Grand Teton National Park is hands-down glorious. The front country alone will take your breath away with its dramatic appearance from the ground. Its towering and unique presence comes from the lack of foothills on the east side of the mountain range. Then there’s the backcountry. It’s pure magic back there with huge sweeping landscapes where you can look down deep valleys for miles and up at intense passes that will make you hungry to know what’s next. If you're looking to satisfy that hunger, follow these ten steps to planning your Teton Crest Trail adventure.
1. Decide you want to hike the Teton Crest Trail
This is probably the most important decision you need to make at this point – choosing to go on this trek or not. Once you’ve made a mental commitment, you’ll be better equipped to follow through with the details of planning a backpacking trip. In case you need some convincing, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
2. Pick hiking buddies to go with (or not)
Once you’ve decided to go, get your crew on board. It would be perfectly fine to go solo on this trail, but the overall epic nature of the Tetons is a memory worth sharing with friends. I would recommend picking folks you want to spend time with, who have stellar attitudes, who you want to take on a challenge with, and who can physically handle climbing up and down passes. This trek can be challenging at times not just because of elevation gain and loss, but also because of the altitude. Get clear on what you’re looking for in a hiking buddy and be open to see who emerges.
3. Decide on a time to go
July: There could be a lot of mosquitos and still snowy.August: Potential for mosquitos still present, but not as bad as July. Likely bursting with wildflowers. (I recommend this month!)September: Little to no mosquitos and wildflowers will be sparse. Weather can be unpredictable.October: High risk of unpredictable weather.
4. Determine your daily mileage and campsites
Depending on what you and your hiking buddies are capable of, determine what your daily mileage range should be. Find out where the campsites are and map out an appropriate route that matches distances with campsites. Come up with an alternative plan just in case. You can see my recommended itinerary here.
5. Secure a permit
Apply for a permit between the first Wednesday in January to May 15th. Check the backcountry reservation website for Grand Teton National Park for the latest information and link to the reservation site. If you aren’t able to get the dates and route you want, first-come first-serve permits are available up to 24 hours in advance. This is a great option if your schedule is flexible.
6. Determine your transportation and lodging
The most urgent piece of transportation you’ll need to figure out is your flight if you plan on flying into Wyoming. Jackson Hole is the most convenient airport in the area. From the airport, I would rent a car to get around prior to starting: pick up your permit, buy fuel and any other supplies you need, get to your hotel for a good night’s rest. Public transit is available, just not as convenient. As for a hotel, I recommend The Hostel in Teton Village. It’s reasonably priced and it’s less than 0.5 miles from the trailhead. It’s ideal if you’re on a limited budget.
7. Figure out your gear
Get your personal and shared gear in order. If you’re going as a group, I highly recommend splitting gear that can be shared within the group. (e.g. Take one stove, no need for one per person.) You can find my backpacking checklist here.
8. Polish up on Leave No Trace
Make sure you and your hiking buddies are clear on Leave No Trace guidelines. What’s more valuable than capturing an “Instagram-worthy” photo is to be present and to preserve the wilderness for more people to experience first-hand. In fact, why not try to leave it better than you found it? If you find someone else’s trash, consider packing it out.
9. Call the ranger
One week before your trip, I highly recommend talking with a ranger. Ask them what the weather’s been like and what to expect on the trail. It doesn’t hurt to ask them about wildlife and if there have been sightings of bears. If you get stuck or aren’t sure what else to ask, try this question: “Is there anything else I should know before I start my trip?” Get as much information before you hit the trail. Good preparation is key! Contact: Craig Thomas Discover and Visitor Center 307-739-3399
10. Be safe and have a blast
As a Wilderness-EMT, I know how difficult it is to get people out of the backcountry in the case of serious medical injuries. Play it safe if you have any doubt about something risky you might be considering. Otherwise, I hope you have an unforgettable time enjoying one of the most exquisite wildernesses I’ve laid eyes on.
I’m a curious explorer, through and through. My current passion project is to figure how to make wilderness backpacking simple for women who are starting out.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.