Access Special Backpacker.com Features, Register Now!

Grand Teton National Park: Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop

This challenging, 18.1-mile backcountry trek wanders the rugged canyons, alpine lakes, and scree fields of Grand Teton National Park.

Rating

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. Take the String Lake Trail .1 mile to a bridge between String and Jenny Lakes. After .2 mile, bear right at a Y-junction onto the Paintbrush Canyon Trail. 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.

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. 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 (9,035 feet).

Choose a campsite, just beyond, in one of the North Fork Cascade Camping Zone’s 14 sites, most with spectacular views of the Cathedral Group (Grand Teton, Mt. Owen, and Teewinot Mountain) to the south. 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. Descend gradually past glacial erratics and small caves along Cascade Creek 3.4 miles to a Y-junction. Turn left onto a lesser-used horse trail and drop .6 mile to Jenny Lake Trail. Turn left and cruise 1.3 miles along Jenny Lake back to String Lake trailhead.

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 Kari Bodnarchuk

To Trailhead

From Jackson, WY, head north on US 191/US 26/US 89. Turn left onto Teton Park Rd. (pass through Moose Entrance Station). In 10.8 miles, left onto Jenny Lake Rd. In 1.5 miles, right onto String Lake Rd. In 300 feet, right into String Lake parking area (follow signs for String Lake picnic area).

Leave a Reply