Lake-studded Grand Teton National Park offers numerous magnificently scenic hiking opportunities. But in the summer high season, enjoying communion with nature requires some strategy. Like Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming’s Grand Teton sometimes suffers from a surfeit of visitors. Fortunately, even on the busiest days, it’s possible to avoid the crowds.
Understandably, the most popular hike in the park is the Jenny Lake Loop, or at least a portion thereof. Many cut the 7.5-mile hike down to size by taking a scenic shuttle boat across the lake, and then hiking to Inspiration Point and/or Hidden Falls. A cruise on a mountain lake followed by a hike to a waterfall does sound irresistible, but it’s best done as early in the day as possible (in season, the shuttle starts service at 7 a.m.). We passed by the parking lot for Jenny Lake at about noon one day, and cars spilled out of the overstuffed lot onto the main road for quite some distance. If Jenny Lake is on your list, arrive as soon after sunrise as you can.
Having arisen early to enjoy that hike in the past, on this trip, we allowed ourselves a relaxed breakfast before heading to a less famous trail recommended by a staff member at the Caldera House. The Phelps Lake Overlook trail is one of the southernmost hikes in the park, making it especially quick to reach from Teton Village. A bumpy gravel road leads to the trailhead, and signs warn that a 4-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. But even relatively compact sedans made it to the final lot unscathed. (Parking for the trailhead is strung from the final lot all the way to the turnoff from the main road, a distance of about a mile.)