Backpack the Paintbrush Canyon Loop

Paintbrush Canyon Trailhead, Alta, Wyoming, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Loop

  • RT Distance:

    26 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    4400 Feet

Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Backpack the this Teton Range loop and enjoy a night of beachfront camping on Leigh Lake.

There are many ways to access the Teton backcountry. However, one of my personal favorites is from Leigh Lake via the String Lake trailhead. From the backcountry office obtain a backcountry permit for 2 nights at Leigh Lake. Site 12 has some of the more impressive beachfront views of the Front Range.

Begin the hike at the String Lake Trailhead (6,880 ft.) Hike along the East side of the lake about 1 mile until you arrive at a junction, stay to the right and continue about 1.5 miles to the camping area (Site 12) on the shores of Leigh Lake. Wake early enough on day 2 to tackle all 26 miles of the Paintbrush Canyon loop. Hike South 1.5 miles from site 12 to the junction where you will take a right. Then hike 0.7 miles to the String Lake/Paintbrush Canyon Junction. Take a right and continue 4.9 miles up to Holly Lake (9,500 ft.) There is the option to camp at Holly Lake if 26 miles in a day is not your style. From here continue 1.7 miles to Paintbrush Divide (10,700 ft.) for a 360 degree view of the Teton backcountry. Begin the descent down 2.4 miles to Lake Solitude (9,035 ft.). From here take the Lake Solitude Trail 2.7 miles to the top of Cascade Canyon. Take a left on Cascade Canyon Trail and begin the 4.5 mile descent down to Jenny Lake (6,783 ft.) Stay left on the Valley Trail 1.4 miles along the banks of Jenny Lake. Finally connecting to the String Lake Parking area in another 0.3 miles. Remember if you plan to camp at Leigh Lake one more night you will still have about 2.5 miles back to Campsite 12.

If you’re looking for wildflowers and a bit of trail traffic, August is great. However, avoiding crowds means late September-October. Prepare for cold temperatures at high elevation, grizzly bear activity, and possible snow accumulations.

Pack List

10 Essentials:
  • Navigation: Topographic map (NatGeo Map 720) and assorted maps in waterproof container plus a magnetic compass, optional altimeter or GPS receiver
  • Sun Protection: Sunglasses, sunscreen for lips and skin, hat, clothing for sun protection
  • Insulation: Hat, gloves, jacket, extra clothing for coldest possible weather during current season
  • Illumination Headlamp, flashlight, batteries
  • First-Aid Supplies, including insect repellent
  • Fire: Butane lighter, matches in waterproof container. Campfires are prohibited and pack stoves are required
  • (Repair Kit and Tools) Knife or multi-tool, trowel/shovel, duct tape, cable ties, Bear Spray
  • Nutrition: Add extra food for one additional day (for emergency). Dry food is preferred to save weight and usually needs water. Bear Containers Required (Bearproof canisters are available for rent from the backcountry office
  • Hydration: Add extra 2 liters of water for one additional day (for emergency) or Water filter
  • Emergency Shelter: Tarp, bivy bag, tent, etc. insulated sleeping pad & bag
  • Camera
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Reviews

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We actually did this hike as the pinnacle of our vacation. It took us exactly 12 hours to complete the loop with numerous stops along the way at Holly Lake, lunch on the divide, at quite awhile at Lake Solitude. I completely recommend doing this as either a day hike or as a multi day backpacking trip. The views are the best in the park and I sincerely count this day as one of the best in my life. Remember to make a lot of noise in the morning when you start to alert the wildlife you're up with them!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Incredible loop for running too. If you go early season (usually June) bring an ice axe for numerous steep snowfield crossings.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Ryan Manuel

Don't name your days. Live them.
 Backcountry Biologist
 Wildland Firefighter

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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