Sunday, October 4, 2015

Waterfall, Inspiration Point await on day hiking route in Grand Teton National Park

Hidden Falls at Grand Teton National Park. Photo courtesy of Grand Teton NPS.
Topo map for Hidden Falls/Inspiration Point Trail.

Trail begins on Jenny Lake's western shoreline

Day hikers can enjoy a waterfall and then a vista at 7200 feet elevation in Grand Teton National Parks’ Cascade Canyon.

The Hidden Falls-Inspiration Point Trail runs 3.8-miles round trip. Due to the high elevations and accompanying heavy snowfall during winter, the trail only is open in summer.

To reach the trailhead, from Jackson Hole, Wyo., take U.S. Hwys. 26/89/191 north. Turn left/west onto Teton Park Road and follow the signs to the Lower Jenny Lake Visitor Center. Park at the visitor center’s lot.

From the visitor center, take the Jenny Lake Boat to opposite shoreline. The shuttle typically leaves every 20 minutes between 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and there is a fee for using the boat. The alternative, though, is the hike around Jenny Lake (see above) just to reach the trailhead.

Hidden Falls
Once the shuttle arrives at the West Shore Boat Dock, take the trail heading south to Hidden Falls. The route heads through a semi-open grove of fragrant conifers with patches of huckleberry.

In a half-mile, the trail arrives at Cascade Creek. Cross the stream via a footbridge, and at the next junction, go right/east on Cascade Canyon Trail.

Watch for a sign pointing to a spur heading to Hidden Falls. Take that trail, which leads to the fall’s base. The falls is about a mile from the boat dock.

Though technically not a waterfalls but a series of cascades running 200 feet over several multiple steps, Hidden Falls still is impressive. Because only part of the cascades are steep, there's a lot of confusion among various sources about exactly how high the drop that looks most like a waterfall actually is – some say 80 feet and others say 100.

Inspiration Point
After taking in the falls, double back on the trail. Upon reaching the Cascade Canyon Trail, go left/north to Inspiration Point. You’re at the mouth of Cascade Canyon, and it's a 400-foot switchback climb over 0.9 miles up to its rim.

The hard walk is worth it, though. From Inspiration Point at 7200 feet, you can see up into the Cathedral Group of mountains (12,325-foot Teewinot Mountain, Mount Owen, and the Grand Teton) to the southwest and the St. John Group (Symmetry Spire, Rock of Ages) to the northwest. A panoramic view of Jenny Lake is to the east and Jackson Hole to the south.

Inspiration Point marks a good spot to turn back, but you can continue on the Cascade Canyon Trail deeper into the Tetons.

Also, be aware that Hidden Falls, and to a slightly lesser extent Inspiration Point, are popular destinations in the park, so expect to be walking the trail with others.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.