Turquoise Lake
horseback rider Teton View
Scott Hunter on Goodwin Lake Trail, the Grand Tetons are in the background

Turquoise Lake is an alpine gem in the middle of the Gros Ventre Wilderness and there are many ways to get there but the most expeditious one is via the Goodwin Lake Trail. This access facilitates a 2,000-foot elevation head start over most others by virtue of its 8,000-foot trailhead.

From the trailhead on the east side of Jackson Hole (Jackson¡s Valley) high on Jackson Peak on the opposite side but in full view of the Grand Teton Mountain Range the trail starts through boreal forest interspersed by ample meadow. After about a mile of moderate uphill hiking you get to a ridge where the trail turns south and is perched on the spine of a ridge with a steep drop off into Sheep Creek on the left and Jackson Hole to the right. Here the trail is largely in the woods with very little meadow revealing views in the direction of the Tetons but plenty of Sheep Creek¡s chasm and Table Mountain, Sheep Creek and Goodwin Lake's eastern sentinel. About halfway up the ridge you cross the Gros Ventre Wilderness Boundary.

horseback riders Goodwin Lake
Daryl Hunter and son Scott at Goodwin Lake in the Gros Ventre Wilderness

About 2.5 miles from the trailhead you come to Goodwin Lake which is at the base of a steep flank of Jackson Peak on the west and in the distance to the east is a much larger escarpment of rock, Table Mountain.

Goodwin Lake is populated with abundant cutthroat trout (mostly small) that are eager to come up to visit their fisherman guests who usually return them to their watery home.

Don't expect much solitude on this first section of trail to Goodwin Lake, as it is it is abundantly populated with smiling and largely friendly people reaping the rewards of a high alpine cirque with a minimum expenditure of effort.

Cache Peak
Scott Hunter looking into the Granite Creek Drainage

Climbing out of the cirque that hosts Goodwin Lake you enter sub alpine terrain with fewer trees and a lot more meadows revealing awesome views in every direction. A short ways past the lake you come to the Sheep Creek/Flat Creek divide. From here you get some great views of Cache Peak and the escarpment that extends to the north that forms the east side of Flat Creek Drainage, for the next 2.5 miles you go up and down the ridges and benches of the upper reaches of the Flat Creek drainage all the while traveling in the open meadows and small groves of trees of this gorgeous sub alpine region.

Cache Peak Bridger Teton National Forest
Gros Peak in the Bridger Teton National Forest

Near the base of Cache Peak you come to the junction of Cache Peak Trail, here the Goodwin Lake Trail (#3016) ends and you continue on Jackson Peak Trail (#3018). A right turn on Jackson Peak Trail can loop you back to Jackson via Cache Creek Trail (#3003). Go left on Cache Peak Trail and a half-mile up Flat Creek Trail (#3015) branches to the north. Another mile or two brings you to the Granite Creek Divide and along the way you are treated to the cliff faces of Cache Peak¡s north side and just before you crest the divide the Tetons come into view to the northwest. When I view the Tetons from some distant mountain range I always appreciate them for being the magnet for the masses leaving the surrounding mountain ranges for the solitude seekers.

Grand Tetons from Gros Ventre Wilderness
Scott Hunter high in the Gros Ventre Wilderness

The divide reveals the heart of the Gros Venture Wilderness, the peaks of West Crystal to the east, the peaks of Packsaddle Pass and Antoinette Peak can be seen far to the southeast, to the south is Gros Peak and to the south of it you see Pinnacle Peak. There is an impressive escarpment going off the north side of Gros Peak that seems to speak of millions of years of geological history. At the western base of this escarpment and at the northern base of Gros Peak Turquoise Lake lies hidden from this vantage point at the divide.

Brian Berny riding along the shore of Turquoise Lake

Dropping down from the divide you soon come to a spur trail (#3113) that takes you the last half-mile to Turquoise Lake.

Turquoise Lake, the prize of many backcountry hikers and horsemen, lies behind a glacial moraine in a cirque at the foot of Gros Peak at about 9,640-feet above sea level, its natural setting is a treat for the eyes and the fact that it is full of fish is just an added bonus.

Turquoise Lake at 9,500 feet in the Gros Ventre Mountain Range.

The Goodwin Lake Trail is the most expedient way of reaching Turquoise Lake but there are several different ways of reaching it. You can come up from the Granite Creek Trailhead for a 12-mile trip. Flat Creek Trailhead or the Cache Creek Trailhead, I came up once through the Horse Creek Drainage.

Getting there

Drive east on Broadway out of Jackson on the Elk Refuge Road about five miles until you see a well-used road turning right into Curtis Canyon. Follow this rough dirt road, at the only fork, take a right, and drive until it ends at the trailhead parking area. The last section of road past the fork is deeply rutted and those pulling horse trailers may want to park at the fork and ride the short distance to the trailhead.

Gros Peak Gros Ventre Wilderness


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