on February 16, 2006
Unless you visit Grand Teton in the off season, you won't be alone in this beautiful park. Sometimes, that'll be okay—there are sites you wouldn't want to miss, even if you've got plenty of company at your side snapping pictures along with you. But if you're longing for a little solitude, this moderately strenuous hike is a good way to leave the crowds behind for 3 hours or so.It's not trivial to get here: head south from Moose on Moose-Wilson Road, and after 3 miles, turn right. After another mile or so, it turns into a two-track road (you can't make it on the Moose-Wilson Road with an RV or motorhome). You'll pass a number of private cabins as you head for the ominous-sounding Death Canyon Trailhead. At the parking area, there will probably be a couple dozen other vehicles, too, since in addition to the day hike you're undertaking, this is a departure point for the backcountry. In fact, we had a little difficulty finding a place to park.But the trail itself isn't as busy as it looks: during our afternoon ascent we only encountered about six to eight other groups of hikers. The trail is well marked and moves along a stream for a while before heading uphill. You're climbing 420 feet to an overlook of Phelps Lake, located on a wooded bluff above the beautiful waters below.
Our family of five found it just about the right length and difficulty for an afternoon outing. The trail is just under a mile each way, and the combination of meadow and forest along the path, along with the terrific view at the top, make this a great way to spend a few hours. It won't give you perfect solitude, but it will get you off the pavement and away from the crowds.If you want to keep going, you can head past the overlook and branch off the Death Canyon Trail to Phelps Lake itself. You descend the glacial moraine you just climbed and wind around to the east shore of the lake. It's just over another mile each way, and fairly steep.
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