Backpack to Death Canyon

Death Canyon Trailhead

Hike with unique, majestic view of the Grand Tetons. You'll be traveling on and to less-traveled trails/campsites and get some the best views for sunrise/sunset photography.

Day 1:
This trip begins at the Death Canyon Trailhead. Try to arrive early, as it gets crowded and various groups day hike from here. After the first few miles, you’ll encounter Phelps Lake. You’ll have several opportunities for photos, and they will all be beautiful. As you continue on, be on the lookout for moose. Often times they are munching on grass on the sides of the trail.

After traveling a few more miles, you’ll want to stop when you reach a ranger cabin. It’s here where navigation is critical and will change your route completely. Make sure to head toward Fox Creek Pass and camp in Death Canyon. If you have more time and want to rack up more miles, head toward Static Peak instead.

Feeling adventurous? After you arrive in Death Canyon, head toward Fox Creek and summit Death Canyon Shelf. This is a hidden gem. There are several scattered remote campsites and the sunset/sunrise views are incredible. Marmots and deer spend a lot of time here, and depending on what season it is, you might hear elk bugling in the morning.

Day 2:
Whether you camped at Death Canyon or Death Canyon Shelf, you’ll still need to walk toward Fox Creek Pass (9,600 ft.). It is here where you will see the junction for Caribou-Targhee National Forest, adjacent to the park, lined with wildflowers. Drop down until you get to Marion Lake (9,250 ft.). This is a great spot to break for some snacks. If it’s a warm day, take off your hiking shoes and go for a dip. Spend your second night sleeping either at Marion Lake or Upper or Lower Granite.

Day 3:
This may be your hardest day. You’ll encounter a lot of switchbacks, which won’t feel worth it until you reach Mt. Hunt Divide (9,710 ft.). This is a spot worth spending a few hours to catch your breath. Since you can’t spend the night there, you’ll be forced to trek on. You could give yourself an exhausting day by trying to bolt back to your car or you could camp at Phelps Lake instead.

Day 4:
Since you camped at Phelps Lake, you’ll be able to sleep in and take your time heading back to your car. Your legs will be sore, but you will be dreaming of the Grand Tetons long after.

Note: This trip ranges from 26-30 miles depending on how adventurous you’re feeling and how many miles you want to pursue.

Make sure to read up on your Leave No Trace Ethics before you go. We want to keep this wilderness the beautiful way it is!

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove (fires are generally not allowed)
  • Food for 3 days
  • Camera
  • Layers
  • Rain gear
  • Hiking boots
  • Backpack
  • Headlamp
  • Moleskin – for blisters
  • Sunscreen
  • Bear Spray
  • Wilderness Permit
Show More
RT Distance 26 Miles
Activities Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Go for the wildflowers!

We did this backpacking loop in July, and Death Canyon is the most inappropriately named place that I've ever seen. It was full of wildlife and gorgeous fields with millions of wildflowers. This area of the park is less traveled, so you will have a little more privacy. We did this loop and the paintbrush divide. Paintbrush divide was definitely more scenic, but if you have time to do both I highly recommend it!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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

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