Grand Teton National Park: Avalanche Canyon to Cascade Canyon

Link two of the park's deepest and most spectacular valleys via a high pass.
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Link two of the park's deepest and most spectacular valleys via a high pass.

Joining obscure, trailless Avalanche Canyon and popular Cascade Canyon gives as complete a Teton experience as anything described here. You'll enjoy five-star scenery, a pass well above 10,000 feet, and adventurous but straightforward crosscountry hiking. This 17.4-mile, point-to-point trek can be done in a long, arduous day, but take two or three to enjoy great campsites at Lake Taminah, Snowdrift Lake, and the South Fork of Cascade Canyon.

From the Valley Trail north of Taggart Lake, turn west onto the unmarked use trail to Avalanche Canyon (it's often blocked by sticks) just before the Valley Trail begins climbing the low ridge separating Taggart and Bradley Lakes. Obscured in spots and challenging to track across talus slopes (look for cairns), the use trail is otherwise obvious much of the way to Lake Taminah.

From there, you'll navigate cross-country, but it's an uncomplicated hike up the canyon. Find the breaks in the cliff bands below Taminah and Snowdrift Lakes to avoid any scrambling. (Hiking up Avalanche and down Cascade makes this routefinding much easier.) At 10,680-foot Avalanche Divide, pick up the good spur trail into the South Fork of Cascade Canyon, then follow maintained trail all the way to Jenny Lake.

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/things2know.htm.

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season). nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/back.htm

CONTACT Grand Teton National Park, (307) 739-3300; nps.gov/grte/

-Mapped by Michael Lanza

TO TRAILHEAD: Start at the Taggart Lake trailhead, three miles north of Moose Visitor Centeron Teton Park Road. Leave a second vehicle at Jenny Lake Visitor Center, just minutes farther up the road, or hitch a ride back to Taggart post-hike. Catch a shuttle boat across Jenny Lake from the Cascade Canyon boat launch to avoid hiking an extra 2.3 miles around the lake. See jennylakeboating.com for prices and schedules.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 30.8

Waypoints

WPT001

Location: 43.693172, -110.733086

Taggart Lake Trailhead

WPT002

Location: 43.707817, -110.752899

Bear left @ Y-junction. Head west.

WPT003

Location: 43.708035, -110.769653

Tentsite

WPT004

Location: 43.708752, -110.803551

Campsite

WPT005

Location: 43.708149, -110.803215

Creek pool

WPT006

Location: 43.708885, -110.811951

Bivy under big rock. Ahead, continue heading west.

WPT007

Location: 43.708401, -110.82122

Campsite

WPT008

Location: 43.717083, -110.835052

Avalanche Divide

WPT009

Location: 43.73035, -110.838814

Highest campsite. Trail bends to the northeast.

WPT010

Location: 43.731415, -110.838623

Turn right.

WPT011

Location: 43.745068, -110.836617

Campsite with food locker.

WPT012

Location: 43.747032, -110.834419

Pass creekside ledges. Head north.

WPT013

Location: 43.755066, -110.824898

Camp with great view.

WPT014

Location: 43.764484, -110.816307

Continue straight, heading east.

WPT015

Location: 43.764851, -110.747192

Bear left @ Y-junction.

WPT016

Location: 43.752556, -110.721451

Jenny Lake Trailhead