This article describes a hike to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and into Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
Before we started our hike in Grand Teton National Park, we parked at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center to pick up a map and talk with a park ranger about the trail conditions and recent wildlife sightings around Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and in Cascade Canyon. Due to the number of people going to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, the ranger said we would be fine in those areas without bear spray. However, if we planned on hiking into Cascade Canyon we should carry some just in case. The ranger also said that we probably would not get very far into Cascade Canyon before encountering an impassable wall of snow and would have to turn back.
As it was the middle of May, it was still quite cool outside so we had warm layers, hats and gloves along with lunch, snacks, water and two cans of bear spray, one for each adult. We walked a short way to the shuttle boat dock and and purchased round-trip tickets. Hiking around the lake was an option, but we thought it would be quicker and more fun to take the boat. One-way or round-trip tickets can be purchased at the boat dock. We didn’t have to wait long until we could board and were then off on a scenic ride across Jenny Lake. The hike from here to Hidden Falls is ½ mile (0.8 km) and an additional ½ mile (0.8 km) from Hidden Falls to Inspiration Point. The scenic boat trip was a great way to start our hike to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and into Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park.
After the boat dropped us off, we followed the posted signs to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. There are several intertwining trails in this area so it can seem a bit confusing at first, but a detailed map of the trails really helps. The trail to Hidden Falls is well maintained and, other than walking up a small hill, is fairly easy. Hidden Falls is located on a short spur just before you get to the last creek crossing. Once you go across the last creek crossing, the switchback trail becomes steeper, rougher and more strenuous as it winds its way up to Inspiration Point. As you gain elevation, the trail also becomes more exposed with a sheer rock face on one side and a sheer drop on the other, but this doesn’t last long and the next thing you know you are at Inspiration Point.
Once we reached Inspiration Point we ate lunch, took pictures and admired the views. This is a popular area and there were a fair number of people here and along this first section of our hike. People unfortunately often feed the chipmunks here so they have become very aggressive and will practically run over your hand to try to steal food.
Before heading off into Cascade Canyon we did a little exploring around Inspiration Point and stumbled across a yellow-bellied marmot foraging for food on the mountain slopes. It wasn’t aggressive, but not overly afraid of us either so we were able to watch it and get some good photos and videos before it got too far away.
Once we passed Inspiration Point, there were fewer hikers. However, we did encounter more then we expected given what the ranger told us about the snow conditions in the canyon. Although this trail does slowly climb higher and higher the further up the canyon you go, it is not as steep as some of the other hikes into the Teton Mountain Range. Sections of the trail were covered in several inches of snow, but it was well worn by previous hikers and we had no trouble following it.
As we got further into the canyon we would occasionally run into hikers coming from the opposite direction and would ask them about trail conditions ahead. None of them said that they had encountered a giant wall of snow and several had gone all the way to the junction, which was further than we had planned on going. The weather had been transitioning from sunny and cold, to overcast, to light snow, but as we got further and higher into the canyon the snow had become heavier and more frequent. Finally, it started to snow fairly hard and we could see up into the canyon that the snow was only getting worse so we turned around and headed back.
It didn’t take long before we had descended enough to for the snow fall to slow considerably and, since we were now mostly going downhill, the hiking was easier as well. This is a really nice hike with amazing scenery. My wife and I did this same hike before pre-kids and hiked all the way to the junction where we almost ran into a female moose with her calf. The weather was warmer and sunnier on that trip as it was Summer, but the snow made this hike unique and special in its’ own way.
We finally made it back to Inspiration Point, down the exposed rocky switchback section, and back to the shuttle boat dock. As we sped across Jenny Lake, I looked back up into Cascade Canyon and it looked as if the snow had followed us all the way to Inspiration Point. Once back at the visitor center, we drove into Jackson for a well earned dinner.