Established in 1929 in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton Nation Park features more than 200 miles of hiking trails, which range from easy to moderate to strenuous in regard to difficulty. Keep in mind: experienced hikers recommend reviewing the park’s guidelines for wildlife encounters. Whether you want to hike all day or simply for 30 minutes, there’s something for everyone at this picturesque park. Stay at one of numerous vacation rentals near Grand Teton National Park to conveniently access the top hiking trails in this expansive family-friendly recreation area.
1. Lunch Tree Hill Loop
A great way to introduce your family to hiking in Grand Teton National Park is to take the Lunch Tree Hill Loop that begins at Jackson Lake Lodge, a mile from Jackson Lake Junction. This easy half-mile, round-trip trail climbs only 80 feet in elevation, and it includes interpretive and historical information plaques. Unless you stop for picnicking and enjoying the wildlife, the hike takes about 30 minutes. At the top of the hill, your reward includes sweeping views of Willow Flats and spectacular mountain vistas of the Teton Range. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his family met with Horace Albright, the Superintendent of Yellowstone. Rockefeller discussed purchasing the Jackson Hole Valley, intending to turn it over to the U.S. Government for inclusion in the future Grand Teton National Park. To continue exploring past the Lunch Tree Hill overlook, take the trail that leads along the ridge to the north.
2. Heron Pond and Swan Lake Loop
Families with children find the 3-mile round-trip Heron Pond and Swan Lake Loop hike easy, educational, and fun. Your 2-hour hike is mostly level with a few gentle elevation changes along the way. At the Colter Bay Visitor Center, you access the Hermitage Point Trailhead on the other side of the boat ramp. Getting a trail map at the marina helps keep you on your route as there are other trails in the area that lead off this one. Expect to see very few people, a lot of wildlife, and calling cards left by horses that people sometimes ride on the trails.
3. Leigh Lake Trail
To reach the third-largest lake in the Tetons, take the trail to Leigh Lake. It takes about an hour to hike this easy, mostly flat, 1.8-mile round-trip trek. Hiking along the String Lake Shore, pass the footbridge across the stream and climb about 50 feet to Leigh Lake. You get views that are much like those along the String Lake Loop, but with so little gain in elevation, this trail is easier for younger-to-older members of your family. With energy to spare, consider continuing on another easy 4.1-mile hike to Bearpaw Lake.
4. Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point Trail
Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point Trail is a great family experience, and one of the most iconic trails in the park as it features views across the lake of the Cathedral Group. Hiking from the Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center, around the lake to reach Hidden Falls and Inspiration point makes about a 7-mile, fairly strenuous round-trip that is best suited for experienced hikers. To shorten the trek, access the easy 2.2-mile round-trip trail by taking the ferry from the Jenny Lake west boat dock for a cool adventure crossing the lake.
5. Lakeshore Trail, Colter Bay
Take the family out to look for moose, elk, otters, great blue herons, and other wildlife along the Lakeshore Trail along the shoreline of Colter Bay. This 2.75-mile trail includes a gently rolling grade with about a 200-foot overall gain in elevation. Allow an hour or two to enjoy this easy trail that features magnificent views of Jackson Lake and the Teton Range. From the back of the Colter Bay Visitor Center, follow the old paved road around the north edge of the marina to find the trailhead.
6. Taggart Lake and Bradley Lake Loop
A great way to get in a moderate hike on your family vacation is to combine the Taggart Lake and Bradley Lake trails. Pairing the shorter trails into a 5.1-mile loop that winds through pine forests, crosses meadows, and includes about 900 feet of total climbing. The trail starts off easily, but becomes a bit more challenging when the grade steepens near the first lake. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles or osprey, and listen for song birds, including warblers.
7. Death Canyon Hike
The Death Canyon trail is a challenging 20-mile round-trip over rugged terrain that requires hikers to climb a total of 2,150 feet. A recommended day hike covers an 8-mile round-trip that takes about four hours. Depending on the time of year, you’re treated to views of wildflower fields, a series of waterfalls, and sometimes a moose family. It’s about a mile from the trail head to the Phelps Lake Overlook. The strenuous scrabble up steep slopes eases off after the first couple of miles, leveling off and opening up to breathtaking scenery in all directions.
8. Polecat Creek Loop Trail
Its level terrain and 2.5-mile round-trip length, Polecat Creek Loop makes a great choice for families with members of all ages. The trail winds through lush forests, picturesque meadows. You get to cross Polecat Creek a couple of times, with views of the wetlands. This easy, scenic hike gives you opportunities to view birds, waterfowl, and other wildlife. Drive about 16 miles north from your Colter Bay Junction vacation rental, turn west at the Flagg Ranch sign, and park in the parking lot by the information station near the corral. At the north end of the parking lot, cross the road to reach the trail, which begins in a stand of pine trees.
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