Take A Hike: Teton Canyon
“All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other, and it is awesome. It lifts your spirits and makes you happy. And if you are lucky, you get out of cell phone reception.”
Few things epitomize the nature of the Teton Valley more than a breathtaking view of the Teton Mountains. And before the region becomes blanketed in snow and packed with winter sports enthusiasts, the short, early fall season is a peak time to explore the terrain and get outside for a hike.
There is no shortage of trails throughout the western slope of the mountain region that accommodates all skill levels and experience. The Wind and Ice Caves of Darby Canyon, just past the Jedediah Smith Wilderness boundary, are popular, scenic routes, but for a beginner — both to the terrain and to high elevations — Teton Canyon is the ideal place to start with its high traffic, visibly marked trails and amble options.
Find solace in the realty of losing cell phone reception and embark on this adventure with your wits, map or guidebook, and partner. I chose the full hiking-guide route and purchased “Targhee Trails.”
Written by Jackson, Wyo., natives Susan Marsh and Rebecca Woods, the guide offers a plethora of information with maps, trail descriptions and directions I heavily rely on, as well as, history and notable stories when applicable.
Going east off of Idaho Highway 33 toward Grand Targhee Resort, you will find the trail heads of Teton Canyon. Offering a wide variety of skill levels, distances and varying terrain, one thing reigns true for the hikes of the Teton Canyon: the view.
Take your pick and pack your camera. Wildlife and scenic overlooks are almost a certainty, but nothing beats the real thing.
Table Mountain, Alaska Basin and Devil’s Stairs are ideal trips, with the seasons lasting until mid-September or mid-October for the latter trail.
For a full day’s worth of trekking through steep climbs and sifting through vibrant native vegetation, Table Mountain brings 12.8 miles round trip reaching 11,106 feet in elevation, according to “Targhee Trails.” Starting off on the mellow side, the trail climbs in difficulty before reaching the top.
Sarah Anderson, an associate broker at All Season Resort Realty and a life-long avid hiker, counts this climb as one of her favorites. Somehow finding the time and energy to hike at least once a week, Anderson takes out friends and recommends this trail often.
“Most of the way, you don’t see the Tetons hardly at all, and then all of a sudden when you reach Table Mountain, the valley is all that’s between you and the Tetons, and the Grand is right in front of you.”
To get to nearby Alaska Basin and Devil’s Stairs entrance, head to the South Teton Canyon parking area. Heavily traveled during peak season, Alaska Basin offers a 7.7-mile hike to Basin Lakes reaching 9,600 feet in elevation, according to the guide. Although a popular camping spot, campfires are prohibited. Check your hiking guide for other restrictions. Marsh and Woods delve in detail into the different routes and ways to explore the basin, but choose whichever fits your needs best.
Take the Alaska Basin route as far or as long as they would like, as opposed to Table Mountain, which is a fairly guaranteed day-long adventure.
Using the same beginning trail as Alaska Basin, the South Teton/Buck Mountain Pass Trail will lead to a junction heading toward Devil’s Stairs. The hike is 3.6 miles one way, and reaches 8,550 feet in elevation. Devil’s Stairs is the shorter hike of the trail that eventually leads to Teton Canyon Shelf, a 7.1 one-way jaunt for great camping, Rinaldi said. But the steep climb up the “stairs” will give hikers a great view, workout and shorter hike.
No matter what route you choose, before hitting the trail heads, understanding what is in store is the first and foremost step. From gear — many of which can be purchased at Yostmark — to advice — ask an experienced regular like Anderson or local expert at Yostmark – hiking should be a well thought-out and well planned adventure.
You can never go wrong with a good map. But put away the GPS and the iPhone, and go retro with a trusty wilderness guide or trail map book.
Throughout the summer months and into fall, Yostmark owner Rich rinaldi spends his time instructing visitors on where to go, setting them up with gear and sharing his expertise. Understanding the need for increased hydration, thanks to the higher altitude, coming prepared for the hot sun or sporadic rainfall, and bringing bear spray are key when doing any hike — beginner or advanced.
“All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other, and it is awesome. It lifts your spirits and makes you happy. And if you are lucky, you get out of cell phone reception.” Anderson said.