Hike to Delta Lake
Wyoming › Lupine Meadows Trailhead
Added by Michael O'Keeffe
- Beautiful, secluded lake at the base of the Grand Teton
- Access via unmaintained trail equals rare solitude for dayhikers
- Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
- Elevation gain: 2400 feet
Delta Lake is a hidden gem in one of America's busiest national parks, Grand Teton in Wyoming. On paper, Delta Lake should be a hotspot for visitors to Grand Teton with its relatively moderate distance and elevation gain which lies in the realm of most dayhikers. However, this spectacular glacial lake which lies at the base of the Grand Teton is almost unheard of. The reason for the lake's secrecy is the lack of access to reach it. To reach the lake one must traverse an "unmaintained" trail and then navigate a large boulder field which requires some good route finding skills.
To reach Lupine Meadows Trailhead (from Jackson) head north into the park on US191. Make a left at Moose Junction onto Teton Park Road. Stay north on Teton Park Road for just over 7 miles where you will then turn left onto Lupine Meadows Road, it is unpaved but relatively well maintained (my FWD sedan made it no problem). Follow Lupine Meadows Road to the end where you will a parking area and the Lupine Meadows trailhead to begin the hike.
From the Lupine Meadows trailhead, the first mile of the trail is a gentle, steady incline before it banks to the right and begins a steeper ascent up a ridge. This portion of the trail is mainly forested with occasional views of the Tetons presenting themselves. When you reach the junction for the Valley Trail make sure to stay straight toward Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes. The next mile and a half takes you over a series of steady switchbacks through open meadows with commanding views of Jackson Hole and Bradley Lake below. Eventually you will reach another junction where the trail will split to either Garnet Canyon (left) or Surprise/Amphitheater Lakes (straight/right). Make sure to stay straight/right toward Surprise/Amphitheater Lakes. The first switchback after the junction you will leave the maintained trail.
The "unmaintained" trail is not hard to find but easy to miss if you're not looking. The trail will quickly descend and just as quickly mellow out. This portion of the trail it is easy to see why it is "unmaintained" with several fallen trees creating obstacles. While the trees are not difficult to navigate around it is very easy to lose sight of the faint trail. This is where having good route finding skills comes in handy. After a few tenths of a mile the trail will open up into the first boulder field. Look for cairns to guide you to stay on the trail.
The trail continues after the first boulder field then entering a much larger boulder field which marks the final 500 feet of elevation gain to the lake. Keep an eye out for cairns to help maintain your course and take it slow, while not a technical scramble by any means it still takes some balance and careful navigation. Follow the boulder field up until you reach the foot of lake. Be sure to bring a camera and stay awhile as the view is gorgeous!
To return retrace your steps back to the trailhead and your car.
- Hiking boots/shoes
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I got to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead around 8:30 on a Monday and the parking lot was already pretty crowded. It took me around 2 hours to get to the lake. The cairns through the boulder fields are not very obvious but there are actually packed down trails and you don't go through either boulder field for very long. I thought this would be a pretty remote hike and there wouldn't be a lot of people, and from the comments about it being an "unmaintained" trail I thought it would provide to be pretty difficult route finding. This was not the case. The trail seems to get quite a bit of traffic and has been pretty packed down, making it a rather obvious route the majority of the way. I did this hike alone and had no problems. I stayed at the lake for about an hour and saw around 20 other people. Definitely worth it.
Can anyone give an accurate trip time estimate for a physically fit person? I intend to photograph this location during sunrise and am trying to figure out what time to start the hike by. Also are you able to camp there overnight? I know there are places by Surprise Lake but not sure about here. Thanks in advance!
So Worth the Effort
It is not easy to get to (that last stretch of trail is steep!) but this lake is more than worth it! I would recommend arriving as early as possible. I stayed at the Surprise Lake backcountry campsite and came here first thing in the morning and nobody else showed up for hours which was quite the treat.
Ditto to the other reviewers. This was an unreal hike. The directions in this post are perfect, as this is an unmarked trail and isn't that easy to find. I've been to many NPs in the US and this is easily a top 5 hike I've ever done. So rewarding when you get to the top of the lake after climbing over numerous boulder fields. Not a very populated hike once you get off the main trail which makes this even better. We were the only ones at the Lake upon arrival. HIGHLY recommend.
Top 10 Hike In The Country
Top of my list! 3 miles on trail and a little less than 1 mile "off trail". Take enough water for the way up and a filter for when you arrive. Once you reach the point were you go "off trail" you MUST pay attention to where you're going and are stepping. If you "loose" the "trail" don't worry too much just carefully keep going west (up). And if in doubt don't hesitate to ask someone else on the trail. Even people in top shape get reminded they are human on the last stretch so give yourself enough time (daylight), pace yourself, hydrate plenty but pack light, take a light sweater or windbreaker (for a day hike). I encourage you to explore BUT safely. The last stretch is moderate to advanced difficult. Be prepared for a lower body injury IF you're not careful, and trust me that's the worst place to break a leg or ankle (for that matter do pack med-tape, just in case). Also for this reason preferably don't hike alone. First time up there the mountain humbled me and taught me quite a few lessons. So be smart, be safe. #dontknowdontgo
This is a fantastic hike with stunning rewards. The final approach to the lake is very steep but definitely worth it. Although the last portion of the trail is not maintained there seemed to be enough people in view that the trail wasn't too hard to find. That being said, we were there on a Saturday during the day and this hike provided everything accept privacy. There were about five other groups at the lake when we were there. The large mountain peeks provide a stunning backdrop for the vibrant turquoise lake at the base.
By far my favorite hike in the Tetons
For years, I had been hearing about how amazing Delta Lake was. However, the unmaintained trail bit of it scared me off so that I never attempted to find the lake. Finally I decided that I had to go, and to my surprise, the trail was not all that difficult to follow. Granted, it is not your average trail, but I took friends with me who have never really hiked before and they had no trouble keeping up or locating it. Be extra cautious as some of the rocks are loose enough to be knocked down and could potentially injure people below you. And definitely do not hike this one alone, as the potential for falls is great. Otherwise the lake is absolutely stunning and beyond compare in the Range. There are lots of trees surrounding the lake so bring a hammock and hang out. Also, there is a small cliff jumping rock there and if you are feeling brave (the water is ice cold) it is loads of fun.
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