Jenny Lake to Solitude Lake via Cascade Canyon Trail; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA
Distance: 12 miles (19.3 km) round-trip with boat ride. 16 miles (25.7) km round-trip without boat ride.
Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet (792 meters)
Hike Time: 8-10 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous. The hike is very difficult due to the steep elevation gain, the length of the trail and rocky nature of the trail.
Your friends at lostinbeautifulplaces.com are back with our July 2019 Hike of the Month. This month we will take you on a journey through Cascade Canyon to Solitude Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. We were fortunate to spend a week in Grand Teton this summer and absolutely fell in love with this portion of the country. Its historic and picturesque towns, high mountain peaks and abundant wildlife make for an amazing experience. We logged over 50 miles on the hiking trails in the park and we wanted to share our favorite trail with our readers.
Even though it was July, the weather was cold and rainy when we arrived at Grand Teton National Park. Undeterred by the weather, we decided to try to get a camp spot at Colter Bay Campground. Since we had no reservations, we were lucky to get one of the spots that are set aside for campers without prior arrangements. Read our article about Car Camping Hacks for more information about finding camping spots without having reservations. The rain alternated on and off during our stay, but we made the best of it and hiked 5 out of the 7 days. One night was especially windy and rainy. At one point, we debated sleeping in our small SUV, but ended up sticking it out in our tent. Luckily, we stayed warm and dry the entire night.
Cascade Canyon Trail Introduction
Since its development into a National Park, the Cascade Canyon Trail has been one of the most popular hikes in the park. This is still true today, as the Cascade Canyon area offers some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere in the Rocky Mountains. South of the canyon lies the massive peaks of Grand Teton and Mount Owen. On the north side, the rocky cliffs of Hanging Canyon frame the view. Waterfalls pour down the steep rock walls into Cascade Creek, which continues to erode the base rock and make the canyon deeper each year. Black bears, Moose and Pica can frequently be seen along the trail.
The Cascade Canyon Trail has a 2,600 feet elevation gain and at its highest point reaches 9,600 feet above sea level. Even in July, there was over two feet of snow still on the ground on the final ascent to Solitude Lake. The snow was well compacted and easy to walk over. Its always a good idea to check weather conditions at the visitor center to find out trail conditions before heading out. Be sure to bring food, water, sunscreen and a rain jacket. This is a long, remote hike and there is no access to water or food once you leave the Visitor Center. Bringing along a few extra layers of clothing is necessary, as the weather can change at anytime through out the hike.
Cascade Canyon Trailhead
There are two ways to reach the Cascade Canyon trailhead, which starts on the west side of Jenny lake, across from the Visitor Center. To get to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, take the main park road north past Menors Ferry and the Chapel of the Transfiguration, about 8 miles from Moose Junction. From the Jenny Lake parking lot, hikers can get to the trailhead by shuttle boat or by walking around the lake. Taking the boat cuts 4 miles off of the total hike and saves about an hour and half of time. Cost of the boat ride is $18 per person round trip, or $10 per person one way. Shuttles run every 10-15 minutes throughout the day. Reservations are not taken.
Tip: Show up early! Catching the first boat ride each morning at 7am costs only $5 round-trip per person, instead of the regular price of $18. The Jenny Lake parking lot fills up fast, so visitors getting there before 7am will have no problem finding a spot. In addition, the early boat ride offers pristine reflections of the snow capped mountain peaks on the lake, thanks to the position of the sun and the glassy surface of the water.
Hiking the Cascade Canyon Trail to Solitude Lake
After the stunning boat ride or a hike around the lake to the trailhead, the journey towards Solitude Lake begins. The trail starts near the shuttle boat dock and starts off with steep switchbacks through a thick conifer forest. The conifer forest is cool, damp and covered with different types of ferns, wildflowers and huckleberries. We were warned by park rangers that black bears may be seen at this point on the trail, but we didn’t run into any on this hike.
At around .5 miles up is a junction that leads to the Hidden Falls viewpoint. Many hikers take this trail to view Hidden Falls (.5 miles each way) and then turn back. We decided to stay on the main trail and keep trekking towards Inspiration Point and eventually, Solitude Lake. Inspiration Point is reached one mile from the trailhead. Amazing views of the town of Jackson Hole, Jenny Lake and the snow capped mountains of Teton are enjoyed here. After a quick stop at the viewpoint, the trail levels out to a moderate climb as it enters the wide opening of Cascade Canyon.
The wide canyon starts to taper as we made our way to the 2 mile mark of the trail. The terrain changes shape in the narrow valley, with large boulders and small ponds dotting the landscape. Ready for a drink of water and a snack, we sat on a boulder and watched large amounts of Pica dashing back and forth between the large rocks. We were also able to view beavers swimming in the small ponds. The series of ponds are formed with the help of beaver dams which were abundant in the canyon. We saw a handful of dams in just a short section of the trail.
After hiking 3 more miles through the spectacular canyon, we came to the Forks of Cascade Canyon junction. Since we were going to Solitude Lake, we turned right at the junction. From the junction, the trail traverses alongside Cascade Creek through a dense forest. After another mile, the trail becomes exposed to the sun and the terrain becomes very rocky. This steep section is the final climb to Solitude Lake. Around 7 miles from the trailhead, we reached an overlook to the glacial lake. There is a small trail leading down to the rocky seashore where we ate our lunch and watched a few brave souls jump into the freezing cold water!
We descended down through the canyon on the same paths that we had taken on the way up. The light had changed considerably since hiking up the trail and made for dramatic views up and down the canyon. After arriving at the boat dock, we exchanged stories with fellow hikers as we waited for the shuttle. The boat ride back across Jenny Lake was very quiet, as most of us were exhausted from the long hike!
That wraps up our hike on the Cascade Canyon Trail to Solitude Lake. We hope that you enjoyed the article. Feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions!!
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If you are heading to Montana, you may also enjoy our article about Glacier National Park.