Yes, Jackson Hole is the (disputed) birthplace of American mountaineering. There are numerous routes on the Grand Teton, Mt. Moran, and the Middle Teton totally worth climbing. Topping out on any of these summits, you’re greeted by amazing views, often stretching across three states and including two national parks and half-a-dozen other mountain ranges.
But thankfully, you needn’t be a technical climber to reach a Jackson Hole summit and enjoy these expansive views. The following six summits are all attainable by hiking. And by hiking we mean hiking, not the class IV scrambling you have to do to get up Teewinot’s East Face.
1. In-Town Option
We particularly love any summit where you can start from a town’s downtown. And also summits that allow you to combine mountain biking with hiking. Cache Peak , rising up 10,384-feet in the Gros Ventre Wilderness, allows both. Begin biking from Jackson’s elk-antler-arch in Town Square and continue riding up the Cache Creek drainage to the boundary of the Gros Ventre Wilderness. From there, it’s about a five-mile walk to top of Cache Peak, which isn’t the tallest peak in the Gros Ventre Range, but still affords fabulous 360-degree views.
2. The Name Doesn’t Fit
Now that it’s known that the peak directly east of the Grand Teton is fully separate from the tallest Teton, “ Disappointment Peak ” is no longer a descriptive name. It is understandable that the first party of Europeans who went up this peak in 1925 may have been disappointed that they couldn’t reach the summit of the Grand from it, but today, people who arrive at its precipitous 11,618-foot summit are anything but disappointed. Instead, they're elated to have earned neck-kinking views of the 13,775-foot Grand. The view also includes the Middle Teton, Teewinot, Owen and... well, most every major peak in the southern part of the park.
3. Escape the Tetons** **
Ninety minutes south of Jackson Hole, the town of Afton is home to one of the world’s few cold water geysers. The same trailhead as you use to access the Periodic Spring will also take you to the tallest peak in the Salt River Range, Mt. Fitzpatrick . As geologically interesting as the Periodic Spring is, scientists only have guesses as to how the plumbing works. We recommend heading for 10,907-foot Mt. Fitzpatrick. The round trip is about 20 miles. The hike includes two (or four, if you retrace your steps) miles of the most exhilarating ridge hiking we’ve ever done in this area. Best of all? Chances are you’ll see only a handful of other people all day.
4. A Different Perspective of the Tetons
From their western base, the Tetons look completely different than they do from the east. There are several summits on the range’s western side (the side accessed via Idaho) and Mt. Meek might be best. Not only does it fail to get the crowds that Table Mountain draws, but it lords over the northern end of the Death Canyon Shelf, one of our favorite features in Grand Teton National Park. While dogs aren’t allowed on the Death Canyon Shelf, which is in GTNP, Mt. Meek is in the Targhee National Forest, which does allow dogs. Also, if you’re not feeling the summit of Mt. Meek, there is a most inspiring lookout about 45-minutes and 1,000 feet below the summit. This lookout area is where most hikers stop and turn around. The views from the summit are totally worth the effort, but if you’re not feeling it, The Lookout is still fairly fabulous.
5. Serious Views
Without a doubt, our favorite summit that you can hike to in Grand Teton National Park is Static Peak . It’s more of a grunt than its 17-mile distance would suggest and it’s entirely worth it. We might go so far as to write that this is the best day-hike in Grand Teton National Park, even if it is an out-and-back. The Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop would be a close second. Bearing north at the Death Canyon ranger station, it’s exactly four miles to the 11,303-foot summit of Static. This will be the longest four miles of your life. From the summit, you can reach out and smack Buck Mountain’s north face though. Timberline Lake glistens below, either with ice (which it often holds until August) or in the sun. (Once the ice melts, it’s an otherworldly shade of grue, that’s our made-up word for green-blue). Due south, see if you can spot the aquamarine Rimrock Lake hanging in a cirque high on Prospectors Mountain.
6. And Something in Yellowstone
Yellowstone’s 20-mile Sky Rim Trail is the park’s best alpine hike even if you don’t do the .6-mile roundtrip side spur to Big Horn Peak . By the time you’re making your decision whether to go up Big Horn or not, if you do Sky Rim in the clockwise direction that we recommend, all of the hard stuff is behind you. So you should definitely do it. The elevation gain of the final bit to Big Horn’s 9,888-foot summit might be 100 feet at best. The .3-mile stretch of trail that takes you there might be the coolest section of trail in all of Yellowstone. It was carved out of Big Horn’s nearly sheer, and completely loose side. From the top, soak in views of Crown Butte, the Madison and Gallatin Range, and the Absarokas, to name just a few of the ranges visible. On a clear day you can see for up to 100 miles; some people have reported seeing the Tetons from here.