Grand Teton National Park: Grand Traverse

Notch an epic alpine challenge on this 13-mile loop that crests 10 of the Teton's tallest peaks.
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Notch an epic alpine challenge on this 13-mile loop that crests 10 of the Teton's tallest peaks.

Bagging the Grand Teton is absolute life-list material. But the Grand Traverse tackles even burlier fare: It scales the Teton’s 10 highest peaks in 13 mind-blowing miles, racking up a crazy 12,700 feet of elevation gain.

Almost entirely off-trail and above-treeline, with climbing moves up to 5.8, “It might be the most consistently hair-raising three days on the planet,” says Senior Editor Shannon Davis, who’s one of fewer than 300 climbers to have completed it. (See his slideshow at backpacker.com/grandtraverse.) Guiding recommended: exumguides.com.

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 Shannon Davis

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 21.0

Waypoints

PIC001

Location: 32.642516, -111.402682

Park at the Hunter Trail trailhead to ascend to the summit of Picacho Peak.

PIC002

Location: 32.640151, -111.403375

The Arizona State Parks rangers keep this trail well maintained all the way to the summit.

PIC003

Location: 32.638995, -111.403711

This ascent up steep rocks has cable hand holds. At first our mapper wondered why this was done (you don't need the cables here). Later, he learned to appreciate the astute work done by the trail cable builders.

PIC004

Location: 32.637306, -111.404482

As you ascend up the trail you encounter a large alcove that will keep you dry in Arizona's famous monsoon rains in the summer.

PIC005

Location: 32.63621, -111.40291

After hugging the cliff you switchback here for the final ascent to the first saddle.

PIC006

Location: 32.636476, -111.404532

Saddle: Many people stop here to admire the first views to the West of Picacho Peak. This is a popular turn around spot for the less adventurous. The route gets "Sporty" beyond this sign!

PIC007

Location: 32.636249, -111.404829

Right after the saddle on the Western side of the peak you start to give up some of that elevation gain in a hurry. These cable rails are actually necessary if you don't have technical gear or comfort with a scramble descent.

PIC008

Location: 32.634481, -111.404736

The Sunset Vista Trail steeply ascends up the Western side of Picacho Peak to meet the Hunter Trail here.

PIC009

Location: 32.634394, -111.40384

The rock climb / scramble is "secured" by a cable and fence on the right (ya right!). I would recommend that you get good hand holds and not ask the fence to arrest your fall!

PIC010

Location: 32.634774, -111.403426

This crack system is the vertical route to the next level on the mountain. There's one class 4 spot where you have to clear a small choke stone that the cable becomes a necessity.

PIC011

Location: 32.635082, -111.403011

Before turning the corner for the final ascent to the summit you must first cross this bridge built on a small rock bench with serious exposure.

PIC012

Location: 32.635018, -111.400549

summit

Trailhead Parking

Location: 32.642444, -111.402607

Well Maintained Trail

Location: 32.640169, -111.403386

First Cable Ascent

Location: 32.639004, -111.403722

More cables

Location: 32.638217, -111.404348

Easterly Views

Location: 32.637315, -111.404493

As you ascend up the trail the views to the East open up. Notice how close Interstate 10 is. You can see Neuman Peak on the other side of the Freeway and the trailhead is visible below by the cars parking at the end of the loop road.

Trailside cave

Location: 32.637306, -111.404503

Author Photo

Location: 32.63621, -111.402889

It was a cool Arizona morning in the 40's.

Saddle Overlook

Location: 32.636484, -111.404553

Steep Descent

Location: 32.636249, -111.40484

Wow - I came down that?

Location: 32.635598, -111.405178

Looking back up the Western descent route makes you wonder how those with less experience routinely do this!

Trail Junction

Location: 32.634472, -111.404789

Wow, this gets interesting!

Location: 32.634438, -111.404256

Notice the people on the steep ascent up the rock ramp. If you look very closely you'll see cables going up the vertical cliff face at the end of the ramp!

More Rock Climbing

Location: 32.634376, -111.403819

Around the nose from the "fence" is another scramble guarded by cables.

I'm going up that?

Location: 32.63443, -111.403744

Vertical Chute

Location: 32.634747, -111.403426

This crack system is the vertical route to the next level on the mountain. There's one class 4 spot where you have to clear a small choke stone that the cable becomes a necessity.

A SKY BRIDGE?

Location: 32.635109, -111.403012

Holly cow Batman, now what? Before turning the corner for the final ascent to the summit you must first cross this bridge built on a small rock bench with serious exposure.

Sky Bridge during cross

Location: 32.635117, -111.403278

Sky Bridge Close-up

Location: 32.635172, -111.403278

After crossing the sky bridge I snapped this photo looking back as confirmation that I made it.

Hikers Descending

Location: 32.635144, -111.403289

Some class 3 scrambling on the descent. These hikers are not even to the vertical crack cable yet.

Peak Bagger Pose

Location: 32.635135, -111.400698

That's me (Rich) with my summit pose.

Summit View - Southeast

Location: 32.635081, -111.40057

Toward Tucson

Summit View - West

Location: 32.635108, -111.40057

Summit View - East

Location: 32.635144, -111.40057

Summit View - North

Location: 32.635135, -111.400592