*It is not safe to hike alone in bear country*
The Jenny Lake area offers a plethora of activities. Moose Ponds, Cascade Canyon, and Lake Solitude are a few of the hikes that start from the Jenny Lake Trail. You can also connect to String and Leigh Lake Trails from Jenny Lake.
I started hiking the Jenny Lake Trail clockwise from the South Jenny Lake Visitor Center.
There is the option of skipping the first 2.4 miles of the Jenny Lake trail by taking the Shuttle Boat to the Hidden Falls area. I decided to save a whopping $9 by hiking those 2.4 miles instead.
And I am glad I did. I ran into a few older couples and we chatted about how the area (pictured above) reminded one of the couples and I of Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park. Yes, there were more rocks, it was a pond not a lake, and the mountains were 13,000 feet shorter, but still. It is fun to be able to draw comparisons between National Parks and to run into someone who has also been to one that is on the opposite side of the country.
The first mile or so of the trail goes through forest and in my head forest = bears. So I tried my hardest to hike slowly and keep the older couples within hearing range in case something happened. However, as anyone who has ever hiked or even walked with me before will tell you, I do not know how to move slowly. So I quickly outpaced the older couples. I started playing classical music at a moderate volume on my phone, not knowing whether that would alert a bear to my presence or irritate it, but further on the trail I kept passing or being passed by people so I shut it off. Turns out I am more worried about annoying other hikers than I was about bears.
A portion of the trail rounding the south end of the lake was closed so I had to take the higher, Valley Trail. It offers some really nice views of the lake. You do have to watch out for horse droppings. Horses can use a number of the hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park.
After hiking on the ridge a ways, you enter the Hidden Falls area. At first I didn’t understand why it is called Hidden Falls because it is one of the most visited areas of the park (especially with the Shuttle Boat making it so easy to access) so obviously it isn’t hidden very well. But as you hike towards it, you can hear the falls long before you see to it due to the trees “hiding” it. Also it was very foggy and overcast the day I hiked this trail to the clouds were also hiding the mountains behind the falls.
From Hidden Falls you have the option of hiking .3 miles further to Lower Inspiration Point. The trail to Inspiration Point from Hidden Falls is closed. It is accessible via other trails.
The North West side of Jenny Lake is my favorite part of the trail. You hike on a ridge through a young forest with 180 degree views of the lake. The change in landscape is due to the Adler fire that burned this area in 1999. I was excited because I caught the tail end of the wildflower season and got to see how a forest regrows.
The clouds around the mountains were starting to dissipate so I had great views of them as well.
I even saw some kayakers. I want to do that next trip, it’d be great to see the lake from another perspective.
As I was hiking through the new forest section of the trail, I came across an older couple hiking from the other direction. The woman started casually telling me about the huge bear they had seen 50 feet from where I was currently standing, the night before. She did not get the “night before” part out fast enough, my adrenaline levels shot through the roof. If people though I hiked fast before, let me tell you, they haven’t seen anything. I hauled ass out of that area so fast it would’ve made their head spin. It’s funny to think about now, especially since the next day when I did see a bear, I calmly stood there with the other yahoos taking pictures of it.
After the meadow section you hike to the outlet of Jenny Lake and over a bridge to the other side of the lake. You are very close to the String Lake trail-head at this point so I took advantage of it and stopped to use the port-a-potty there. A major downside to doing long day hikes by yourself (if you’re a girl, I don’t know if this applies to boys) is you don’t have anyone to keep watch for approaching people if you need to pee in the woods and can’t get off the trail far enough to not be seen.
I stopped on the North East side to eat peanut butter sandwich number 5 of the trip (I stopped counting after I hit the 3rd loaf of bread).
The last 3 miles of the trail back to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center parking lot is mostly through the forest with some views of the mountains and lake.
When I got back to the the Visitor Center, I asked a Park Ranger the 50 questions that struck me as I was hiking the nearly 8 miles around the lake. I was still on the fence about how to spend my second and last day in the park and she gave me some ideas. She asked if I had seen any bears while hiking Jenny Lake and was surprised that I hadn’t. Turns out Jenny Lake is very popular with the bears as well as humans…I’m glad I found that out after the hike.