The awe and wonder of Grand Teton National Park is no secret. Grand Teton drew over 3.3 million people in 2017, just shy of its well-known neighbor a few miles to the north, Yellowstone National Park. The Jenny Lake area offers several great trails, but we think the Cascade Canyon Trail is one of the best day hikes in Grand Teton National Park. If you combine a trip into Cascade Canyon with a side excursion to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, you are in for a real treat on this perfect Jenny Lake hike!
CASCADE CANYON TRAIL DETAILS
- Difficulty: Moderate to hard (depending on distance hiked)
- Distance: 3.1 to 9 miles (round-trip)
- Trail: Out-and-back
- Elevation gain: 1,066 feet or more
- Peak elevation reached: 7,844 feet
- Best time of year to hike: Early summer to fall
- To beat the crowds: Arrive before 7:30 am or after 4:00 pm
- Footwear: Hiking boots
- Watch out for: Mosquitoes, bears, sun exposure
- Restrooms: Located at the trailhead, but not on the trail
- Pets: Not allowed
- Time needed:5 to 5 hours
Cascade Canyon Trail Map from the National Park Service
The Cascade Canyon Trail is one of many hikes and sights highlighted in our 14+ page itinerary for Grand Teton National Park.
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE CASCADE CANYON HIKE
Cascade Canyon Parking area map, courtesy of the National Park Service
To access the trail, park at the south end of Jenny Lake. The parking lot for the trailhead is shared with the lot for the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. If you are coming from the south, the Jenny Lake Visitor Center is about 8.2 miles north of the junction with Highway 89. Coming from the north, the trailhead is about 19 miles south of Colter Bay Village.
- Directions from Jackson, WY to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center (this will take about 35 minutes without traffic, and you should plan on traffic if you come here in the summertime).
- Directions from the Jackson Lake Lodge to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center (this will take about 25 minutes. Traffic won’t be much of an issue if you go early in the morning, but it will pick up after mid-morning).
While the lot is large and there is room for well over 150 cars, this popular spot does fill up early in the day. If you do not get here early, be prepared to park on the road and walk in prior to starting your hike.
There are restrooms and water filling stations at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, but they won’t be found anywhere on the trail.
Once you arrive at Jenny Lake, there are two options to begin your adventure. One option is to start hiking on the Jenny Lake Trail to the west side of the lake. If you do this, it adds about 2.4 miles to the hike. However, it is quieter than the boat ride, it’s free and you can come and go on your own schedule.
The other option is to take the boat across the lake. Jenny Lake Boating offers trips to the trails about every 10-15 minutes. The cost is around $15 for adults (round trip) and less for children under 12. When we visited, the first boat of the morning (7am) was $5 if paid in cash. We received this hint from another blogger. While there isn’t any reference to this offer on the Jenny Lake Boating website, it’s worth asking about the night before your visit. The advantage of taking the first Jenny Lake shuttle boat is that it allows you to get ahead of the crowds and ours was not a full boat.
THE HIKE TO HIDDEN FALLS
After arriving at the Jenny Lake shuttle boat landing (on the west side of the lake), the trail heads to the south before turning west for the remainder of the hike. The hike to Hidden Falls is fairly easy, climbing 198 feet along a rushing river. The trail is very well groomed and is in the shade for the most part. There are plenty of places to rest along the way and soak in the sights and sounds of the river.
At the end of the trail, Hidden Falls becomes visible. These falls drop approximately 200 feet which creates an impressive refreshing spray at the bottom.
Be advised that since the hike to Hidden Falls is relatively easy and short, it can get very crowded. If you can, head here early in the morning to beat the rush.
The trail directly to Inspiration Point from Hidden Falls is only 0.4 miles further. However, in 2017, that trail was being renovated. Therefore, after the hike to Hidden Falls, we retraced our steps back to the boat launch and headed up to Inspiration Point on the way to Cascade Canyon!
THE HIKE TO INSPIRATION POINT
Hiking from the West Boat Dock, the trail heads steadily uphill. It winds through a shaded forest for approximately 0.5 miles before opening up to views of Jenny Lake and the nearby peaks. Since the shortcut from Hidden Falls was closed, we had to turn onto the Cascade Canyon Trail and travel east for 0.3 miles to get to Inspiration Point (which is normally “on the way” if the trail from Hidden Falls is open).
Even just the partial hike Inspiration Point in Grand Teton National Park is worth it if that is all you have time (or energy) for.
Once at Inspiration Point, take a break on the large rockface and drink in the beautiful scenery. Jenny Lake takes up much of this panoramic view, but the Gros Ventre Mountains to the east are also breathtaking. The total climb to Inspiration Point is just over 400 feet and is very doable for families of all ages. This is also a great place to watch sunrise or sunset. However, be prepared to head down the mountain in the dark if you do stay though sunset.
After Inspiration Point, the Cascade Canyon Trail heads west toward Cascade Canyon.
THE HIKE THROUGH CASCADE CANYON
The trail through Cascade Canyon is over 3 miles long and alternates between full exposure to being sheltered from the sun inside the forest. The trail continues along Cascade Creek for the entire trip through the canyon.
When we departed Inspiration Point and entered the canyon, we encountered some snow on the trail, which the kids enjoyed! This is common, even in late June. It wasn’t hard to get through, but it did make for a few slippery spots, so be sure to watch your step.
Cascade Canyon is the work of glaciers from approximately 15,000 years ago. Large boulder fields and isolated massive rocks in random places are what remains combined with lush meadows and creeks created by melting snow. This landscape is home to a variety of animals ranging from small animals such as pika and marmot all the way up to bear and moose. Make sure you bring bear spray on this hike (and know how to use it!). However, the locals will tell you that the moose in this area are the most dangerous of all, so keep your distance!
Hiking inside Cascade Canyon is absolutely incredible. The trail has a slight incline as it enters the canyon, but it is hardly noticeable, especially as you take in the scenery.
The trail continues for as long as you want to take it (and officially ends at the Forks of Cascade Canyon), but you don’t have to hike the entire way in to make the trip worthwhile. Even just a mile into the canyon will give you a great sense for how amazing this place is!
THINGS TO DO NEAR THE CASCADE CANYON TRAIL
If you are going to be in the Jenny Lake area, there are a few other things we recommend doing before you move on:
- The Jenny Lake Visitor Center is a must-see. We recommend heading here after your hike. While it can be busy, getting a head start on the trail traffic is worth navigating through a few extra people in the Visitor Center, for sure! Here you can see a great relief map as well as geology exhibits and a short film about how the area was formed. There is also a cozy fireplace in here that is running on cold days.
- Mormon Row is about 11 miles southeast of the Jenny Lake area. Here there are several dozen old barns and houses to view, including the Moulton Barn. This is a quick stop without any hiking and it is great to stroll around the area and take in the views.
- The Leigh Lake Trail is a 1.8-mile (round-trip) hike that travels along String Lake. String Lake is a great place to relax during the heat of the day, with the shoreline easily accessible from the parking lot.
- About 9 minutes to the south is the Taggart Lake Trail. This moderate hike is a 3.0-mile loop that starts near Moose Junction. The highlight of this trail is the views of the Tetons behind Taggart Lake. This hike is awesome and definitely worth checking out.
- Be sure you bring your camera when heading out on this hike. Between the waterfalls, the views from Inspiration Point and the sights along the way into the canyon, this place is a photographer’s paradise!
- Arrive at the parking area/trailhead early. This is one of the most popular hikes in the park (and has been for many years), so the earlier you get on the trail or the shuttle boat the quieter your trip will be. While crowds are part of what you’ll find when you visit Grand Teton National Park in the summer, it’s nice to get ahead of them as much as possible. Our blog on How to Avoid Crowds in National Parks might be of use as well.
- Be sure to carry bear spray while on the trail. Thankfully, we didn’t have use ours, but we wouldn’t be caught without it. Bear spray usually costs $50 and is available in local stores (including grocery stores in Jackson, WY). It can also be rented in some locations. This “insurance policy” is a smart purchase and can also come in handy in Yellowstone National Park.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- The Cascade Canyon Trail is one of many hikes and sights highlighted in our 14+ page itinerary for Grand Teton National Park. We also cover other day hikes in Grand Teton National Park, listing them in ranked order!
- We cover many details about how to plan your trip in our blog on Grand Teton National Park – What to See and Do. This includes information on other Grand Teton hiking trails.
- Cascade Canyon was featured in our blog on the 5 Best Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park.
- Another great hike for families that is a bit easier is the 3.9-mile hike covered in our Taggart Lake (with Beaver Creek Loop) blog.
- For tips on what to pack when traveling to Grand Teton National Park, check out our post Grand Teton – What to Pack.
- Our son wrote up a blog post on Grand Teton in 2017. Check out his perspective on the area as well!
- Grand Teton National Park was highlighted in our blog post on 7 Family Friendly Hikes in U.S. National Parks. Read the blog to find out about another favorite family hike in the park.
- We create custom, vintage-style posters, postcards and note cards from your photos of Grand Teton National Park. Check out our process!
OTHER USEFUL LINKS ON GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
- The Cascade Canyon trail at Grand Teton National Park may be one of the most popular hikes, but perhaps the most sought after hike is the Teton Crest Trail, which requires a permit (along with a bit of luck for permit approval) and camping. Ash (from Dirt In My Shoes) has a terrific blog post describing her journey through the Teton Crest trail, and it's very worth checking out!
- If by some chance you don’t want to hike to get great photos, PhotoJeepers has a great article on places to go for great photos within Grand Teton National Park.
- For some really detailed tips on Grand Teton National Park from a local, check out Mike Jackson's 10 tips for a Grand Teton National Park visit.
- For a great photo journal on backpacking in Grand Teton check out SoCal Hiker.
- Grand Teton National Park
- Jenny Lake Hiking Map