Before Teton Pass gets icy, take a quick trip over the hill into Idaho to experience the wilder, western side of the range with some hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho. It's prime time for an adventure, as fall colors are bright and the crowds have largely dissipated this time of year.
This option lets you skip the jam-packed parking lots and tourists in Grand Teton National Park while reveling in epic Teton scenery and wild country. Or head through Teton Valley to reach Alta, Wyoming, home of Grand Targhee Ski Resort. This resort, which is technically in Wyoming but is accessed through Teton Valley, Idaho, also offers excellent hiking options.
Try these favorite Teton Valley trails to get a taste of the less-packed side of the Tetons. The best part? They're all only about an hour from Jackson.
1. Darby Canyon Wind Cave
This classic, family-friendly hike is a perfect fall excursion, and it's only about 50 minutes away from Jackson. Colorful leaves light up the canyon as you make your way out to the Wind Cave, named for the cool breeze often flows out it (the cave connects with another cave and air flows right through both). This trip is about six miles round-trip and features about 1,800 feet in elevation gain, topping out right around 8,800 feet at the Wind Cave entrance.
Start at the Darby Canyon Trailhead near Driggs, Idaho, and set out on the trail, crossing the footbridge and heading into the Jedediah Smith Wilderness. Climb for about two miles and the trail will turn sharply to the west. Keep your eyes out and catch a glimpse of the Wind Cave off in the distance. Then at 2.4 miles in, stay right to reach the Wind Cave. You'll cross a creek and head up switchbacks (passing a memorial to five hikers killed by lightning in 1951), and you'll get a great view of the cave.
While the hike to just below the Wind Cave is family-friendly, approaching the cave itself is an endeavor reserved for sure-footed and daring hikers. If you decide to peer into the cave, use caution on the slippery scramble up to it, as the area can be quite treacherous. Unless you're a serious spelunker with technical equipment and local knowledge, steer clear of any caving adventures. The cave contains icy water, frigid temperatures, and steep drop-offs, and many adventurers have found themselves in quite a bit of trouble here over the years.
2. Table Mountain
Be ready for a strenuous climb when you ascend Table Mountain , also called “Table Rock,” which is just over an hour from Jackson. This 12.8-mile roundtrip trail gains 4,100 feet of elevation, topping out at 11,106 feet. Be prepared to ford several creeks (not advised when the water's high) along this steep climb. But when you reach the (often windy) summit, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of the Teton Range, Cascade Canyon, Teton Canyon, and Alaska Basin.
You'll also be able to see some hardy whitebark pine trees up top, along with alpine wildflowers mid-summer. Use caution, especially on the loose, steep talus slopes near the top, and be aware the north-facing route up can be snowy and icy late into summer and through early fall.
3. South Bitch Creek
Hike up South Bitch Creek Canyon and you'll enjoy scenic views and maybe even some solitude. Start at the Coyote Meadows Trailhead just over an hour from town and follow the trail, which drops to several creek crossings (you'll find a footbridge near the confluence of North and South Bitch creeks, whose names are believed to be a derivation from the French word "biche" for doe, which French trappers named the waterways after).
This trail winds around canyon slopes and through forests and meadows, so keep an eye out for wildlife (this is prime grizzly country). You can also turn this into a loop with the Carrot Ridge Trail (21.7 miles for the loop), or you can just head out for a stroll and turn around whenever you feel like it. You'll find plenty of good places for camping in the basin, and consider bringing your fishing pole to see if you can get a bite or two.
4. Teton Canyon Overlook
At Grand Targhee Resort, about an hour from Jackson, head up the Peaked Multi-Use Trail to ascend to the Teton Canyon Overlook . This six-mile round-trip journey has a 1,600-foot elevation gain over the three miles it takes to go one-way. But you'll be rewarded for the uphill trek with spectacular views of Teton Canyon and the Cathedral Group of the Teton Range once you reach the overlook.
5. Bannock Trail
About an hour from Jackson, the Bannock Trail at Grand Targhee is a 6.4-mile round-trip route with 1,800 feet of elevation gain. Head through groves of aspens and head up for great views of the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and the Tetons. This trail starts near the bottom of the Shoshone lift and continues up to the top of the Dreamcatcher lift. Retrace your steps back down or consider hopping on a lift if they're still turning.