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Moose Lake - Moose Creek Trail

Moose CreekMoose Creek Trail starts just east of Victor Idaho, it is one of the starting points for the Teton Crest Trail that leads into the heart of the Grand Teton Mountain Range. The Grand Tetonês, Moose Creek Trail, is entirely within the Jedediah Smith Wilderness in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The Jedediah Smith Wilderness encompasses the western flank of The Grand Teton Mountains. I was told that it was 7 miles to Moose Lake, but I bet that it is at least 8.5 miles.

The first couple of miles are pretty, boreal forest; of the northwest face of Taylor Mountain but you canêt see much because of the trees. After the trail crosses the Moose Creek, you break into the open as the south east facing slopes are more open but still for the first few miles all you see is steep canyon of a nondescript nature.

Moose CreekAbout 4 miles up there is a low volume waterfall on the opposite canyon wall. A short way past the waterfall you get to an area of many beaver ponds and above that the creek slows to what appeared to be some inviting fishing water.

fAfter about 5 miles you get to Moose Meadows where the canyon opens up a bit and a draw from the east provides a junction with the Coal Creek Trail which loops back to highway 22 several miles east of the Moose Creek Trail head. Moose Meadows is a flatter area that is largely choked with willow.

At the end of Moose Meadow the trail starts to climb in earnest you cross Moose Creek again, and when I went through, there had been a blow down with many huge trees blocking the trail and route finding with a horse was trying. After a short way you enter the sub alpine region, and this is where the typical Teton region scenery that has been in short supply until now starts paying dividends. Instead of seeing nothing but trees and canyon walls you start to see the peaks of this majestic range. The sub alpine regions of our area are my favorites because the trees are in clumps surrounded by high alpine meadows which provide constant views of the towering peaks.

Shortly after entering this sub alpine region you reach Moose Falls which cascades through a narrow slot on the canyon bottom, Moose Falls is a turnaround point for many.

upper Moose CreekAbove Moose Falls you enter some wide open terrain that treats you to the glacial nature of Moose Creek Canyon, and here the trail splits, here you can continue to the right along the Teton Crest Trail to Grand Teton National Park, a short distance away or turn to the left to continue to Moose Lake.

Moose Creek BasinShortly after the trail split I start guessing which hump is the glacial morainal dam that holds back Moose Lake and as usual I am wrong, and would continue to be wrong repeatedly. The canyon turns to the left revealing some beautiful high country and several more wrong guesses. The lake surely must be at the base of that big cliff, but it wasnêt which could only mean that it was on top of it. I have found that it is good to be warned when a destination offers up false promises before the destination is reached, it keeps down disappointment.

Moose LakeArriving at Moose Lake is a treat; it is barely below the crest to the mountains near tree line. Moose Lake was planted with fish years ago, but with nowhere to spawn all that is left in the lake is a few giant geriatric fish that are tough to catch but are worth the effort. Considering that there are few fish left there it is recommended to put back what you catch to perpetuate the fun for all who try.

Moose LakeOn the trip, back I was treated to an encounter with four moose at the beaver ponds that put my horse on edge as the moose split up providing several separate encounters by the trail. They werenêt aggressive, but they sure can put a young horse on edge.

Once away from the vicinity of the trailhead I found Moose Creek Trail to be quite solitary for a July weekend in the Tetons. I only encountered one group of backpackers the entire day and I had the lake to myself.

The high alpine meadows of Moose Creek provide prolific wild flower displays in the summer months starting with the balsamroot in early June. Many high mountain meadows contain little grass, but many tall perennials such as cow parsnip, penstemon, lupine, monkshood, and western coneflower.

Big Horn Sheep LambThe Grand Teton Mountains are home to elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bear, wolves, mountain lion and many other species. The Moose Creek sheep grazing allotment has been purchased from the lessee and retired. The permanent retirement of the Moose Creek grazing allotment may improve habitat for a wide range of wildlife species, including grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, wolves, moose, black bears, mountain lions, and wolverines. The Moose Creek drainage provides outstanding bighorn sheep habitat, and bighorn sheep will directly benefit by the removal of diseases carried by domestic sheep, which have long decimated local bighorn sheep populations. Increased habitat will benefit bighorn sheep populations throughout the Teton Mountain Range. The lower portion of Moose Creek provides important winter range for elk, moose, and mule deer, while the upper portion provides significant wintering habitat for bighorn sheep. The Moose Creek area also supports some of the highest densities of moose in Wyoming. The buyout of the Moose Creek grazing allotment was completed in 2003.

Grizzly sow  and three cubsGrizzlies have been expanding their range in the Tetons from north to south, and the grazing closure, and subsequent natural rehabilitation of the area will substantially increase the habitat available to the great bear. When traveling here carry pepper spray or gun as I have encountered grizzlies south of here in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area, where there are not supposed to be any, so be prepared.



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