Great America Road Trip Day 19: Jenny Lake Hike

The sun sank lower in the sky as I reached the opposite shore of Jenny Lake. The majestic Grand Tetons, which beckoned me forward previously, were now at my back. I was exhilarated at having come so far. But I still had a long ways to go.

I considered taking a short break but decided against it. Hiking by myself in bear country was bad enough; I shouldn’t tempt fate any further by hiking in the dark. So I took in a deep breath of sweet mountain air and hiked faster.

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View of the Grand Tetons from the Northeast side of Jenny Lake

The Last Minute Hike

When Daniel and I arrived at the Jenny Lake parking lot, we had already packed in full day. I learned about the Jenny Lake Trail just this morning and was excited to check it out. One of the more popular trails in Grand Teton National Park, the trail circles around Jenny Lake in a scenic 7.5-mile loop.

I wasn’t sure if I had enough time to hike it, however. I haven’t attempted a hike of this length since recovering from COVID-19. Although I was feeling a lot better now, a few months ago I could barely get off the couch. I’m not the fastest hiker these days and it was already almost 3:00 pm.

Even though Daniel wasn’t up to hiking today, he encouraged me to go. Today was our last day in Grand Teton National Park and I still hadn’t done much hiking. He knew I’d be super bummed if I missed out on this gem.

So I grabbed my hiking poles and bear spray and headed to the trailhead. I glanced at my phone when I hit the trail…and realized that it was 4:00 pm, not 3:00 pm. My FitBit watch was still stuck on Pacific Daylight Time. Ruh roh! I did some quick math and realized that I’d *really* have to move if I wanted to make it back before dark.

After a split second of deliberation, I decided to go for it anyway. I could do this!

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The Grand Tetons as viewed from one of the scenic turnouts on the way to Jenny Lake
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Another shot of the Grand Tetons on the way to Jenny Lake. I CAN’T HELP MYSELF! Seriously, it was all I could do to keep from driving right off the road.
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The first Jenny Lake trail sign I encountered on my hike today

The Jenny Lake Hike Begins

I began by hiking north in a counter-clockwise direction. In the beginning, the trail was fairly crowded with visitors who were gawking at the scenery. The crowds thinned as I put distance between myself and the parking lot, however.

After about a mile, the only people I encountered were hikers like me. I was a little nervous about hiking solo in bear country, so I was glad to pass an occasional group of hikers. When no one else was around, I made plenty of noise to supplement the bear bell jangling on my pack.

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Steps leading away from the Jenny Lake area
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Jenny Lake with the Tetons in the background
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A nice shady trail
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Oooh… now the views are getting really good!

String Lake

After about 2.5 miles, I came to a large creek flowing into Jenny Lake. Here the path diverged from Jenny Lake and followed the creek upstream. The creek turned out to be an outlet from nearby String Lake.

I found a bridge over the creek near the String Lake parking area. From there, I backtracked along the opposite side of the creek until I rejoined Jenny Lake again.

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Hiking along the String Lake Outlet
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A bridge! Finally!
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The views just keep getting better and better
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Returning to Jenny Lake on the other side of the creek

The Opposite Shore

Now I was on the opposite side of Jenny Lake, heading southwest – and loving the views! The Grand Tetons were now directly in front me. A fire had ravaged this side the lake at one point so there weren’t very many tall trees.

At 6:00 pm, I reached a boat dock. Here, I found boats ferrying passengers from the Jenny Lake parking lot to this side of the lake. I hadn’t realized the ferry was running this year. It was nice to know I had the option of returning by boat if need be.

Time to pause for a moment and assess my progress. I had just hiked 5 miles in 2 hours – and I was still feeling pretty good! I should be back by 7:00 pm, assuming I didn’t make any stops or detours. Easy peasy!

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A wildfire burned on this side of the lake some time ago
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Beautiful Jenny Lake
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Trees are cool
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Jenny Lake passenger boat dock

Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point

So of course, the next thing I did was to detour off of the Jenny Lake Trail. Two of the most popular scenic viewpoints in the park are located a short hike away from the boat dock.

The first is Hidden Falls. My National Park Trail Guide App describes the falls as such: “Possibly the most popular attraction in the Park, Hidden Falls isn’t quite so hidden.” Lucky for me, I had the falls pretty much to myself. Apparently, hiking in the evening is a good way to avoid the crowds.

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On the way to Hidden Falls
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Crossing a creek
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Hidden Falls! This waterfall is over 100 feet high.
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Hidden Falls in action

After enjoying some quiet time with Hidden Falls, I continued uphill until I arrived at Inspiration Point. This particular vista looks away from the Grand Teton mountain range, not towards it. It’s a lovely view of Jenny Lake and beyond, but personally I’d rather look at the Tetons.

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Hiking the path towards Inspiration Point
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Almost there!
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The view from Inspiration Point

A Race Against Time

By the time I made it back to the main trail, it was 7:15 pm. Daniel was expecting me back by 8:00 and I still had over two miles to go. I’d better get a move on.

A few other hikers passed as I walked, but not very many. I pretty much had the trail to myself. I was exhausted and mostly focused on putting one foot in front of the other. And bears. I sang and whistled and made lots of noise because I was freaked out about running into a bear.

By the time I made it back to the Rialta, it was 8:30 pm. I was sore and tired but otherwise safe and sound. I was also elated at having just hiked hiked 9.5 miles in 4.5 hours. That’s a major milestone in my Coronavirus recovery. And I got to see some of the most beautiful views in Grand Teton National Park.

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Hiking along the lake’s edge
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The path broadens as it nears the parking area
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The passenger boat dock near the parking area
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View over Jenny Lake from my starting/ending point

Sunset over the Tetons

The sun set just as we left the Jenny Lake parking lot. As we drove, a glorious palette of oranges and yellows and pinks streaked across the sky. We pulled over at the same scenic turnouts that we visited earlier in the day to enjoy the show.

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Your Rialta photo for the day
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Grand Tetons at sunset
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It just keeps getting prettier
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…and prettier!

Signal Mountain

Lest you think that hiking Jenny Lake was the only thing I did today, I leave you with this final chapter. Earlier in the day, we drove to the top of Signal Mountain. I originally planned to hike to the top, but then we decided to drive instead. I’m so glad that we did! This enabled me to hike the Jenny Lake Trail later in the day.

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View of the Grand Tetons from the Jackson Point Overlook on Signal Mountain
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Daniel on Signal Mountain
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View of the Snake River from Signal Mountain
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View of the Grand Tetons from Signal Mountain’s summit

Where are we now?

We are in Grand Teton National Park!

Date: July 24
Great American Road Trip Status: Day 19

Location: Lizard Creek Campground, WY
Miles Today: 62.6
Total Trip Mileage: 1972.1

For more details on our Great American (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

For more information about the Jenny Lake Hike:

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