Picking a favorite canyon to hike in Grand Teton National Park is not easy, and it shouldn't be done lightly. But Paintbrush Canyon and Cascade Canyon certainly rank amongst the top, and it's no surprise that the 18-mile loop through the both of them is one of the more popular loops in the park. It's one of the prettiest hikes in the nation.
What Makes It Great
Between the huckleberry bushes and wildflowers at the bottom of Paintbrush Canyon, to the snowy couloirs slicing down the north faces of Mt. St. John, The Jaw, Holly Lake, and all the streams in the upper canyon, well, not many other canyons in the park can compare.
And the fact that it's a loop—where you can walk up Paintbrush Canyon to 10,700-foot Paintbrush Divide (8.3 miles) and then drop down to Lake Solitude and exit the north fork of Cascade Canyon rather than retrace your steps—that's just icing on the cake.
Who is Going to Love It
Depending on your desired activity, the direction you go could make a world of difference. When trail running, it's better to ascend Cascade Canyon first, as it has a gentler grade and won't kill your legs and lungs like Paintbrush can.
If savoring the scenery, however, on a hike or backpacking trip, then going up Paintbrush and down Cascade is probably the better option, as this will yield unbelievable views of the Cathedral Group. Also, Lake Solitude is at the perfect spot for a halfway-point dip. (Know that Paintbrush Divide is not this loop’s mid-point. From the divide, it’s about 11 miles back to the String Lake parking area via Cascade Canyon and about eight miles via Paintbrush Canyon.)
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
This loop can be done in a single day whether running or hiking, but if you'd rather make it an overnight trip, the Upper Paintbrush camping zone is a truly special destination, with mountains hulking in every direction and nearby Holly Lake just waiting for swimmers.
Park at the String Lake Trailhead off the scenic drive north of Jenny Lake, if you choose to start with Paintbrush Canyon.