Monday, November 5, 2012

Taggart Lake Trail in Grand Teton National Park

         Clouds cap the peaks and a sprinkling of snow clings to the crags and folds of the Grand Teton skyline this morning.  Driving north from Jackson Hole, mountains dominate the view from Moose Junction at the park’s south entrance. 

The snow-cloaked Tetons, sporting their cloud caps.

Our first stop today is the Craig Thomas Visitor and Discovery Center—a $21.6 million, 22,000 square foot facility, opened in 2007.  What an atrocity!  The building is cold, forbidding and impersonal.  It’s U-shaped fortress surrounds a most unwelcoming concrete plaza.   The visitor center’s website proclaims: “...a captivating interior persuades visitors to stay inside”.  Really?  I didn’t want to spend any time inside the cavernous, not captivating, structure; I didn’t want to view the exhibits, I didn’t want to browse the gift shop, I just wanted to get out.   And so that’s what we did.  
          We drive three miles up the road and find the Taggart Lake trailhead parking area; a few other cars are there, as is a group of horses from nearby Gros Ventre ranch, standing by their trailers and waiting to be saddled.  Will they be sharing our trail?

        The trail takes off to the west, the first quarter mile in open country.  The path crosses a cascading waterfall and follows the stream before heading into thick woods.  We last hiked this trail ten years after the 1988 Yellowstone wildfires.  Although those disastrous fires had minimal impact in the Tetons, the last half mile of trail was surrounded by burned trees and parched vegetation.  Today, 14 years after our last visit and 24 years after the fires, many of the dead trees have fallen and the once shrubby young pines have grown 10-12 feet tall.  

Strolling down Taggart Lake Trail on a bright blue October morning.

         We arrive at Taggart Lake and crawl over a pile of tree trunks, scattered like pick-up-sticks on the shoreline.  We gaze at the reflection of 13,000 ft. peaks on the water’s surface, a splendid reward for this short hike.

Logs tossed on the shoreline create an obstacle course to the lake.

Looking for a hand-out, or for shade?  These chipmunks take a break
next to, and under, Tim's hat.

Taggart Lake.

         Our solitude is broken by horses snorting and people laughing.  It’s the group from the ranch, clip-clopping across the bridge spanning the lake’s southern end.  We wave hello to the happy riders as they pass, then begin the return hike to the trailhead.  
         Whether on horseback or on foot, my advice is to skip the Craig Thomas Visitor Center and head directly to Taggart Lake Trail, a worthy destination for day-tripping in Grand Teton National Park.  


         Journey along with us next week, as we view wildlife in and around the Grand Tetons.


  1. Taggart Lake is, well something that could best be described as stunning, perhaps even ultra-stunning!

    It really strikes home to read your description about how those once shrubby young pines grew 10-12 feet tall since your visit in 1988. I witness this rapid growth (or healing power of Mother Nature) as part of my duties as a trail maintainer. It's a constant scuffle with Ma Nature as she attempts to fill in the hiking trail corridors with new growth from the surrounding trees and bushes. Once a trail is abandoned for whatever reason (re-routing, etc), it doesn't take her long to reclaim the corridor and "redecorate" in a manner of her choosing!

    Thanks Rita for another interesting and entertaining report!


    1. It's great the way nature tries to reclaim the scars inflicted upon the landscape—even when those "scars" are the trails which allow us to enjoy the natural world!

      I'm happy to report the Yellowstone ecosystem is on the rebound; it's being "redecorated" as we speak (write).

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Hi Rita,

    Glad you made your escape from the concrete jungle into the Grand Teton wilderness!

    I'm so happy you had such a clear day for your trip to Taggart Lake - the views of the peaks reflected in the water are gorgeous! What was the temperature like? Did you guys do any camping in this park?

    So nice to hear that the trees are coming back after the fire and that folks are still trail riding in a spectacular wilderness area. Looking forward to your next installment in this series.

    1. Hi Vickie,

      The day of the Taggart Lake hike was the only clear-sky day we had in the Tetons and the mountain views were stunning. Temperatures were warmer than average; although the early mornings were below freezing, we were hiking without jackets by the afternoons.

      The campgrounds in the Tetons are all closed by late October, so no camping on this trip. We stayed at an Inn in downtown Jackson. The location was excellent, within walking distance of several fine restaurants.

      I agree that it's wonderful to see horses on the trails; it's a great way to experience the wilderness.

      I appreciate your comments!

  3. Hi Rita

    The waters of the lake are so clear and still

    Could sit for hours, watching the liquid mirror!

    Wonder how it looks in a moonlit night

  4. Hi Manikchand,

    I think the lake would look splendid on a moonlit night. As far as I know there are no designated campsites on this lake; however an evening walk on a full-moon summer night is probably doable on this well-worn trail.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!