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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Day 18: Lizard Creek Campground
- Day 17: A Long and Bumpy Road
- Day 16: Hello Grand Tetons
- Day 15: Too Many People
- Day 14: Lazy Day by the River
For more information about the Jenny Lake Hike:
- Jenny Lake Loop – Teton Hiking Trails.com
- Jenny Lake Trail – AllTrails.com
- Jenny Lake | Plan Your Visit – National Park Service