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Backpacker Magazine – August 2009

Rip & Go: Paintbrush-Cascade Canyons Loop - Grand Teton National Park

Climb through bear country to a campsite with views of The Grand.

by: Adrienne Saia Isaac, Illustration by Supercorn

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.

Do it See a Tetons highlight reel of big views, lumbering moose, and sweet solitude on this 18.1-mile counterclockwise loop starting at String Lake trailhead (1). Take the String Lake Trail .1 mile to a bridge (2) between String and Jenny Lakes. After .2 mile, bear right at a Y-junction onto the Paintbrush Canyon Trail (3). You'll cross a marshy area west of String Lake (look for moose), then curve north across sage-covered foothills before climbing 4.6 miles through subalpine forest to Holly Lake at 9,410 feet (4). Eat lunch in the shadow of 11,539-foot Mt. Woodring before tackling a 1,310-foot, 1.5-mile pull to the crest of Paintbrush Divide (5).

Pack a bear bell or sing through this stretch; grizzlies and black bears forage here. But don't let bears distract you from the view: The jagged Tetons dominate the skyline. Cross the 10,720-foot divide, often snow-covered until August, then descend 2.3 miles to Lake Solitude (6) (9,035 feet). Choose a campsite, just beyond, in one of the North Fork Cascade Camping Zone's (7) 14 sites, most with spectacular views of the Cathedral Group (Grand Teton, Mt. Owen, and Teewinot Mountain) to the south. (See Locals Know on the back of this page for photography tips.) Blue and purple alpine forget-me-nots, the park's official flower, dot the landscape through late summer.

The next day, hike 2.8 miles southeast on the Lake Solitude Trail to a left turn onto Cascade Canyon Trail (8). Descend gradually past glacial erratics (9) and small caves along Cascade Creek 3.4 miles to a Y-junction (10). Turn left onto a lesser-used horse trail and drop .6 mile to Jenny Lake Trail (11). Turn left and cruise 1.3 miles along Jenny Lake back to String Lake trailhead.

Trip Planner
Driving From Jackson Hole airport, go south on East Airport Rd. .5 mile to US 191. Turn left and go 3.6 miles to Teton Park Rd. Turn left and drive 10.8 miles to a left on Jenny Lake Rd. Go 1.4 miles to String Lake Rd. and trailhead parking.

Entry is $25/vehicle. Backcountry camping is $25/6-person party. Reserve from January 1 to May 15. Two-thirds of backcountry campsites are set aside for walk-ins.

Gear up
Skinny Skis, 65 West Deloney Ave., Jackson, WY; (888) 733-7205;


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