Backpack to Surprise Lake in Grand Teton NP

Lupine Meadows Trailhead

This 10 mile round-trip backpacking trip takes you to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Grand Teton National Park. Making this an overnight trip gives you ample time to explore Surprise Lake and two other stunning alpine lakes in the Teton Range: Amphitheater Lake and Delta Lake.  

There is a good amount of parking at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead but on weekends and nice days it will fill up quickly so it is best to arrive as early as possible. The trail to Surprise Lake starts relatively level before quickly beginning to ascend after about a third of a mile and once the ascent starts, it doesn't stop, so be prepared for a strenuous uphill slog for a majority of this hike (but it's definitely worth it!). At around two-thirds of a mile the trees will break and you will be graced with your first view of The Grand from the trail. These views will continue intermittently as the trail rises. At 1.7 miles you will reach the Valley Trail junction where a left at the fork will take you to Bradley and Taggart Lakes and continuing straight will lead you to Surprise Lake. Head straight! 

From the junction the trail rises via 18 switchbacks starting with a few long, sweeping ones. The first of these switchbacks are entirely exposed so be sure to carry plenty of water and wear sun protection (I got a nasty burn on this portion of the hike!) The views of Jackson Hole and Bradley and Taggart Lakes on this section are also stunning. We stopped often to snap photos and enjoy the view.

The side trail to Delta Lake is also located along these switchbacks. You can either visit on the way up or down, I preferred to visit Delta Lake on the hike down. If you have an early start you will probably have an hour or so to yourself at the lake since all the day hikers will be ascending.

At about 4.8 miles you will reach a sign that directs you along a short side trail to Surprise Lake. The backcountry campsites are located uphill to the right of the trail and they are also marked. The Surprise Lake backcountry site has its own community bear box for the three backcountry sites so make sure to stash your food and scented items in the bear box immediately after arriving. 

This campsite is the perfect launching point for exploring Surprise Lake and Amphitheater Lake. Amphitheater Lake is a mere quarter mile uphill from Surprise and is a great place to try some night photography. 

Surprise Lake is crystal clear and by mid-summer has warmed up enough that a jump in will feel more refreshing than painful! Bring a towel to dry off or sit on a rock and let the sun do the work! 

When you are ready to head back down the next morning simply follow the trail you came up on, just make sure you prepare your knees for the long downhill trek! 

Pack List

  • The 10 essentials
  • Bear spray
  • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent
  • Insect repellent
  • Trekking poles
  • Camera gear
  • Permit (reservable online here, or you can pick up a first-come, first-serve permit not more than a day before your trip)
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RT Distance 9.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 2580 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Beautiful Hike!

The switchbacks on this trail are tough, but the trail itself, and the views along the way are gorgeous! There were tons of wildflowers when we went and the end of July. Our final destination was Amphitheater Lake, but Surprise Lake was a nice little bonus to explore.


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