With jagged snowy peaks, crystal clear alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife, backpacking in Grand Teton National Park belongs on every outdoor lover’s bucket list! In this article, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best backpacking routes in Grand Teton National Park, ranging in difficulty from beginner-friendly one-nighters to challenging multi-day treks.

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Backpacking grand teton

In my opinion, there are two types of backpacking trips in Grand Teton: easy and relaxing or challenging and epic. And honestly, it almost feels like there’s almost no middle ground.

The reason for this stark contrast is that the eastern side of the Teton Range lacks any kind of foothills or gradual ascent into the mountains. If you’ve ever laid eyes on the towering Teton peaks, it’s one of the first thing you notice – the mountains seem to shoot straight out of the flatlands to the east. Frankly, it’s what makes the mountains so impressive.

However, it also means that if you’re backpacking in Grand Teton, you have to climb up some serious elevation gain in order to get deep into the mountains. As such, most backpacking trips in Grand Teton begin with a steep climb and end with a steep descent, challenging the stamina and quad strength of even the most experienced backpackers.

On the flip side, there are numerous backpacking routes in Grand Teton that bring you around the low lying trails at the base of the mountains, which are great for beginners. This area offers fairly easy backpacking routes with the opportunity to relax at one of the many picturesque lakes collecting the runoff from the mountains.

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Grand Teton Backpacking Permits

For any backpacking trip in Grand Teton National Park, you will need a backcountry permit.

Backcountry permits are available for purchase both online in advance or in the National Park up to one day before your trip. Requests for advance backcountry reservations for the summer season open on the first Wednesday in January and are available through May, on recreation.gov. However, most of the reservable spots in popular areas sell out almost immediately after being released in January.

However, only one-third of each camping zone is available to be reserved in advance. Meaning that two-thirds of each zone are saved for first-come, first-served permits, which can be picked up in person up to one day before the start of a backcountry trip. 

There is a $45 fee for advance permits and $35 fee for walk-in permits. Competition for permits is high during peak season (July-August). Be ready to book your advance permits as soon as they become available and have a back-up plan if you are hoping to snag a walk-in permit.

Permits are available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor CenterColter Bay Visitor Center, and the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.

When is the best time to go backpacking in Grand Teton?

The hikes at higher elevation in the Grands Tetons (ex: Paintbrush Divide) can be covered in snow as late as July. If you want to increase your chances of a snow-free trip, we’d suggest not backpacking in the Grand Tetons until mid-July. You’d likely be fine a little earlier but it varies every year.

However, the trails at lower elevations at the base of the Grand Tetons, such as Bradley and Taggart Lake, Jenny Lake, String Lake, and Schwabacher Landing, should be snow-free by late May. June is a great time to hike at lower elevations, as the wildflowers are absolutely beautiful during the springtime in the Grand Tetons.

Best Backpacking Grand Teton

In the sections below, we’ve provided detail on the ten best backpacking trips in Grand Teton. The Grand Tetons are one of our favorite places to backpack and we’ve done all of these hikes, so you can rest assured you’re getting the most accurate opinions and information about each!

The list is ordered by difficulty, with the easiest trips first and becoming increasingly more challenging.

  1. Leigh Lake
  2. Bearpaw and Trapper Lake
  3. Phelps Lake
  4. Holly Lake
  5. Surprise Lake
  6. Marion Lake
  7. Alaska Basin
  8. Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop
  9. Death Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop via Static Peak Divide
  10. Teton Crest Trail

Superlatives | Best Grand Teton Backpacking

We’ll go into detail about each of the best Grand Teton backpacking trips, but if you know what you’re looking for, we’ve summarized our quick takeaways here:

  • Best overall multi-day trip | Teton Crest Trail: There’s no way around it. The Teton Crest Trail is the best backpacking trip in Grand Teton. If you have 3 or more nights and you’re up for a challenge, look no further than the Teton Crest Trail.
  • Best one-night trip | Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon: If you have just one night, the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop is the best alternative to the Teton Crest Trail. You still get to see Paintbrush Divide and Cascade Canyon, two of the most beautiful areas in the entire Teton Range.
  • Best easy backpacking trip | Leigh Lake: For an easy, flat backpacking trip with plenty of time relaxing in solitude next to a beautiful lake, choose Leigh Lake. Bearpaw and Trapper Lake offer a similar vibe but require a slightly longer hike.
  • Best alpine lake | Surprise Lake: It’s quite the jaunt up the seemingly endless switchbacks but a night at the picturesque Surprise Lake is worth the pain.
  • If you couldn’t get permits | Alaska Basin: Missed the permit window and can’t spend the night within the boundaries of the national park? No worries! You can backpack to Alaska Basin, which is outside the national park, with no permits. Better yet, camp at Sunset Lake and hike out and back up to Hurricane Pass for the best view of the Tetons!

1. Leigh Lake

A rainy day hiking in Grand Teton


  • Hiking distance | 4.5 miles (roundtrip to the campsites)
  • Elevation gain | 100 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | Easy
  • Trip Length | 2 days/1 night

Leigh Lake is the easiest backpacking trip in Grand Teton with almost no elevation gain, making it a great option for beginner backpackers.

From the trailhead, it’s about a mile and a half to reach Leigh Lake, and most of the campsites are located just over 2 miles in. Round trip, the Leigh Lake hike can be as short as 3 miles or as long as 7 miles, and the trail is almost entirely flat.

There are also several backcountry campsites located on the opposite side of Leigh Lake, which are accessible only by water. We haven’t done it but kayaking across Leigh Lake for a one-night back sounds like an awesome experience!

Because it’s located at a lower elevation, Leigh Lake is also a great option if you’re looking to backpack in the Grand Tetons earlier in the season, when many of the Grand Teton backpacking routes at high elevations are still covered in snow. June is the perfect time to backpack to Leigh Lake, as the wildflowers are typically in full bloom and it’s won’t be too hot yet.

And to top it all off, campfires are permitted at Leigh Lake campsite in the designated metal fire rings, a rarity in the Teton backcountry!

2. Bearpaw and Trapper Lake

View from Trapper Lake in Grand Teton
Enjoying a campfire in the backcountry at Bearpaw Lake


  • Hiking distance | 8.9 miles
  • Elevation gain | 223 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 5
  • Difficulty | Easy
  • Trip length | 2 days/1 night

Find this hike on AllTrails: Bearpaw & Trapper Lake

Bearpaw and Trapper Lakes are a short extension to the Leigh Lake hike. There are three campsites at Bearpaw Lake and one at Trapper Lake.

Although these lakes aren’t quite as picturesque as Leigh Lake, they do offer quite a bit more solitude as they are farther off the beaten path of most day hikers. Additionally, the northern side of Leigh Lake is easily accessible from Bearpaw Lake.

Like Leigh Lake, metal fire rings are provided at the Bearpaw and Trapper Lake campsites.

3. Phelps Lake


  • Hiking distance | 7 miles
  • Elevation gain | 725 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | Easy
  • Trip length | 2 days/1 night

Find this hike on AllTrails: Phelps Lake trail

Phelps Lake is another fairly easy Grand Teton backpacking trip, but requires a little more elevation gain than Leigh Lake or Bearpaw Lake and Trapper Lake.

The campsite at Phelps Lake is located about 3 miles from the trailhead and the full loop around the perimeter of the lake totals 7 miles. From Phelps Lake, you can also hike up to a popular viewpoint over looking the lake, which adds about 1.5 miles roundtrip.

Despite being easily accessible, Phelps Lake is particularly scenic and a solid one night Grand Teton backpacking trip.

4. Holly Lake

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 12.5 miles (+ 3 miles including Paintbrush Divide)
  • Elevation gain | 2800 feet (+ 1200 feet including Paintbrush Divide)
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Moderate
  • Trip length | 2 days/1 night or 3 days/2nights for a more relaxing trip with out and back to Paintbrush Divide

Find this hike on AllTrails: Holly Lake Trail

Holly Lake is a lovely alpine lake tucked away in Paintbrush Canyon, along the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop (discussed further down in this article). If you’re looking for a moderate one-night backpacking trip that gets you higher into the Tetons than Leigh Lake or Phelps Lake, Holly Lake is a good choice.

The hike to Holly Lake starts at String Lake trailhead, just north of Jenny Lake. This 12.5 mile hike follows Paintbrush Canyon and offers great views of Mt. Moran, My Woodring, and Rockchuck Peak.

The trek to Holly Lake is another great way to escape the crowds and explore the Teton backcountry. The views aren’t quite as epic as the full Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop, but it’s a bit shorter and a more manageable backpacking trip.

Furthermore, Holly Lake could be used as a base for hiking up to Paintbrush Divide, one of the best viewpoints in all of Grand Teton National Park. You could hike in, setup camp at Holly Lake, and hike out and back to Paintbrush Divide, or spend two nights at Holly Lake, hiking out and back to Paintbrush Divide on the second day.

5. Surprise Lake

Sunrise at Surprise Lake in Grand Teton


  • Hiking distance | 10.1 miles
  • Elevation gain | 3000 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 7.5
  • Difficulty | hard
  • Trip length | 2 days/1 night

Find this hike on AllTrails: Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes Trail

One backpacking trip with two (or three) incredible alpine lakes: what more could you ask for? The beautiful Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes are located less than half a mile from each other, but you’ll have to put in some work to reach these gems nestled high among the Teton peaks.

The five mile hike to reach the lakes climbs about 3000 feet with seemingly endless switchbacks, a challenging feat carrying a heavy backpack. But, the pain is a bit more enjoyable with sweeping views overlooking the valley and lakes to the east.

From the trail, you get a birds-eye view of Bradley and Taggart Lakes below. In the spring and early summer, abundant yellow wildflowers cover the side of the mountain as far as the eye can see.

You also have the option to tack on a short (but very challenging) detour to the stunning Delta Lake. Although it only adds about 2 miles roundtrip, the route to reach Delta Lake is very steep and would be especially challenging carrying a backpack.

The campsites at Surprise Lake are located just up the hill from the lake and provide easy access to a spectacular sunrise and sunset view.

6. Marion Lake

What Marion Lakes lack in size it makes up for in beauty!


  • Hiking distance | 13.4 miles (with Teton Village Aerial Tram)
  • Elevation gain | 3800 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 7.5
  • Difficulty | Hard
  • Trip length | 2 days/1 night

Find this hike on AllTrails: Marion Lake Trail

Marion Lake is a popular spot along the Teton Crest Trail and one of the most coveted backcountry campsites! You’ll need to reserve permits as soon as they’re released for a chance to snag a campsite at this stunning backcountry lake.

The hike to Marion Lake is no joke. To get there in one day, you’ll want to take the Teton Village Aerial Tram to shave off some distance and elevation gain. Even so, accessing the lake requires a challenging 13.4 mile roundtrip trek with about 3,800 feet of elevation gain.

If you have more time, you can hike up through Granite Canyon and spend the first night in any of the Granite Canyon backcountry zones.

7. Alaska Basin Loop

Hike stats
  • Distance | 16.2 miles
  • Elevation gain | 3100 feet
  • Total time | 8 to 10 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Hard
  • Trip length | 2 days/1 night

Find this hike on AllTrails: Alaska Basin Trail

We love the Alaska Basin loop because it gets you up close to the Tetons but doesn’t require any permits! If you missed the Grand Teton permit release date and can’t get the backcountry sites you want, Alaska Basin is the perfect alternative.

Since it’s located in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, there are no designated campsites and permits are not required.

The hike begins from the Teton Canyon Trailhead, located just outside of Driggs, Idaho, and leads up to a basin that sits just below the Tetons. The loop trail through Alaska Basin features a set of small alpine lakes known as the Basin Lakes. There is one lake located right off the trail, and a few other lakes nestled behind it.

Alaska Basin is part of the 40-mile Teton Crest Trail that stretches the length of the Teton Range. It’s a popular spot for backpackers and could be completed as a one-night trip from Teton Canyon or as part of the Teton Crest Trail.

P.S. Alaska Basin holds a special place in our hearts because we got engaged at Basin Lakes, during a multi-day backpacking trip along the Teton Crest Trail! Perhaps we’re a little biased, but it was our favorite section of the 40-mile Teton Crest hike.

8. Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop

Stunning views from Paintbrush Divide await you on this quintessential Grand Teton backpacking trip!

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 22 miles
  • Elevation gain | 4300 feet
  • Epic-ness rating | 10
  • Difficulty | Strenuous
  • Trip length | 2 days/1 night or 3 days/2nights

Find this hike on AllTrails: Paintbrush Canyon Cascade Canyon Loop

The Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop is the best backpacking trip in Grand Teton if you have just one or two nights. This strenuous route covers 22 miles and 4300 feet of elevation gain, making it a very challenging trip, but the epic views are well worth the effort.

The Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop provides an extensive tour of the Teton backcountry, including many popular sites and day hikes like Holly Lake, Jenny Lake, String Lake, Lake Solitude, Paintbrush Divide, Cascade Canyon, Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. That being said, don’t expect a lot of solitude during the day, as this is a popular route for day hikers.

Nonetheless, backpacking allows you to experience this amazing area in peace during the morning and evening. Many of the campsites along the loop have great views.

If you’re interested in backpacking the Paintbrush Canyon Cascade Canyon Loop trail, we’ve put together a complete guide to the hike here:

9. Death Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop via Static Peak Divide

Hiking up Static Peak in Grand Teton

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 25.8 miles (35.8 miles as a loop)
  • Elevation gain | 6400 feet
  • Total time | 3 days/2 nights or 4 days/3nights
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Strenuous

This challenging backpacking route is almost as epic as the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon loop but with significantly fewer crowds. If you’re looking for a tough 2-night loop with incredible views and prefer solitude on your backcountry adventures, this may be the route for you.

Start from the Death Canyon Trailhead and hike past the Phelps Lake overlook into Death Canyon. Then continue the climb up to Static Peak Divide before dropping into Alaska Basin. From Alaska Basin, climb Hurricane Pass and then finish your hike through Cascade Canyon ending at the Jenny Lake Trailhead.

Important Note | You’ll need 2 cars or a shuttle to complete this route, parking one car at Death Canyon Trailhead and one at Jenny Lake Trailhead. You could also complete this route as a loop, hiking the distance between Jenny Lake and Death Canyon Trailhead past Bradley and Taggart Lakes which adds about 10 miles.

10. Teton Crest Trail

Amazing views of the Tetons at Hurricane Pass on the Teton Crest Trail

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 40 miles (Phillips Canyon to Jenny Lake)
  • Elevation gain | approximately 10,000 feet
  • Total time | 4 – 6 days
  • Epic-ness rating | 9.6
  • Difficulty | hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Teton Crest Trail

And last, but certainly not least, is Grand Teton’s crown jewel: the Teton Crest Trail! Traversing 40 miles along the western edge of the Tetons, the Teton Crest Trail is a dream for backpackers looking to get off the grid and up close and personal with the majestic mountains.

The Teton Crest Trail is one of our favorite backpacking trips of all time (although we also got engaged here, so we may be a tad bit biased!). The views from Hurricane Pass and Paintbrush Divide are hands down the best in the park, made even more special by the fact that most visitors to the park will never witness them.

The Teton Crest trail is a point-to-point hike so you’ll need two cars or hire a shuttle. There are a few different possible starting trailheads, but the classic 40-mile route starts at the Phillips Canyon Trailhead and ends at Leigh Lake Trailhead.

So if you’re up for a big adventure, get out your maps and guidebooks and start planning your hike!

Other GRAND TETON resources

Looking for more information about hiking and backpacking in Grand Teton?! You may also be interested in the following resources:

Still have questions about backpacking in Grand Teton? Drop us a comment or question below!

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