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  1. #1
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    Grand Tetons North Cascade Canyon - Things I wish I had known

    Did a backcountry trip on the very (VERY) popular Cascade/Solitude Lake trail in Grand Teton.

    • The Ranger station at Colter Bay is the only place to pick up your backcountry permits after Labor Day and they open a 9am as opposed to 8am which is posted on the website (not sure if the time change is COVID related but it's probably worth calling ahead to confirm what time they open).
    • You cannot pick up your permit more than 24 hours in advance. This is probably on the website somewhere but I was told it was not a problem when I called with my plans and asked about being able to pick up the permit early. However, after showing up 48 hours before our trip started (before 8am) and waiting for them to open I was denied the permit and told I would have to come back in 24 hours which meant I had to change some plans to make sure we would be back from the northern end of Yellowstone Park to Colter Bay before they closed at 5pm. (Not a "complaint". They are following their own rules. It's just information I wish I had found online during my planning. Hopefully this helps someone else avoid my mistakes.)
    • Hammock camping is very doable as you are actually allowed to camp anywhere within the camping zone. I only found this out by reading the information on the back of the camping zone map that the Ranger provided when picking up my permit. The camping zone map available online does not have that information included. All the improved campsites and the sites all have markers on the trail to let you know exactly where they are. The improved sites are really nice with great places designated for setting up tents and most of them have a water source that is very nearby. But I found plenty of hammock capable sites as I explored a small area around our tent campsite. I wasn't sure if we were going to be restricted to just the campsites of if the trees would be compatible (some higher elevation trees seem to have limbs all the way down the trunk) so we went with a tent but I would definitely not be afraid to go the hammock route if I were to make the trip again.
    • Jenny Lake Boating runs from 10am-4pm after Labor Day. The "4pm" is only the cutoff for taking people from the East Side (parking lot) to the West Side. They will continue to run boats returning people to the East Side for as long as there are people in line waiting. We got back to the West Side Dock at 3:50pm to be able to catch the "4pm" boat back only to find a long line with a sign that said "You have a 1.5hr wait time from this point. The walk around the lake back to the East Side is only 2.6 miles." Now part of that was because they were only using the boats at 1/2 capacity due to COVID and the line actually went quicker than the 1.5hr estimate but we definitely would have taken more time relaxing on the trail back had we known we didn't have to be there before 4pm.



    The trip itself is a great trip. The start of the trail is extremely popular as you can take a boat over to the West Side and it's only about 1 mile to reach Inspiration Point that overlooks Jenny Lake.



    The trail flattens out and the crowd starts to thin a little bit after that as you continue North up through the valley but it's still popular enough that you're never really alone. There are several beautiful places to stop and have a snack or eat lunch between Inspiration Point and the North/South split in the trail.






    The crowd really thins out once you reach the split and continue North. The trail also starts to have a grade increase the further North you go but it never got "bad" or to the point that we felt like we needed a moment to catch our breath.


    The campsites above the Group Camp site are definitely ones with the best views of the valley.






    The absolute best thing about camping up there is how alone we were the next morning. We got up and made our way up to Lake Solitude by about 8:30am and we had the entire place to ourselves (besides some pikas and a fox) for at least 30 minutes. And even then it was only two other couples. The day hikers started showing up around 10:30am which was about the time we were heading back to pack up camp and head out.





    Zoom in and you can see the (blurry) fox at the water's edge:
    https://i.imgur.com/PWDZLDw.jpg

    Overall it was a great experience. Lots of wildlife and scenic views. Strenuous enough (for us old folks) to feel like we were doing more than just hiking the trails around the local lake but not so strenuous that we ever felt wiped out (even going up Paintbrush Divide was not as hard was we were expecting - of course we didn't have full packs on either....). If I were to plan it again knowing what I know now, I would definitely try for the Paintbrush/Holly Lake permits followed by the North Cascade permit and do a two night counter-clockwise loop (although it could very easily be done in a single overnight as well).

  2. #2

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    Great trip

  3. #3
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    Absolutely beautiful!

    How was the reservation process to get your permits? Did you apply in Jan/any tips there? Would love to do the Teton Crest Trail and have started researching the various camping zones

  4. #4
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Wonderful! Brings back strong memories of camping at Paintbrush Divide about 84 or 85, Sept.

  5. #5
    Moderator TallPaul's Avatar
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    Thanks for the report, pics & intel. Looks like a wonderful trip.

  6. #6
    OlTrailDog's Avatar
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    Gorgeous country. I was fortunate enough to spend a decade working out of Blackrock RS (Teton Wilderness) about five miles east of Moran, WY. And thirteen seasons out of Gardiner (Absaroka-Beartooth) at the north end of the park. Looks like you hit the weather at it's best. Camped up in Cascade and did some climbs up there, Mt. Moran, and the Grand. But most the time I liked camping outside the parks because of the hoops required to jump through in order to camp inside. But that is understandable given the amount of folks who like to visit the NPs.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Flower Girl's Avatar
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    Good to know that the crowds thin out some of you hike in a little. I ran through Grand Tetons to get to the airport. Didn't get to see much more than some of the parking lots. I just got back to Alabama from out there. Beautiful but the national parks were a little too crowded for me. Pretty amazing compared to the southeast though.

    Stayed a couple of nights in the Absaroka–Beartooth Wilderness and Bighorn National Forest car camping and did a hike to Mystic Lake. Would love to explore more of those areas especially Beartooth (great campgrounds!) and now I may have to check out some overnights in the Grand Tetons! Those pictures are amazing!

    Thanks for the information. Hopefully I can plan another trip out there soon!
    Last edited by Flower Girl; 10-02-2020 at 22:22.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Layne View Post
    Absolutely beautiful!

    How was the reservation process to get your permits? Did you apply in Jan/any tips there? Would love to do the Teton Crest Trail and have started researching the various camping zones
    Yes, I was online and applied the moment they opened the window (Jan 8, 2020 - 8am MST).

    1. Be sure you create a recreation.gov account well before the start date/time to avoid wasting time having to verify email/whatnot on the day it opens.
    2. Be REALLY sure of the camping zones you want and the dates that you want them. I had a gaffe with my dates when I first filled out the page and by the time I circled back around one of the camping zones I wanted was already closed so we ended up doing an out-and-back instead of a loop.

    Another line item on the back of the camping zone map (North Cascade) that the Ranger handed me stated that they only give out 8 permits per night for the 14 improved sites. And I seem to remember that up to 1/3 are held back for walk ups which means they're only handing out 5 or 6 through the online process so they go fast.

    There were a couple of groups ahead of me trying for the walk-up permits. One group couldn't get what they wanted so they were going to spend the weekend hiking in the National Forest in Idaho that backs up to the Tetons (no permits required and dispersed camping allowed). The other group had no plans so they just went over anything (and everything) that was available with the Ranger and did that hike.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by chknbone View Post
    Yes, I was online and applied the moment they opened the window (Jan 8, 2020 - 8am MST).

    1. Be sure you create a recreation.gov account well before the start date/time to avoid wasting time having to verify email/whatnot on the day it opens.
    2. Be REALLY sure of the camping zones you want and the dates that you want them. I had a gaffe with my dates when I first filled out the page and by the time I circled back around one of the camping zones I wanted was already closed so we ended up doing an out-and-back instead of a loop.

    Another line item on the back of the camping zone map (North Cascade) that the Ranger handed me stated that they only give out 8 permits per night for the 14 improved sites. And I seem to remember that up to 1/3 are held back for walk ups which means they're only handing out 5 or 6 through the online process so they go fast.

    There were a couple of groups ahead of me trying for the walk-up permits. One group couldn't get what they wanted so they were going to spend the weekend hiking in the National Forest in Idaho that backs up to the Tetons (no permits required and dispersed camping allowed). The other group had no plans so they just went over anything (and everything) that was available with the Ranger and did that hike.
    Helpful info, thanks!

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