually at the falls — I’m not sure where everyone else went! — but we were able to socially distance and take our time enjoying the falls and the river running from its base out to Jenny Lake.

We headed back to the main trail and on to Inspiration Point. This short climb over rocky but very well maintained terrain opens up to a lovely (some might say ‘inspirational’) view over Jenny Lake. Because it was early, the sun was shining directly at us from across the lake; nevertheless, the views were wonderful and the mountains behind us were coming into clearer view.

We hiked a little beyond Inspiration Point toward Cascade Canyon for some better views of the mountains. If you’re headed to Hidden Falls, I strongly encourage you to tack on Inspiration Point!

We originally intended to hike out the trail we hiked in but we saw some women coming down a trail that included permission for horse back riding. Intrigued, we asked if it reunited with the Hidden Falls trail and they confirmed it did!

We opted to hike out what I’ll refer to as the upper route/horse trail, which included more elevation gain and excrement navigation than the trail we took on our way in, but which also offered much better views of both the mountain and the lake!

As I mentioned, things got a little off track at the Moose Ponds loop, namely because we didn’t do the normal loop back to the main trail and instead did the lollipop loop back to the parking area via the meadow.

This was a shorter way to return, which was a good thing because it was getting hot! We were sweating through our shirts by the time we made it around the first pond and into the shady reprieve of the woods.

We saw signs of moose — output as well as some moose tracks in the mud (featured in the photos below) but alas, no moose. We did see lots of wildflowers and sage bushes, and some pretty amazing views of the mountain range as we crossed the open meadow headed toward the trailhead.

Overall I was really happy we chose this hike — it had a variety of features, from waterfalls to lake views to mountains to meadows and ponds, and it was challenging enough to be interesting. I can’t wait to return to Grand Teton National Park and tackle the other hikes on our list!

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