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

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

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.

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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.

Permit

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; skinnyskis.com

BUY THE PRO MAP

Key Skill

Camp smart in bear country

Bear canisters are mandatory for backpackers using campsites below 10,000 feet, but that won't prevent a curious bruin from slinking into your camp to investigate dinner aromas. Protect your food stash–and yourself–by pitching camp in this strategic triangle formation.

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1) Choose a site with good visibility on all sides and make this your kitchen to centralize dining odors.

2) Walk 100 yards away from your kitchen and designate a food storage area (stash your pots, stove, and toiletries here, too).

3) Now cruise 100 yards upwind of both locations (away from drifting food smells) and look for flat ground with views of your kitchen and cache. Pitch your tent here.

See This

Calypso orchid


Check well-sheltered, moist forest floors in stands of conifers, like those around mile seven, for the calypso orchid. Also known as the fairy slipper, it gets its name from the sea nymph Calypso, a character in Homer's epic poem The Odyssey, who held Odysseus captive for seven years. Although the flower has a huge range–it's found from Alaska to New York–it's far from common to see an orchid in bloom. Calypso seeds won't germinate unless stimulated by a particularly sparse fungus. It's also said to have healing properties–the Thompson tribe in British Columbia chewed the bulb to treat seizures.

Locals Know

Kurt Johnson, program director and photographer at Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson, has been shooting in the Tetons for 10 years. He suggests setting up your shot during the "magic hour": the 15 minutes before sunrise and the 45 following it. (Aim for the reverse at sunset: 45 minutes before, 15 after.) The low sun casts the most dramatic shadows, and the sky's colors will be the most vibrant. Johnson uses his own backpack as a tripod and shoots in self-timer mode to eliminate the blur caused by pushing the shutter release button in low light. Another local photographer, Mike Panic, says that cloudy days, rather than bluebird ones, are often better for shooting the Grand. "Check the forecast," he says. "One to three days before a storm, you're likely to get big, puffy clouds that make an image so much more interesting."

On The Menu

Breakfast 1

PB&J on a wheat bagel

Lunches 1 and 2

Salami-and-cheese bagel

Dinner

Big Moose Couscous

Breakfast 2

Grand Grits

Snacks Organic chocolate and mixed nuts

Grand Grits

A savory start to a sweet day

2 packets instant grits

1/3 cup nonfat powdered milk

2 ounces pepper jack cheese (cubed)

1 handful of bacon bits

Stir instant grits and powdered milk into one cup of water and boil. Remove from heat, then top with cheese and bacon bits.

Big Moose Couscous

Cook less, enjoy the sunset more with this quick dinner.

1 package couscous

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup dried mushrooms

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon oregano

Boil two cups water. Add all ingredients to pot and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve.

The Grocery List

1 box instant grits

1/3 C. powdered milk

8 oz. pepper jack cheese

1 box couscous

1/2 C. sun-dried tomatoes

2 oz. dried mushrooms

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. oregano

8 oz. peanut butter

1 squeeze bottle berry preserves

3 wheat bagels

4 oz. salami

2 chocolate bars

8 oz. mixed nuts (bulk bins)

3 oz. bacon bits

(stocking varies, and Dornan's has no aisle numbers)

NEAREST GROCERY STORE

Dornan's Trading Post

200 Moose St., Moose, WY; (307) 733-2415; dornans.com/grocery

PIT STOP

The Mangy Moose Sit out on the deck and pair the barbecue pork ribs and mashed potatoes with a glass of the 2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon. The black cherry notes complement the maple-y BBQ sauce quite nicely, say local foodies. 3295 Village Dr., Teton Village, WY; (307) 733-4913