Cascade and Paintbrush Canyon Loop Trail

 

Hidden Falls Cascade Canyon grand Teton National Park

The Paintbrush Divide trail makes up the first part of a great loop hike that carries you across the Divide (10,720 feet), passing Lake Solitude as it winds back down to the Cascade Canyon. It's best to go up the Paintbrush Canyon first because it allows turning around if the quicker if  ice/snow at the divide is a problem.  Also, it’s steeper which is more pleasant to go up than down, and gets the hard part over with while you are still fresh. A snowfield makes the trail a bit tricky as you cross the Divide until early August. After August it is easily traversed without an ice axe, trekking poles are always useful on extreme day hikes and make the small snow excursions even easier but it might not hunt to have an ice axe along if you go earlier than August.

In Cascade and Paintbrush Canyons you will see boulder fields and subalpine forests of fir, Engelmann Spruce, Limber and White Bark Pines; Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels, American Pikas, and Yellow-bellied Marmots may be seen in the area. Higher up you’ll find the alpine country, with its talus slopes, glaciers, and globe flowers, Glacier Lilies, and Alpine Forget-me-nots, the park flower.

Thunderstorms are common in the afternoon for most of the summer. For that reason, it's advisable to get an early start and try to cross the open divide by noon, the top of a mountain is not a place to be in a Teton thunderstorm.

Horseback Riders, Holly Lake, Cascade Paintbrush Trail, Grand Teton National Park
Holly Lake Paintbrush Canyon Grand Teton National Park

From the parking lot take the east side of the String Lake forest trail and cross the bridge between String and Leigh Lakes.  At 1.6 miles in you will turn right on the Paintbrush Canyon Trail and begin a moderate climb of 4.6 miles where you will pass Holly Lake.  

Along the way, the spectacular views of the steep canyon walls will frame the panoramic views below of Leigh and Jackson Lakes.  Small meadows contain many wildflowers including the Indian Paintbrush the namesake for the canyon,

Paintbrush Divide, elevation 10,645 ft, is 2.4 miles above Holly Lake.  The views from the pass are breath taking, Mt Moran to the north, and the rock needles of Cathedral Group to the south is a sight to behold.

The west side of the pass the trail winds down 2.4 miles and drops  1,700 foot of elevation and can be extremely dangerous early in the year due slow melting of the snow. You traverse broad switchbacks to reach Lake Solitude at elevation 9035 ft. Lake Solitude is a small alpine lake perched in the steep-walled basin forming the upper end of Cascade Canyon.  Lake Solitude is a beautiful spot to spend some time if you have any.

Lake Solitude high in the Grand Teton backcountry ofGrand Teton National Park

The trail from Lake Solitude down to the Cascade Canyon provides beautiful views of the Grand Teton and the surrounding mountains. From Lake Solitude, you'll walk 7.2 miles, dropping 2,250 ft. along the way to the bottom of Cascade Canyon. Heading down through this classic glacial valley provide views of Mt Owen (12,928 ft), the Grand Teton (13,770 ft), Teewinot Mountain (12,325 ft), are inspiring.   The trail gently drops through meadows, forest, and ponds while cascading streams flow from the canyon sides, this area is a great place to spot a moose, in August, wild raspberries and thimble berries grow.

Just before Inspiration Point overlooking Jenny lake, a trail to the left, not shown on some maps, will lead straight to the String Lake parking lot, bypassing the Jenny Lake boat dock and the most popular hiking destination spot in Grand Teton Park, Hidden Falls. However, many hikers and backpackers like to take the boat ride across Jenny Lake and spare themselves a couple miles of hiking.

If you choose to complete the loop by hiking the trail around the northwest shore of Jenny Lake that leads back to the String Lake parking area. This portion of the trail is gently rolling, and about 2 miles long. If you plan on taking the boat be sure to check to see how late the boat will be making pickups at Cascade Canyon before you start your hike.

Jenny Lake Grand Teton National Park

This 19 mile-hike, is up one neat steep canyon to a mountain divide, down to an alpine lake nestled with views of the three Tetons, then further down a stream-riveted canyon back to the beginning.  Not only is this the best scenery in the park, but also, this hike is one of the best rigorous day hike loops anywhere

This great hiking loop will take most experienced hikers about 7-10 hours, assuming acclimation to altitude and reasonable physical conditioning.   Plan, use caution, bring layered clothing, and get advanced information about snow/ice on the divide, thunderstorm activity, and bears. 

Note:  Both are rated 2-3 nights in most literature, but are possibly doable in one day for the person in the right mental and physical condition.

 

Cascade Paintbrush trail map

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