Hiking on Cascade Canyon Trail in Grand Teton National Park to Hidden Falls and then farther into the canyon is truly awe-inspiring. It’s a great hike if you want to experience the wildness of the park without having to hike up thousands of feet in elevation. As you hike into this glacially carved canyon before turning around when the trail forks at 4.4 miles, you’ll have gained 991 feet of elevation.
From the West Boat Dock of Jenny Lake, you’ll walk through a conifer forest before reaching a short side trail a little more than a half mile down the trail. Take it to see Hidden Falls, a striking waterfall that’s powered by snowmelt and is 100 feet high. Then return to the main trail, heading left toward Inspiration Point. It’s a rocky trail that leads to a ledge that’s carved out of the granite rock. Watch your step along this exposed stretch.
At 1.1 miles, you’ll reach Inspiration Point, which offers stunning views of Jenny Lake, Mount Owen, Teewinot and the Grand Teton. Continue on into Cascade Canyon as the trail crosses small streams and rock slides. You’ll continue to enjoy views of Grand Teton, Teewinot and Mount Owens as you follow Cascade Creek up the canyon.
Look for pikas along the trail. They are small mouse-looking animals that live in boulder fields and above tree line, but they are actually more closely related to rabbits. Pikas can’t live in temperatures over 77.9 F, so they are very adapted to cool, mountain weather, which is why you’ll often see them above tree line. You may hear them before you see them as they call out or sing to each other to announce predators in the area.
You may see other wildlife like deer, moose and bears. Be sure to keep 25 yards distance between you and moose and 100 yards of distance between you and bears and wolves. Have your bear spray on a hip belt or somewhere where you can pull it out within a second or two if needed.
When the trail forks at 4.4 miles, turn around and retrace your steps for totally different views as you get closer to the Jackson Hole valley.
Where Do You Park for Cascade Canyon Trail?
To hike Cascade Canyon Trail, you can park at the Jenny Lake parking area at the Jenny Lake Trailhead. It’s off Teton Park Road and near the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. It’s two miles of hiking along the lake to get to the trail to Cascade Canyon.
From this parking area, you can also take the boat shuttle via Jenny Lake Boating for a fee across the lake. It does save you two miles of hiking each way. You don’t need reservations for the shuttle, and it leaves every 10-15 minutes in the summer. Tickets can be purchased directly at the boat dock (jennylakeboating.com).
How Long is Cascade Canyon Trail?
There are two different ways you can approach Cascade Canyon Trail. If you take the longer route via Jenny Lake Loop Trail, it’s 14.6 miles round-trip. If you take the boat shuttle across Jenny Lake, the hike is 8.8 miles round trip from the West Boat Dock at Jenny Lake. Either way, it’s an out-and-back hike that brings you through a stunning canyon without too much elevation gain.
What to Bring on Your Hike
There are several things you’ll want to bring for your day hike since this is a longer hike. But first, you’ll want to make sure you carry your bear spray with you and that you know how to use it. Read the instructions on your can of bear spray, so that if you need to use it, you know exactly what to do. Keep it accessible, not buried in your backpack. There will be no time to start pulling out all the layers you packed on top of your bear spray in your backpack if a bear suddenly charges you.
Pack snacks and a lot of water or bring a water filtration system with you since you’ll be hiking along Cascade Creek. Drinking a lot of water is essential for having a great hiking experience in the West. Because mountain air is so dry in Grand Teton, you may have no idea you are sweating and exerting yourself. Be sure to stay hydrated to fight off headaches and effects of the altitude.
This trail is dirt with rocky sections, so wear sturdy hiking shoes. You’ll also want to bring layers and a raincoat. Weather can change within minutes in the mountains, even if the morning is crystal clear. It’s likely you’ll run into afternoon thunderstorms if you get a late start. Try to avoid being on the trail in the afternoon. Being in a lightning storm miles from your car is super stressful and it can leave you really cold when the rain helps temperatures drop 20-30 degrees.