Backpack to Alaska Basin via Death Canyon

Rate this Adventure Death Canyon Trailhead

This is a multi-day backpacking trip that features some of the most picturesque sections of Grand Teton National Park and Targhee National Forest. The trail begins and ends at Death Canyon Trailhead offering multiple ways to lengthen or shorten the days and mileage of your adventure. My trip was 28.2 miles over the course of 3 days, stopping to camp on the Death Canyon floor and between alpine lakes in Alaska Basin.

Death Canyon Trailhead is easily accessed by heading south on Moose-Wilson Rd. from Grand Teton National Park Headquarters for 3 miles. Once at the junction turn right onto an uneven dirt road and go north 0.7 miles to the parking area.

Day 1: (8.3 miles) From Death Canyon Trailhead hike west for 1-mile to the Phelps Lake overlook (7,200 ft.), this will be your first of many photo opportunities. After gazing out at the lake you will hike down into Death Canyon, covering another 3 miles before coming upon a small ranger patrol cabin and a junction for Static Peak and Death Canyon Trail. Go left at the junction and hike 4.5 miles to the Death Canyon camping zone, your first opportunity to camp.

Day 2: (7 miles) To start your second day you must climb to the top of Fox Creek Pass (9,600 ft.) here you will meet with the Teton Crest Trail. Take the crest trail north following the Death Canyon Shelf; from the shelf you will have fantastic views of the Teton Range. Descend the crest trail into the lake spotted Alaska Basin, at the junction follow Alaska Basin Trail and make camp.

Day 3: (12.9 miles) The third and final day will be the longest in mileage. After packing up camp and refilling your water reserves follow Alaska Basin Trail southwest to your next challenge, the 3.2-mile hike to the top of Buck Mountain Divide (10,550 ft.). From here traverse 1.1 miles to Static Peak Divide where you have the option to summit Static Peak (11,303 ft.), a short half-mile detour from the trail. Finally continue down the basin trail for 4 miles to the patrol cabin you encountered on the first day, and head back to the trailhead and parking area.

Things to Keep in Mind:
  • Backcountry permits are required in both Grand Teton National Park and Targhee National Forest.
  • Bears are present in this area, so bring appropriate protection including food canisters and repellant.
  • Temperature can drop very low at night even during summer months.
  • At Fox Creek Pass you have to option to go south on the Teton Crest Trail and camp a night at Marion Lake.
  • At the Alaska Basin Trail/ Teton Crest Trail junction you can follow the Teton Crest Trail 1.5 miles north to Sunset Lake for additional camping and photo opportunities.
  • The lakes in the area provide great fishing, be sure to have proper fishing permit if you do choose to fish in the backcountry.

Pack List

  • Backcountry Permit
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Hiking Clothes and Shoes
  • Camp Stove and Fuel
  • Water Filter
  • Bear Canister for food (required in national parks)
  • Bear Repellent
  • Flashlight/Headlamp
  • Enough food and water for at least one extra day
  • Compass or GPS
  • Map (I recommend a Nat Geo Topo map)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fishing Pole
  • Camera
Show More
RT Distance 28.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 7500 Feet
Activities Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer
Trail Type Loop
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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