Backpack the Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton NP

Death Canyon Trailhead

This is an incredible trail passing through canyons, over passes, and around breathtaking mountains. It hits several of the most beautiful spots in the Tetons and makes for a remarkable 3-4 day backpacking trip.

The Teton Crest Trail has several variations that allow the hiker to enter and exit through different canyons. The classic trail begins at the Phillips Pass Trailhead and comes to a close at Paintbrush Divide. Many hikers choose to take the Teton Village Tram up to Marion Lake and join up with the Teton Crest Trail from there. This trail is typically travelled over 3 to 4 days, but can be extended or shortened to fit the hiker's timescale. Because this trip is point-to-point, the easiest way to complete it is by setting up a shuttle from your end point to your starting point.

A permit is required to camp along this trail, but there are several backcountry zones that can be used if your itinerary is flexible. You will also pass through Alaska Basin in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, an area that does not require permits to camp. This is a popular area, so be sure to reserve your spot well in advance.

Beginning from the south, this trail goes over Fox Creek Pass, along the Death Canyon Shelf, down Mt. Meek Pass, and into Alaska Basin. Here, Sunset Lake is a highly recommended place to camp with stunning views of the basin. Climbing out of Alaska Basin, you will travel over Hurricane Pass where you will see views of the Grand Teton and the rest of the range. You can either continue to Paintbrush Divide or take Cascade Canyon out to the Jenny Lake or String Lake trailhead. Depending on the daily mileage you are looking for, you can fairly easily find campsites to fit the plan for your trip.

Get more information on planning your trek here.

Pack List

  • Permit (see Grand Teton National Park website)
  • Map
  • Water filter
  • Camp stove
  • Bear can
  • Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad
  • Hiking boots
  • Warm clothes for cool nights
  • Headlamp
  • Camera
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RT Distance 38 Miles
Elevation Gain 9681 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Fitness
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

A must do!

Some friends and I did this route together and it was a blast! I recommend it for anyone who loves backpacking! Train and get your pack to a good weight before taking it on, but make sure you do this trail. Best campsite is at Sunset Lake, camp at the site in the trees above the lake for a glorious evening and morning.

A fantastic hike in a National Park.

So often we view our National Parks from the car. We drive to a lot, do a short hike, see the thing that's on the postcards, and hike back to our cars. The Teton Crest Trail, however, is an emersion in one of the most scenic parks in the NPS system. Away from the ranger stations, vending machines, historical plaques, and visitors centers, this trail is what being in a National Park should be.

Some of the best backpacking in the country

The Teton Crest Trail ranks among the top backpacking destinations in the country, and is without a doubt the best way to experience Grand Teton National Park. We took 4.5 days to cover 40 miles, starting from Granite Canyon trailhead. Be prepared for an intense amount of elevation gain, as this trail crosses over several significant passes, ascending and descending many different canyons. We went in early August to avoid steep snowfield crossings on Paintbrush Divide and only crossed one short (and not very steep) permanent snowfield. We didn’t see any bears, though hikers just ahead of us saw a black bear cross the trail in front of them on our first day. Deer walked through our campsites every night, and we saw lots of marmots, pika, ground squirrels, and chipmunks all along the trail. Highlights from our trip included stopping at Marion Lake, camping on Death Canyon shelf, lunch at Sunset Lake, wildflower covered fields, climbing over Hurricane Pass and seeing Schoolroom Glacier, views of Grand Teton from North Fork Cascade Canyon, resting at Lake Solitude, the hard push up Paintbrush Divide and the incredibly rewarding top-of-the-world views, and Holly Lake.


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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. Learn More

Nearby Adventures

More Nearby Adventures

Backpack to the Death Canyon Shelf

If you can snag a permit to camp at Death Canyon Shelf, consider yourself lucky. This backcountry camping zone holds some of the best sites in Grand Teton National Park.

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Hike to the Patrol Cabin at Death Canyon

Your adventure begins at 7,000 feet along lodge pole pines and small creeks. Just a few minutes into the hike, you will reach the Valley Trail Junction. Stay left and continue towards Death Canyon.

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Backpack to Alaska Basin via Death Canyon

Death Canyon Trailhead is easily accessed by heading south on Moose-Wilson Rd. from Grand Teton National Park Headquarters for 3 miles.

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