Garnet Canyon, A Stairway to Heaven

For me, the Teton range is like heaven. It’s a place I never get tired of, a place that always has pleasant surprises in store, and a place that no matter how many times I visit, I am awe-struck at its beauty and uniqueness. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit once again, and I hiked a trail that is used to scale up to the highest of heights in the range. Garnet Canyon is used as a the main access point to scale the Middle and Grand Teton peaks, but beyond this, it is worth noting as its own destination. It is beautiful, it’s unlike the other trails in the park, and it is a constant upward hike. It’s like a stairway. A stairway to heaven. Pardon the corny song reference, but hike it and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The trail starts out at the Lupine Meadows trailhead, where my three companions and I commenced in a lush and verdant young evergreen woodland. The trail winds through the trees before coming to flowered meadows. At this point, we encountered miles of switchbacks up a steep incline. Note that this trail is strenuous. Being in good physical condition and bringing plenty of water will save the day.

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Don’t be dismayed. The trail’s charms outweigh its challenge. As we ascended, we paused frequently to admire the sapphire waters of Bradley Lake and Taggart Lake. Taggart Lake disappears as you keep on climbing. Around us were hundreds of wildflowers of different colors. My friend Sam couldn’t resist making herself a bouquet of flowers to press on the way back down. There was an occasional marmot resting on a boulder.

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Eventually, we came to a juncture. Lupine Meadows trail is the first part of two other hikes, the one up Garnet Canyon and the one to Amphitheater Lake. We took the tail up and into Garnet Canyon.  The trail hugs the hillside and passes along tall evergreens.

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Ahead, the Middle Teton jutted up in the canyon. I saw a field of rocks, boulders, and snow. A crystal clear creek winds down through the canyon, winding between boulders and under snow fields. At times, the path was covered by snow and went over the fields boulders. There are a couple cairns to guide you over the boulders. We scrambled over the rocks and found ourselves near the base of the Middle Teton. Backpackers had pitched tents up here in a green grassy area. Up on the north side of the canyon, we saw a waterfall. The place is like a playground for the explorer. We wanted to stay longer, but the fading light of day forced us to begin our return trip.

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Garnet Canyon is a unique and spectacular hike. I was initially trying to decide between several options for a hike in the Tetons that day. I was not left disappointed. This turned out to be an excellent choice and a new addition to my favorite hikes in the area.

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HOW TO GET THERE

First, you need to get to Moose, Wyoming. How you get here will depend on where you are coming from. From Southeast Idaho, you’ll probably head through the Teton Pass and Jackson. You’ll follow the signs to Grand Teton National Park, heading up Highway 191 about 13 miles. There is a sign that says Moose Junction. You will turn left. The park entrance fee is $30 for one vehicle. Once you’re in the park, you will see signs for Lupine Meadows trailhead.

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