Backpacking Grand Teton National Park : Fossil Pass,Fox Creek Pass,Indian Lake,Alaska Basin,Hurricane Pass,Ice Floe Lake,& Snowdrift Lake

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283
Hello everyone!

This was originally going to be a 7-8 day backpacking trip that was cut down to 4 days because of the fear of the trip being smoked out as the smell was strong in the air and it was very prevalent off to the Northwest / west...


...Also partially because I was having a hard time with the National Parks permit regulations. I didn't want to camp at Snowdrift lake once I saw it due to crowds but I was required to stick to my permit so I had to, kind of ruining the wilderness feel of freedom for me (I know 100% why they do this and I'm OK with it, I just don't think backpacking in National Parks is quite for me, I like the freedom of Designated Wilderness/NF/BLM lands).

It also didn't help that we had cell service at Avalanche Divide and I saw that our back up plan (the High Uintas) were smoke free and had cooler temps. We finished off our vacation backpacking 3 days and 2 nights in the Uintas which I will make another post for. I said I'd only post our bigger trips 4+ day ones, but because this website inspired us so much to get out to the Uintas I think you all would enjoy our first-timer awe of the magnificent range.



DAY 1
Darby Canyon > Fossil Pass > Fox Creek Pass > Indian Lake (Original camp spot) > Didn't like it, backtrack to Wilderness boundary for high camp.
8.83 Miles 5214 ft. of Elevation Gain

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Out of Darby Canyon and on off trail leg to Fossil Pass. We actually smelled fire smoke the whole trip despite some of the (clearer) views compared to last summer.

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Great open hiking
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This trip would have some of the best wild flower displays I've ever seen.
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Taking a break at Fossil Pass with my wife. Crazy creek chairs are awesome.
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We steeply dropped down from the pass and bush whacked to connect up with the Fox Creek Pass trail. Flowers everywhere.
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Fox Creek Pass. We begin another off trail leg toward the top of the ridge (center of camera)
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First view of the Grand Teton
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Headed toward Indian lake looking to our left at the Death Canyon shelf and Tetons.
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There is actually a very wide game trail down to Indian lake, pretty easy to get too (off camera to right, can be seen in my video). However the lake stays in the shade all evening due to the tall walls and the view the other way is of all of those gondolas? I think they are called? Felt weird, didn't want to camp here so we back tracked to the ridge top of the Wilderness and NP boundary and camped in the Wilderness with a 360* view.
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MUCH BETTER. Camp #1.
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View behind our camp (a part of this view is actually in the NP boundary. The Jedidiah Smith Wilderness and Park boundary around the Fox Creek pass area is a little goofy.
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Great smokey sunset. No alpenglow on the peaks :(

DAY 2
Pk. 10378 > Fox Creek Pass > Death Canyon Shelf > Rim above Alaska Basin
5.76 Miles 730ft of Elevation Gain


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Good morning!

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One of the rare times of me hiking in shorts. Used tons of SPF100 sunscreen. Still got burned to hell and back on the back of the legs lol
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Meek Pass area
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Went north at the trail junction. Walked another 1/4 to 1/2 mile before cutting back east to the canyon rim overlooking Alaska Basin.
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Great view from camp.
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Relaxing day (unsuccessfully looking for bears)
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There is our alpenglow!
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Good night. A crowded day but a beautiful day. I can see why Death Canyon shelf is popular. Very gorgeous.

DAY 3
Alaska Basin Rim > Hurricane Pass > Ice Floe Lake
8.53 Miles 2751 ft of Elevation Gain


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Smoke

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Walked through Alaska basin looking back at the rim we camped on. Heading down the sheep steps we saw the biggest group of people we've ever seen in the back-country 40-60 person "group"
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Sunset lake on our way to Hurricane Pass
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Insane wildflower displays
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Battleship Mountain
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Hurricane Pass
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The route to Ice Floe lake. Drop down from Hurricane Pass. When you get to the trail junction just to the left of the lake go right. The trail will kinda vanish after the outlet of the lake then just cut through the open country straight up to the Avalanche Divide. When you get near the snow patched up on the top right cut over left toward the highest bench in frame. That is where Ice Floe lake is.
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Descending.
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Off trail
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Ice Floe
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View from camp
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Sunset
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Alpenglow

DAY 4
Ice Floe Lake > Avalanche Divide > Back track OUT
17.77 Miles 3125 ft. of Elevation Gain



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Good morning! Ice Floe barrage incoming!
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Dropping toward Avalanche Divide and Snowdrift Lake
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Nice wall.
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There were a surprising amount of people down at these lakes despite no real trail to them. Saw another tent too. With the smoke and crowds and being forced to camp here because of our permit the luster despite the significant beauty was wearing off. Started to feel more like an amusement park than a wilderness area. Like I said before I 100% understand why the NP has those permit regulations because of how many visitors, it just isn't for me. And I think this was the trip that drove that home. Not that I wont do trips in National Parks anymore - I'll just research more before hand. Olympic and North Cascades are very lenient on camping for cross country routes for instance.

Didn't help that we got cell service here and saw that our back up plan (the HIGH UINTAS) was smoke free and cooler temps. So we broke off to do a 3-4 day trip in the Uintas, our first time there! We were excited.

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Hiking really fast out to cover the almost 18 miles and 3k feet in a decent time. We left avalanche divide at noon.
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If we didn't decide to hike out we wouldn't have seen this beauty!
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Well it looks like it will be a 3 day 2 night in the High Uintas. The 4 hours it said it would take from Victor, Idaho turned to 8 hours because the whole state of wyoming was employed to do road work with flagging crews it seemed.
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At camps like this we sleep in the bed of the truck, we set up our tent for the dry evening to treat it for leaks - as we were going to get rocked by many thunderstorms in just 3 days for our Uinta trip; and we wanted to prepare for it.
 

regehr

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Joined
Mar 28, 2012
Messages
1,919
Great pics. I backpacked in this area for the first time a couple summers ago and had more or less the same reaction as you -- it's a very nice area that is being enjoyed by too many people. I'll take the Uintas any day.
 

Bob

Trailmaster
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
3,562
Nice pics.....

Yep Tetons = many, many people.....
Mid Summer = usual smoke across Idaho to Wyoming
North end from Grassy lk and south from Marion lk is not as bad...
 

OldBill

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Aug 18, 2015
Messages
304
I just don't think backpacking in National Parks is quite for me, I like the freedom of Designated Wilderness/NF/BLM lands

Well said. NP's are spectacular (guess that's why they're NP's) but hard to get a wilderness experience.
Great photography!
 

wsp_scott

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Awesome scenery totally agree about crowds. One of the many great things about SEKI is once you have a permit, you can go anywhere. And everyone else is mostly on the JMT, so easy to avoid crowds (40 person group is stupid).
 
Joined
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Messages
283
Awesome scenery totally agree about crowds. One of the many great things about SEKI is once you have a permit, you can go anywhere. And everyone else is mostly on the JMT, so easy to avoid crowds (40 person group is stupid).
Yeah. Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park are similair in that regard to you get a cross country permit and you're set for wherever and whenever as long as you don't camp in a designated spot.

Glacier NP looks very stifling with its rules as does Banff and Yoho in Canada.
 

Pringles

Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2015
Messages
352
Ooooooo.

Ooooooo.

So pretty.

Now I want summer. Right now.

I don't love crowds, but I do realize that sometimes the best eye candy is in national parks. In Yellowstone, they do a pretty good job of separating party A from party B, and since that's where I get to hike mostly, I am happy. But I do understand the issue. And not all of Wyoming was on a road construction crew some of us were in the lines waiting to get through the construction.
 

Chuck the Mauler

Formally known as "kcwins"
Joined
Aug 20, 2014
Messages
443
Thanks for the report. A couple of thoughts:

1. There's a well maintained trail at the head of South Fork Cascade Canyon that leads up to Avalanche Divide (and the trail that heads north off it towards Icefloe Lake). But I admire the off-trail route you two chose.

2. Seeing a group of 30+ folks on the trail would be discouraging. I can't say I've ever witnessed that before in that park.

3. If you want to avoid 99% of the backcountry wanders in the Tetons, and experience some of the most magical off trail traveling in Wyoming, get north of Mount Moran.
 
Last edited:

WasatchWill

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I've had a route that starts the same way yours did tucked away for several years now but logistics have kept it from happening thus far. Only, instead of continuing down through the Park, it would just veer up the rim for Table and/or just finish straight down Teton Canyon. Figured that would be way to get my feet wet in the Teton backcountry without having to go through the permit hassle and competition for those. Spend a night in Fox Canyon, hike Death Canyon Shelf for a day, camp a second night somewhere on the edges of Alaska Basin, crowds and all, out the next day. I gotta think that section between the Top of Darby/Fossil and over to Fox Pass rarely gets touched. But yes, the wildflowers and fossils, and views of the backside of the Tetons from Death Canyon Shelf and from Table Mountain based on all the pics I've seen is what keeps me interested in getting up there one summer weekend.
 

LarryBoy

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I just always go to the Tetons early in the season - like the 4th of July - when it's all snow covered and ice axe is required. On my most recent trip I saw nobody except for one group at Hurricane Pass.
 

Chuck the Mauler

Formally known as "kcwins"
Joined
Aug 20, 2014
Messages
443
I've had a route that starts the same way yours did tucked away for several years now but logistics have kept it from happening thus far. Only, instead of continuing down through the Park, it would just veer up the rim for Table and/or just finish straight down Teton Canyon. Figured that would be way to get my feet wet in the Teton backcountry without having to go through the permit hassle and competition for those. Spend a night in Fox Canyon, hike Death Canyon Shelf for a day, camp a second night somewhere on the edges of Alaska Basin, crowds and all, out the next day. I gotta think that section between the Top of Darby/Fossil and over to Fox Pass rarely gets touched. But yes, the wildflowers and fossils, and views of the backside of the Tetons from Death Canyon Shelf and from Table Mountain based on all the pics I've seen is what keeps me interested in getting up there one summer weekend.
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RyanP

Formerly bob32
Joined
Mar 1, 2015
Messages
454
I just always go to the Tetons early in the season - like the 4th of July - when it's all snow covered and ice axe is required. On my most recent trip I saw nobody except for one group at Hurricane Pass.
I saw this comment last week and it's been on the back of my mind ever since. I'm intrigued by the idea of pushing the start of backpacking season (in the mountains) earlier into the summer, not only to avoid the crowds and such but more importantly to avoid the smoke/haze that is becoming more and more common later in the summer. It seems like the two biggest obstacles are (1) snow on the high passes/slopes and (2) stream crossings. So the first step in route planning for an early-season mountain trip is probably to identify routes for which both of these obstacles are manageable. Are there any tough stream crossings on the Teton Crest Trail in early summer? Are all the snow-filled slopes/passes doable/safe for someone who has done a handful of snow climbs requiring an axe? Sorry, I should probably just start a new thread sometime with general questions about early-season mountain backpacking (I will probably do so at some point), but I'm also interested in the TCT in particular.
 

Bob

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Do the real Crest trail from the Yellowstone boundary to Teton Pass. Avoid Paintbrush divide snow and the tram snow. A lot on the west side so less snowpack.
 

LarryBoy

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I saw this comment last week and it's been on the back of my mind ever since. I'm intrigued by the idea of pushing the start of backpacking season (in the mountains) earlier into the summer, not only to avoid the crowds and such but more importantly to avoid the smoke/haze that is becoming more and more common later in the summer. It seems like the two biggest obstacles are (1) snow on the high passes/slopes and (2) stream crossings. So the first step in route planning for an early-season mountain trip is probably to identify routes for which both of these obstacles are manageable. Are there any tough stream crossings on the Teton Crest Trail in early summer? Are all the snow-filled slopes/passes doable/safe for someone who has done a handful of snow climbs requiring an axe? Sorry, I should probably just start a new thread sometime with general questions about early-season mountain backpacking (I will probably do so at some point), but I'm also interested in the TCT in particular.
1. There are no tough stream crossings. The nice thing about a crest trail is, by definition, it doesn't cross major drainages. Plus most of the creeks have had snow bridges that early in the season, which solves the problem entirely.
2. Paintbrush Divide in 2014 is the sketchiest thing I've done in my entirely life (and for context, I've been attacked by a bear, and shattered my foot in the backcountry before). But it was 100% due to my own stupidity at the time. I brought an axe but no spikes, stuck to the sidehilly trail, and climbed it first thing in the morning when it was rock hard. If I did it again, it'd be a relatively straightforward snow climb/descent. I'm no mountaineer, just a hiker with spikes/axe/practice self-arresting, and it'd be fine.
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
Joined
Mar 1, 2015
Messages
454
Do the real Crest trail from the Yellowstone boundary to Teton Pass. Avoid Paintbrush divide snow and the tram snow. A lot on the west side so less snowpack.
Thanks; I appreciate the tip. I'll look into that
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
Joined
Mar 1, 2015
Messages
454
1. There are no tough stream crossings. The nice thing about a crest trail is, by definition, it doesn't cross major drainages. Plus most of the creeks have had snow bridges that early in the season, which solves the problem entirely.
2. Paintbrush Divide in 2014 is the sketchiest thing I've done in my entirely life (and for context, I've been attacked by a bear, and shattered my foot in the backcountry before). But it was 100% due to my own stupidity at the time. I brought an axe but no spikes, stuck to the sidehilly trail, and climbed it first thing in the morning when it was rock hard. If I did it again, it'd be a relatively straightforward snow climb/descent. I'm no mountaineer, just a hiker with spikes/axe/practice self-arresting, and it'd be fine.
Well, now I'm definitely intrigued... When you've done your early-season trips there, was it easy to get a last-minute permit? Or did you still need to get a permit in advance? Was there a lot of mud to deal with? Did you camp on snow or on dry ground?

Thanks for the info! That whole area has been off my radar (due partly to the crowds, and partly to the greater pull of a certain other range to the SE that is a shorter drive for me), but it sounds like it could be a great choice for an early-season trip sometime.
 
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