On the west side of Jenny Lake, the snowmelt-fed, 100-foot cascading Hidden Falls is one of the most favored destinations in Grand Teton National Park. Tucked up above the park’s second largest lake and surrounded by conifer forests, these falls descend like a staircase and spray gentle mist on thousands of visitors all year round. It’s never too early to start planning a trip here because this natural wonder attracts crowds in the parking lot, on the trail and on the ferry ride.
How Long is the Hidden Falls Jenny Lake Hike?
There are a few ways to reach the falls. By foot, you can take the 7.9-mile Jenny Lake Trail around the entire lake and break off for a 1-mile-round-trip on the west side to Hidden Falls before returning to the start. Or, for an alternative route, follow the Hidden Falls Trail, a 4.8-mile loop that stays along Jenny Lake’s southern shore. Depending on how fast you walk and how much time you spend at the falls, these hikes could take you anywhere from 2 to 5 hours to complete. Both routes start at the Jenny Lake Trailhead, west of Teton Park Road at the South Jenny Lake Junction.
To shorten the hike by 4 miles round trip, you can ride a privately-run shuttle boat across the lake. Hours and prices vary, and tickets can be purchased directly at the boat dock (jennylakeboating.com). It’s also possible to ride the shuttle one way. After a 12-minute ride to the West Shore Boat Dock, take the South Cascade Creek Trail to the falls, roughly 1 mile out and back with about 200 feet of elevation.
While most of the trail is rocky, it’s well maintained and manageable for most fitness levels. Dense forest creates a constant shade, and several wooden bridges make for ideal photo opportunities and scenic overlooks of the river. Closer to the base of the falls, the trail climbs gradually and steadily. Remember your hiking etiquette on the trail: give other hikers space and step to the side to let others pass when you take a break.
To extend your hike another mile from the falls, continue on the Inspiration Point Trail for panoramic views of Jenny Lake, Jackson Hole, and the 12,325-foot Teewinot Mountain.
Where is Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park?
Hidden Falls is located beneath the mouth of Cascade Canyon on the western side of Jenny Lake, which is closest to the park’s southern entrance. Jenny Lake is the park’s second largest and deepest lake, carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. The falls can be reached by foot and ferry, both starting from the southeastern side near the Jenny Lake parking lot and visitor center. As one of the most accessible waterfalls in the park, it’s also the busiest.
When is the Best Time to Hike to Hidden Falls?
This hike is beautiful any time of year and day. Summer is the trail’s busy season, with record visitation in June 2021, the route is generally less crowded in the spring and fall. Winter brings snow but the hike is usually still passable by foot, as long as the roads to the trailhead are still open. However, the shuttle boat is not an option because service takes a break between Sept. 30 and May 15. Federal holidays also tend to be busier.
As for the best time of day, mornings are typically quieter than afternoons, so plan for an early start to avoid crowds and find parking. Keep in mind that temperatures before noon are cooler.
Before you hit the trail, check with a ranger for the latest trail updates. You can stop in a visitor center.
What Should I Bring for My Hike to Hidden Falls?
As with everywhere in Grand Teton, bring your bear spray and have it easily accessible in a hip belt or pocket within reach. Even though this hike is well-traveled, grizzly bears are known to frequent the area, especially because of the presence of huckleberry bushes along the trail.
Also remember to bring enough water for everyone to stay hydrated throughout the hike. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and headaches, thus spoiling the day. Pack a backpack with your water, snacks, sunscreen and bear spray. Because the trail is around 7,000 feet, the temperature can flux. Wear or bring layers and sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots with good traction. Pack a raincoat in case you get stuck in afternoon thunderstorms, which are frequent in the summertime. Leave your pets behind, as dogs are not allowed on the trail.
Lastly, if there’s snow and ice in the forecast, consider bringing trekking poles and extra traction devices, such as MICROspikes or YakTrax.