Understanding we’re using the term “mellow” in a relative sense—this is in the Tetons, after all, a mountain range that erupts skyward 7,000 vertical feet without so much as a foothill to temper its verticality—the trail from Lupine Meadows to the mouth of Garnet Canyon is a mellow run. It only climbs about 2,500 feet over its 4-mile length.
What Makes It Great
It actually goes further—this is the trail you take if you’re looking to climb the Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and South Tetonby any of their standard routes—but just after four miles it hits a bit of a boulder field that involves five minutes of scrambling. For runners or those looking for a somewhat casual day hike, this is a worthy turn-around spot.
If you wan to go further, the trail resumes on the far side of the boulders and continues on as a dirt trail to the Meadows, a popular place with climbers to camp. From the meadows, you can head to the north and west to get to the Lower Saddle and many of the southern rock climbs on Disappointment Peakor go southwest and towards Nez Perce, Cloudveil Dome, South Teton, and Middle Teton.
The trail up to the Lower Saddle is dirt for a short bit above the meadows before turning into a large boulder field below the Lower Saddle. The “trail” up the south fork of Garnet is fairly nonexistent and mostly scree.
But back to the lower Garnet Canyon Trail. Start at Lupine Meadows. The first 15 minutes or so is mellow. The trail then heads up a treed ridge. At the top of this ridge, 1.7 miles from the parking lot, the Garnet Canyon trail intersects the valley trail. Above this intersection, the trail’s personality changes. You pop in and out of pine tree, but more often than not, you’re out on an open hillside. This hillside can be beautiful and vibrant with yellow-leaf arrow-leaf balsamroots or it can be dry, dusty, and hotter than Hades. Five minutes above the Valley Trail junction, there’s a small trickle of water. That’s about all the water you’ll find here. FYI, that small trickle of water is actually spring water, so it’s safe to drink. Look closely and you might find some sort of natural funnel sticking out; this is a popular water stop for runners and climbers that are trying to keep how much weight they carry to a minimum.
1.1 miles above the Valley Trail Junction, the trail splits again. The northern trail goes to Surprise and Amphitheater lakes. The southern trail takes you to Garnet Canyon via a series of flattish, long switchbacks.
Who is Going to Love It
The Meadows is a popular place for climbers to camp.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Start at the Lupine Meadows Trailhad, which is at the end of a gravel road about 1.5 miles from the Lupine Meadows junction.