Teton Crest Trail questions


New Member
Jul 31, 2018
Hi everyone!

I'm planning a trip with my girlfriend to hike the Teton Crest trail towards the end of August. Unfortunately, we don't have permits. I just have a couple of questions about the walk-in process.

1. Ideally, we'd like to do a 3 night trip, with the first night in either Marion Lake or Death Canyon Shelf, then our second night in Alaska Basin or South Fork Cascade, and our third and final night in the North Fork Cascade, Upper Paintbrush, or Holly Lake. We are flexible and are willing to camp pretty much anywhere as long as our mileage doesn't exceed 10-12 miles per day. What are our chances to get any of these sites? Also, how early should we be there, and which ranger station is the best choice?

2. I've noticed that hikers are allowed to camp in the two areas that are outside of the park boundaries without permits. If, worst case scenario we don't get permits, is it feasible to camp in the Fox Creek Pass area on our first night, Alaska Basin on our second night, and then just hike out of Cascade Canyon on the third day? Has anyone done this trip before or had any experience with this?

Also, if there's any other advice one could offer about the Teton Crest Trail and/or getting walk-in permits, please let me know!

I'm basically doing that trip this week. I'm planning on picking up a permit Wednesday morning. The advice I received is plan on showing up 2 hours before opening to ensure I get the camping spots I want. If you're flexible just show up at opening.

I also think Fox Creek Pass is an option if you don't get a spot on the shelf. I'll be able to give you more insight after this week.

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I did the complete crest from Grassy lake road to the TH on Teton pass.. . Camped out of the park the entire time....not hard. Went thru the park from solitude ok to hurricane pass..and across the shelf.
Thanks for the advice! We will plan on camping in the Fox Creek Pass area and Alaska Basin if we aren't able to secure permits. If anyone else has any advice about this plan or in general, please let me know!
Just got back so I can update my advice. I was second in line at the Moose Visitor Center and was able to get all the spots I wanted for the permit. The guys after me didn't but we're flexible. I definitely recommend being there at least 2 hours in advance so you are first in line if you REALLY want certain camping spots.

It was a fun trip. A bit windy at night.

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I love backpacking the Crest Trail, and I'm envious that you get to do this trip!

Teton Park lets you get walk-in permits one day in advance of the start of the trip, so if that's possible for you I'd highly recommend it - otherwise if you're picking up on T-0 you've lost some sites to the people who were able to pick one up on T-1. Showing well before the visitor center actually opens is a good recommendation. I actually think you might have a better chance going to Colter Bay - it tends to get less traffic because it's further away from Jackson.

You really can't go wrong with camping along the Teton Crest trail. Camping at Fox Creek Pass and Alaska Basin is TOTALLY feasible. You get great views of all of Death Canyon from just east of the pass. The only downside about Fox Creek Pass is that there aren't a lot of great options for water, although I've never gone west to see if Fox Creek actually has water, which leaves Pass Lake, which is really a pond. But I was up there in early July one year and saw a cow moose splashing around in it - at 9500ft!
11902301_10102311841902091_3543066103648865865_n.jpg (Photo: Moose chillin' in Pass Lake)

Alaska Basin also has really nice sites, both at the Basin Lakes and at Sunset Lake - which means that you won't be alone. Most people heading north aim for Sunset Lake just to reduce the distance on day 2.

Marion Lake is difficult to get a spot for. It's one of the few places where there are specific designated sites, and there's only three of them. Lots of scenic camping options along the Death Canyon shelf - the main thing is to find a place near water. My favorite sites in the South Fork of Cascade Canyon are actually the highest sites in the zone - it's fun to explore around the area just below Hurricane Pass, as there are some nice ponds that give you a reflection of the three Tetons. However, that leaves you with a lot of distance on the next day if you're trying to get over Paintbrush Divide.

My favorite spots in the N Fork are the top two just below Lake Solitude (top site - great views of the Grand; second site - privacy + bear box), because I love being up there for sunset. HOWEVER, I've camped in the north fork and hiked up and out over Paintbrush Divide the next day, and to me that's a pretty long, brutal day (12 miles, 2000 feet up to the divide, plus going from the divide all the way down to the valley floor is tough on the knees). Hiking out Cascade Canyon is much easier on the knees. If you're determined to do the entire Crest Trail, I'd try to get the S. Fork on the second night and Upper Paintbrush/Holly on the third night, just to cut down on the distance on day four. Or camp on the Death Canyon shelf (north end), south end of N. Fork on night two (LONG day), and Paintbrush on night three. But my preference is towards less mileage with the full backpacking gear and more time to explore (Options include N. Fork - Mica Lake; S. Fork - Avalanche Divide or Icefloe Lake) - so take my advice with that in mind!

This goes without saying, hopefully, but be prepared for ALL weather, including snow.
Wow, thanks so much for all of this information! This is all incredibly helpful, and I'm relieved to know that it's not only feasible to camp in Fox Creek Pass/Alaska Basin, but also scenic! We'll definitely show up a day early for the permits and try to get them at Colter Bay. (That's actually easier for us, as we will be coming from the North!) Again, I really appreciate the info! I will update back here after our trip and let you know how it went. :)