Paintbrush Canyon / Cascade Canyon Loop -- Grand Teton NP September 11, 2023

TractorDoc

Member
.
Joined
Aug 21, 2018
Messages
573
Several years/Septembers ago I headed up Paintbrush Canyon in Grand Teton NP with the idea I might complete the Paintbrush/Cascade loop. I made it up to Holly Lake while it rained, snowed, and blew gale force winds. I turned around at the lake so as not to be blown out of the canyon. It was a good day with lots of atmosphere, but I've always wanted to have another chance to complete the loop.

September 2023 provided that opportunity. My buddy Cody and I had just spent several backcountry nights with @scatman and his crew along Yellowstone's Gallatin River. We set aside several days in the parks for day hiking after that. I had penciled in the Paintbrush/Cascade loop for one of our days, but a lot would depend on how Cody and I were feeling as well as what the weather was dishing out.

Cody and I were based at Old Faithful in Yellowstone, so we had a lengthy drive to reach the Leigh Lake Trailhead in Grand Teton. The fog was thick and low to the ground on the drive down, I was not sure what kind of visibility the day was going to offer us. We hit the trail around 9AM. The goal was to at least make it up to Paintbrush Divide and see how our knees were holding up. We also set a time goal to get there by 1PM to make sure we had enough day left to return to the trailhead and then our cabin.

Morning reflections in String Lake.

0O7A2729.JPG

Crossing the connection between Leigh and String Lakes.

0O7A2733.JPG

Trail marker before heading up Paintbrush Canyon.

thumbnail_IMG_0365.jpg

A brief climb thru the forest led us to our first encounter with what I call Paintbrush Creek. It was near here that I encountered a large moose in 2019. It chose to take a nap right on the trail just after I passed him. No moose would be blocking our path this morning though.

thumbnail_IMG_0367.jpg

First look back down canyon towards Leigh and Jackson Lakes.

0O7A2737.JPG

Looking up the mouth of Paintbrush Canyon. The flora was much greener compared to the last time I was here. September 11, 2023 on the left, September 17, 2019 on the right. What a difference a week makes!

0O7A2740.JPG 5J5A1754A.JPG

The views and terrain in Paintbrush Canyon feel like they are constantly changing as you hike upward. I vividly remember the snow and strong winds on this section last time. Nothing but peaceful blue skies today.

0O7A2746A.jpg

Wildlife in the Tetons (at least in this area) must be quite acclimated to people. The Pika barely took notice of us as they gathered foliage and scurried about.

0O7A2748.JPG 0O7A2775.JPG

The deer were not impressed with us either. This guy and his lady friend nearby looked our way then went right back to browsing.

0O7A2753.JPG

Another look down to Leigh and Jackson Lakes.

0O7A2779A.jpg

Decision time. Right to Holly Lake, left to continue towards the divide. We thought we might be tempted to take a long rest at Holly Lake so we turned left. This would be all new territory for me going forward. Until we reached Cascade Canyon anyway.

thumbnail_IMG_0379.jpg

The trail kept climbing. Stands of trees were thinning out.

0O7A2786.JPG

Look quickly and you might not see the basin of water at the bottom of this picture.

0O7A2787A.jpg

A view down to Holly Lake.

0O7A2791A.jpg

We did not know it yet, but Paintbrush Divide is the curved area between the two high points at the center of this picture.

0O7A2794.JPG

Another look back down canyon. A section of the trail passes thru the groups of what I expect are White Bark Pine Trees at bottom center/left. A length of the trail was covered with freshly broken branches from the trees -- possibly from a Grizzly searching out the seeds.

0O7A2797.JPG

Beginning the final ascent up to the pass. The trail hugs the hillside to the left, this is the view to the right.

0O7A2798.JPG

You can just make out the trail (if you know where to look) as it crosses and ascends to the divide.

0O7A2799.JPG

Made it to the top -- right at our 1pm goal too. Paintbrush Divide was a pleasant place to stand on this day. Abundant sunshine and minimal wind. :thumbsup:

0O7A2808.JPG

View towards the East from the Divide.

0O7A2802A.jpg

View to the West from the divide.

0O7A2803.JPG

It was decision time (again!). Option one was to return the way we came -- a shorter distance and theoretically easier. Option two was to continue on towards Lake Solitude and Cascade Canyon -- a longer distance but different scenery. Cody and I discussed it for 30 seconds or so, but we knew we were taking advantage of the amazing weather and moving forward towards Lake Solitude.

A short walk from Paintbrush Divide provided a nice view of Lake Solitude. This was the first time I was seeing the lake in person.

0O7A2811.JPG

The descent from Paintbrush Divide follows a ridge that provides nice views to the right as well -- head down here and I think it might lead you to Leigh Canyon.

0O7A2815.JPG

As the trail begins to descend it shows off the North Fork of Cascade Canyon and the Tetons looming large above.

0O7A2816A.jpg

0O7A2817.JPG

This section of trail turned out to be my favorite part of the hike. It did not matter which direction you looked -- amazing views were in all directions.

0O7A2820.JPG

0O7A2821A.jpg

Cody and I were making good time heading down from the divide. The section between Paintbrush Divide and Lake Solitude felt like it took a long time though -- perhaps because we could always see the lake in front of us during the descent.

0O7A2822A.jpg

We did make it. . . eventually. :)

0O7A2827.JPG

Took advantage of Lake Solitude for a sunscreen and snack break.

0O7A2829.JPG thumbnail_IMG_0394.jpg

Neither Cody nor I are very good at sitting still. After 20 minutes or so we were ready to continue our descent down to Cascade Canyon. We were still feeling good and moving well -- the scenery was more than enough to offset any feelings of fatigue -- it was all downhill from here anyway. :)

0O7A2831.JPG

A look up to where we had been an hour or two earlier. I couldn't help but think that a @scatman shortcut would be to drop straight down that hillside.

0O7A2834.JPG

Spectacular!

0O7A2835.JPG

0O7A2837A.jpg

This was a good spot to filter some water before dropping farther into the canyon.

0O7A2841.JPG

Trail markers at the top of Cascade Canyon.

thumbnail_IMG_0402.jpg thumbnail_IMG_0403.jpg

Cascade Canyon foliage was much greener than I remember it being when I hiked here in 2018. September 11, 2023 on the left, September 20, 2018 on the right. Not the exact same spot, but you get the idea.

0O7A2850.JPG 5J5A2335A.JPG

I told Cody one of the reasons we drove down to the Tetons was so that we might see a moose. A large bull moose was waiting for us as we dropped down into the trees below the canyon.

0O7A2870A.jpg

Checked the see-a-moose-box a second and third time with this mom/baby encounter. Baby is in the trees behind mom -- look for the ears. Momma moose walked out of the trees right in front of us and casually laid down on the trail. . . the same way it happened to me back in 2019. Must be a regular occurrence in these parts. She seemed calm enough, but we gave her plenty of space with an off trail bushwhack to keep moving. There was a fourth moose sighting -- another bull -- but he was far enough into the trees that we only gave him a couple minutes observation before moving on.

0O7A2886A.jpg

The trail expectedly became more congested as we dropped down to Inspiration Point. Not terribly crowded, but more people than we were accustomed to seeing on the trail during the last four days. We made our way down to the trail circling Jenny Lake. I think both of us were feeling some stiffness in our knees by now.

0O7A2904.JPG

Leaving Jenny Lake and approaching String Lake.

0O7A2908.JPG

Bridge taking us to the String Lake Trailhead. The Leigh Lake Trailhead was another half mile from here.

0O7A2910.JPG

Back at the Escalade. I reserved a compact rental car at the Bozeman airport and this is what they gave me. While it was fun to drive for a couple days, I'd never want to own one. Way too big and too many knobs, buttons, lights, etc. I much prefer the Wrangler waiting for me back home.

0O7A2911.JPG

I was very happy with the decision to hike the full loop. The views from Paintbrush Divide down to Lake Solitude were nothing short of amazing. Hiking in the Tetons definitely feels different than hiking most areas of Yellowstone. The trails seem to have a more "sophisticated" feel if that makes sense. Probably due to GTNP being smaller and more people on the trails. One does not feel as isolated, but the scenery and wildlife encounters make up for that.

GPS Track for the loop. I did not feel like walking in circles around the parking lot to hit an even 20 miles. :)

Paintbrush Cascade Loop.jpg

Cody and I stopped at the Signal Mountain Lodge on the way back to Old Faithful for dinner. I took several bites out of my burger before I took a picture, so I'll refrain from posting as it was not the most photogenic after that.

We did have to drive the West Thumb to Old Faithful stretch of loop road in the dark, but we made it back to our cabin unscathed.

We were lucky to make it out of the park in a timely manner the next morning -- this group of Bison had southbound traffic between Madison and Old Faithful backed up for miles. Luckily we were heading in the opposite direction with no one in front of us.

0O7A2966.JPG

One last treat before leaving the park was a bear sighting on the side of the hill. These images are heavily cropped and it was difficult to see the bear in detail, but I think it might have been a brown colored black bear. Maybe.

0O7A2997.JPG

0O7A3001.JPG

2023 was a great year for experiences in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Hoping I can follow it up with some interesting stories and reports for 2024. :thumbsup:

Thanks for Reading!
 
Last edited:
One of my favorite on-trail hikes in the GYE. I've never been up/down Cascade Canyon without seeing multiple moose. Looks like a great day!
 
Great loop and great trip report! That is a good long day.
I also feel fall colors were a couple weeks later last year.
I think Cody's orange shirt color is a good color for blending in with the fall foliage, when it is changing.
Those obstinate moose I think are keeping daily score through Cascade on how many hikers they can slow down. We had to lumber behind this little bull for 10-15 minutes, at a snail's pace as he wandered down the trail and watched us over his back.
 
Fantastic report and pictures!

You've accurately pictured the end of the drought conditions along with the "maybe we're not having a drought anymore" conditions. ;) Of course, as mentioned, fall colors come on at different times as well.

Interesting you've had a moose lie in the trail twice. I've seen more than my fair share of them and never had this occur in CO or WY. Though I did have one "hiking" the trail behind me for a good distance once.

Views from the Divide look spectacular!
 
One of my favorite on-trail hikes in the GYE. I've never been up/down Cascade Canyon without seeing multiple moose.
Easy to see why this is a favorite! I'm hoping this continues to be a moose hot spot when I take the Mrs. out this September. She has expectations. :)

Great loop and great trip report! That is a good long day.
I also feel fall colors were a couple weeks later last year.
Thanks @Ugly -- it was indeed a good long day. Just the way I like them. ;)

Those obstinate moose I think are keeping daily score through Cascade on how many hikers they can slow down.
Interesting you've had a moose lie in the trail twice. I've seen more than my fair share of them and never had this occur in CO or WY.
Yep, second time in a row. . . albeit with years in between. Here are some pictures of the big fella from 2019.

5J5A1737A.JPG

5J5A1750B.JPG
 
Easy to see why this is a favorite! I'm hoping this continues to be a moose hot spot when I take the Mrs. out this September. She has expectations. :)
My wife and I have done the loop as a very chill backpacking trip and it was right up her alley - we had a large bull moose hanging around our North Cascade Canyon campsite all evening. (And in the same spot a year later, my brother and I had one - maybe even the same one - that hung out for dinner and breakfast!)
 
Lake Solitude looks awesome

Just shy of 20 miles with that elevation is a serious day and then the drive on both ends. I would have been wiped :)

great way to wrap up Summer 2023
 
Dont expect those mileages per day on my trips...... just sayin
 
Beautiful! I'm going to have to make a Tetons stop next time I head up to the Winds.
I think it would be worth making a visit. If your trip reports are any indication you could complete this loop in five or six hours. :)

Lake Solitude looks awesome
It is!

I would have been wiped :)
We were tired at the end, I'm not sure if we were wiped though. That must be a Kentucky thing. :)

great way to wrap up Summer 2023
It was. Glad you were a part of this years adventures Scott. :thumbsup:

Dont expect those mileages per day on my trips...... just sayin
I am counting on some tamed down mileages Bob. It is not the distance I worry about with you, it is the mountain goat path upward. :)
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
Joey Trip Videos: Grand Teton's Paintbrush Divide, Grizzly Bear Lake, Avalanche Canyon, Snowdrift Lake Backpacking 14
Ugly Paintbrush Lives up to its Name Backpacking 16
E Paintbrush/Cascade in Grand Teton Backpacking 0
E Paintbrush/Cascade 3 day/2 night trip Trip Planning 8
Joey 4 Night trip in the Tetons, Grizzly Bear Lake, Paintbrush Divide, Littles Peak Backpacking 18
gnwatts Stillwater Canyon 4-1-24 On The Water 10
T Dark canyon loop water General Discussion 1
L Stevens Canyon - Baker Trail water availability Trip Planning 9
J Reflection Canyon Trip Planning 4
fossana Found: prescription glasses near the top of the Flipoff Canyon approach General Discussion 5
Spud Salt Creek Canyon question Trip Planning 11
B Buckskin gulch/Pariah canyon Carpool Trip Planning 1
Kullaberg63 15 day canyon route Backpacking 13
Titans Tricked in the canyon! Hiking & Camping 5
TrailScot Dayhiking the Under-the-Rim Trail - Bryce Canyon NP - October 2023 Hiking & Camping 4
Janice Such a GRAND Canyon - Deer Creek / Tapeats / Thunder River Backpacking 21
M Mee/Knowles Canyon Loop, Grand Junction Colorado Backpacking 4
OldBill Short hike at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania Hiking & Camping 1
S Paria Canyon- Whitehouse to Lees Ferry, Oct 18 to 21, 2023 Trip Reports 0
scatman Yellowstone's Thorofare, Headwaters of Thorofare Creek, Majo Pass, Younts Peak, Bob's Canyon, and Cub Creek - August 9, 2023 - Days 7 through 10 Backpacking 34
scatman Yellowstone's Thorofare, Headwaters of Thorofare Creek, Majo Pass, Younts Peak, Bob's Canyon, and Cub Creek - August 9, 2023 - Days 1 through 6 Backpacking 56
A Bowdie Canyon Trip Planning 10
TheMountainRabbit Silas Canyon (Popo Agie Wilderness) - August 2023 Backpacking 3
J Paria Canyon - One Day Trail Trip Planning 10
Bob The New Grand Canyon Trip Planning 1
WhozWutz Invite Horse Canyon Needles Meet Up (Members Only) 1
BJett Part 3 - Tour de Canyon Country. Lower Escalante Loop Hiking & Camping 0
BJett Part 2 - Tour de Canyon Country. Swell Times Hiking & Camping 0
BJett Part 1 - Tour de Canyon Country. Cedar Mesa. Hiking & Camping 8
Gretchen Millward Trachyte Creek via Woodruff Canyon, April 2023 Backpacking 9
F Grand Canyon hermits rest to granite rapids to bright angel Trip Planning 10
gnwatts Stillwater Canyon On The Water 11
shredhiker Kings Canyon July 2022 Kearsarge, Rae, & Sixty Lakes Backpacking 8
J Info needed: Bown's Canyon, Long Canyon Trip Planning 8
Gretchen Millward Cheesebox Canyon, Oct. 2022 Backpacking 14
Stickerbumper Fold Canyon Middle Exit Trip Planning 9
Janice Professor Creek / Mary Jane Canyon - mid April? Trip Planning 0
D Horseshoe Canyon or San Rafael Swell? Trip Planning 9
scatman North Ridge of City Creek Canyon - February 4, 2023 Hiking & Camping 17
scatman South Ridge of City Creek Canyon - January 28, 2023 Hiking & Camping 4
NorthwestWanderer 8 Day High Sierra trek : Humphreys Basin, Star Col, Granite Park, Lake Italy & Piute Canyon 6/25-7/2/22 Backpacking 7
T Amazing Discovery in Utah-Glen Canyon Trip Planning 65
Titans What’s your unfinished business? Hard canyon access, mtn peak, you name it! General Discussion 54
SteveR Big Spring-Elephant Canyon dayhike. With free bonus vacation pix! Hiking & Camping 13
Stephanie B Dirty Devil River Impassible at Poison Springs Canyon Off Road 0
LarryBoy Is there anything technical in White Canyon above the Black Hole? Trip Planning 16
dennisrodman A week in the Grand Canyon / Boucher / Hermit / Tonto Trail Trip Planning 4
XID_AZ Kanab Creek Wilderness - Sowats Canyon - Mountain Sheep Spring Trip Planning 6
travel2walk Yellowstone: Bechler Canyon, Aug 12-15 2022 Backpacking 21
balzaccom Mok Canyon Solitude for my birthday Backpacking 0

Similar threads

Back
Top