4 May 2015
During your visit to Jackson Hole, hiking in Grand Teton National Park is a must. As our weather warms up in the spring and early summer, the snow melt leads to an array of beautiful Teton wildflowers in our area.
One of the best hikes to see spectacular views, as well as some of the more unique wildflowers in Jackson Hole, is Phelps Lake. To get there, step out the door of your Rendezvous Mountain vacation rental, head north to the Grand Teton Park gate on the Moose-Wilson Road, and then drive another 3.9 miles to the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve trailhead. No matter your physical ability, this access to Phelps Lake is the best way to experience Grand Teton National Park hiking in a short amount of time. There are two trails to Phelps Lake: Woodlands and Lake Creek. You can incorporate both and plan on making a loop of it by going up the Woodlands trail and then coming back on the Lake Creek Trail. It’s a 2.9 mile round trip, and is relatively easy-to-moderate hiking. In a couple of hours, you can hike to the edge of the lake and return. For a good half-day of hiking, you can do the full loop around Phelps Lake.
Helpful Hint: Go early as the small parking area can fill up by mid-day.
At the beginning of your hike, stop by the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve Visitor Education Center for some interesting facts about the region. Just beyond the Center, you’ll find an architectural waterfall on one side of the trail, and a Creekside deck on the other. Be on the lookout for small, white Bog Orchids and the camouflaged Leopard Lilies along the trail in this area. They are hard to see, but spectacular when you find them. When you come to the bridge across Lake Creek, take the Woodlands Trail to the right. Through this section of woods, you’ll find an abundance of colorful wildflowers. The pale Spring Beauties on the forest floor are a special treat to see.
At the lake junction, head to your left as you continue hiking, but first take a breather on one of the many benches around the eastern shore. Don’t pass these up, as they are great places for photo ops of Death Canyon. Across the Phelps Lake outlet, there is also a unique bridge with bench seating. Stay along the trail by the water and you’ll find the Lake Creek trail junction just beyond the restroom. If you have some extra time, stay on the main Lake Trail and head toward Huckleberry Point for a bit. Along the edge of the Lake, keep your eyes peeled for pink Fairy Slippers. They are low to the ground and are easily missed. The constructed grate walkway over the wetland area is a fun experience. Frogs and dragonflies abound.
Finally, take the Lake Creek Trail on your return trip. You’ll follow the roar of the cascading creek along the edge of a sagebrush meadow, and then back through the trees. In the open meadow, you’ll see Larkspur, Columbine and Balsam Root. This amazing creek will definitely fill some of your camera’s memory card, but save space for sightings of striped or spotted Coral Root Orchids in the semi-shaded areas. These are reddish stalks grow in short clusters and are covered with mini Orchid blooms. If you are a photographer, use your macro lens, and you’ll be amazed by the photos you get.
Coral Root Orchid
A great post-hike wind down is to drive north up the road from the Preserve to Moose, and enjoy refreshments on Dornan’s deck, while taking in the amazing close-up views of the majestic Grand Tetons.