Grand Teton National Park has only a handful of lakes above 10,000 feet. We might be missing some lesser ones (maybe Alpha and Omega lakes?), but we can think of Icefloe Lake, Timberline Lake, and, our newest fav, Coyote Lake. (We don't count Kit Lake; too small.) Why is Coyote Lake a favorite? It actually gets ice-free most summers.
What Makes It Great
We can't imagine ever having the courage to take a dip in Timberline Lake's waters, with little iceberg-lets floating by. Same goes for Icefloe Lake. Coyote Lake though? Well, we were sitting in it in early August and there wasn't so much as an ice cube around.
Hiking up to this lake, we saw a family within a mile of the trailhead. And then saw no one else the rest of the day--and it was a 10-hour day--until we were nearly at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort tram.
Start from Teton Village. The Valley Trail heads from the base of JHMR into Grand Teton National Park. Four miles up the Valley Trail, you want to take the Open Canyon Trail. The Open Canyon Trail is mellow, but does climb steadily. Take this trail for about four miles. You will not go all the way to Mt. Hunt Divide. About 2,500 feet above and about eight miles from Teton Village, the trail begins switchbacking up to the divide in earnest. This is the point at which you leave it. You want to stay in Open Canyon.
The thickest bushwhacking is the first 5 minutes after you leave the trail. If, upon first leaving the trail, you're confronted with a gaping ravine with very steep and loose sides, you need to go back down the trail to the last switchback that had you pointed west. And then start bushwhacking from there. Once through the tangle of trees immediately past this switchback, you're walking through glades of wildflowers until you hit slopes of scree higher up.
As you ascend Open Canyon, there are several route options. As Coyote Lake is on the northern side of the canyon at its very back, we generally stay more north in this section. But routes on the south side of the canyon go too. The scree field that you think you'll crest and be greeted by the lake is a fake-out. Sadly, Coyote Lake is still another 500 vertical feet above you here.
This last bit is the most treacherous bit of the bushwhack. You have to ascend a steep, dirt face sparsely pockmarked with solid rocks and hummocks of grass. Hiking poles are beneficial to have here. Survive this slope though and Coyote Lake is yours. Hang out for lunch or camp for the night.
To descend, the non-adventurous can retrace their steps. (If you like this option, then you should park at and start from the Granite Canyon Trailhead, where you can pick up the Valley Trail 1.2 miles from the trailhead and take that a couple of miles to the Open Canyon Junction.) If you're feeling adventurous (and have some topo maps on hand, whether on your phone or printed), there is a saddle between Coyote Lake and Mt. Hunt you can descend (it's steep, but very do-able) to less-steep grassy slopes that, eventually, spit you out on the Open Canyon trail on the south side of Mt. Hunt Divide. Take this trail down into Granite Canyon and, at the patrol cabin in that canyon, take the Middle Fork Trail to connect to the trail up to the tram.
The climb up to the tram from the patrol cabin is about 2,000 feet, but, many days our knees prefer going up to hiking down. If you start and end at Teton Village, taking the tram down from the top of Rendezvous Mountain, this loop is about 20 miles. You won't just get bragging rights for the distance or the fact about 6 miles of it is bushwhacking. Most locals haven't ever heard of Coyote Lake, much less been there. Enjoy.
Who is Going to Love It
If you appreciate seeking out off-the-beaten-path places in otherwise popular national parks, this hike is for you!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
If you don't want to deal with a car shuttle and you do want to take the JHMR tram down at the end (saving you retracing your steps or walking out Granite Canyon), start from Teton Village.