Grand Teton National Park: Jenny Lake and Hidden Falls Hike
Updated: Sep 26, 2022
After a short hike to the incredible canyon views on the Sacred Rim Trail, we decided we could easily fit in a second hike today. With the closure of Yellowstone National Park due to flood damage, we settled on Grand Teton National Park instead. On our way, we made a lunch stop in Jackson, WY, which was busy and quite touristy, but we were fortunate to find a convenient parking spot right downtown near the courtyard square with the massive antler arches on each corner.
As we approached one of the arches, we noticed a young boy, probably 10 years old, sitting on the adjacent bench with a sign strung around his neck. The sign indicated he was willing to take tourists' photos under the antler arch (and that he also accepted tips). Obviously, we hired this aspiring entrepreneur to take ours.
My husband slipped him a twenty and I watched the incredulous boy's eyes get large as he accepted it and we walked away. The look on his face made it completely worth it. So, we set out, strolling the sidewalks lining the bustling downtown area, looking for a restaurant that struck our fancy. It was very warm and sunny outside and I was feeling a tad overdressed from our chilly hike this morning, so I removed my outer zip-up layer and my socks and rolled up the legs of my hiking pants.
We ended up eating at an outdoor bistro table on the sidewalk at a place named the Silver Dollar, a bar and restaurant in a cool historic building. In my hometown, we had a historic Silver Dollar Saloon (aka "The Buck"), so maybe that's what caught my eye. We sat and people-watched while we waited for our food. Just as we were nearing the end of our lunch, random cold raindrops started falling from the blue sky. Thankfully, it didn't amount to much, but it made us chuckle.
Then it was off to Grand Teton National Park. We'd driven through this area on our 2020 roadtrip to the Midwest, but we did not enter the park that day, so this would be my first time there.
After some parking lot deliberation, we decided our "bonus hike" would be along Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls. We didn't have any water with us and it was fairly warm out, so we stopped in one of the gift shops to buy some and fill up our water bladders before we headed up the trail for the 6-mile hike with over 1,300 feet of elevation gain.
The first stop was Jenny Lake. What an incredibly beautiful lake. While we were admiring the scenery, we were waiting for a family of four to finish taking their photos and then we offered to take some photos of the four of them – a husband and wife with one of their sets of elderly parents. And then I noticed a logo on the younger wife's shirt read something with "Wisconsin" in it. I pointed it out to my husband. The elderly man was exhibiting a bit of stubbornness and giving the rest of his family a hard time about something to do with posing for the photo. My husband asked the younger wife, "Boy, he doesn't happen to be a stubborn German from Wisconsin, does he?" The wife heartily laughed and said, "As a matter of fact, he is!"
We chatted with them for a short while. Naturally, I asked her where in Wisconsin she is from. She said La Crosse. My jaw dropped. I told her my hometown and she followed that up with the fact that her daughter recently graduated from Stout. I followed that up with, "So did we!" It hasn't been uncommon for us to run into strangers from Wisconsin (or Minnesota) on our adventures, but every time I ask them where in Wisconsin they are from, they always tell me a city near Madison or Milwaukee or Green Bay, which are opposite areas of the state from where I grew up, so it's not quite as remarkable.
What a strange coincidence that was!
She offered to take our photo in front of the lake and I got a few photos, myself.
From there, the trail turned from paved to dirt (yes!) and we headed toward Hidden Falls.
Despite what you see in those photos, the trail was quite busy, but not to the point where it was annoying. The weather was absolutely beautiful and I loved every minute of being outside in it.
We could periodically see the Tetons poking through and a good amount of the trail paralleled Jenny Lake, so we got incredible views along the way. What wasn't rocky was very green.
We reached a section of the trail where the cascades of Cascade Creek were loud and rushing.
And, oh, look, a bridge!
We continued on the trail, climbing up toward Hidden Falls – we were getting close and could hear it crashing in the distance. Just as we rounded the final bend, the temperature dropped what felt like 10 degrees. Spray from the falls was saturating the air and cooling it down. Crazy!
On our way back to the trailhead, my husband decided he wanted to explore an alternate route that he thought might require less climbing but also just an opportunity to see a different viewpoint of the area. History has now taught me to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism when "alternate routes" become part of the plan, but I went along with it, hoping for the best.
It quickly became clear that this route had plenty of climbing.
It also became quite clear that this route was much less traveled and I had a feeling that if we were going to run into a grizzly, this might be the time. I kept my eyes peeled and my awareness high.
We were rewarded with lovely overhead views of Jenny Lake, some wildflowers, and incredible towering Tetons above us.
Thankfully, the only four-legged friend we spotted along this deserted trail was a surprised deer who had bedded down amongst the foliage and boulders.
That is, until a fellow hiker alerted us that two bull moose were in the pond nearby – aptly named "Moose Pond." We stayed high above and watched them for several minutes. This was my first time seeing moose in the wild, so I was thrilled at our good luck and good timing!
We decided to descend a bit farther and take the trail spur to the edge of Moose Pond to get a little closer look.
It was incredibly exciting to see them! In fact, when we were in the gift shop buying water, we also grabbed a couple of national park souvenirs, and stickers are frequently a top priority. As I was inspecting the dozens of sticker choices in the rotating rack, I specifically passed on one design with a moose, because I thought to myself, "I don't want one with a moose unless I actually see one here."
I guess I could have bought that sticker after all.
Hidden Falls/Jenny Lake