The hike up Cascade Canyon underneath the Grand Teton to pretty Lake Solitude is probably one of the most popular hikes in the country. Allen and I had hoped to hike the 14 plus miles to this lake in September of 1998, but that got rained out. We returned in July of 1999 and did the hike in preperation for the day hike of Mount Whitney the following month.
Unlike the first time when we stayed in the lonely town of Driggs, this time we opted for Jackson as there was a lot more to do there in case we got rained on again. Staying in a hotel room with only five channels and only a handful of remotely interesting stores just didn't do it for us the first time. After driving from Salt Lake to Jackson, we rested for the night in preperation for the early start the next morning. We caught the first shuttle boat across Jenny Lake (saving two more miles of hiking in each direction). This costs a couple of dollars, but is well-worth it. The boat ride was very pretty with the Tetons towering overhead as we closed in on the narrow Cascade Canyon. We left the boat and hiked the easy first mile past a large waterfall and then past an overlook. Beyond this point, the number of hikers dropped considerably.
From here, the trail stays nearly level for three full miles to a split. Much of the trail is beside the stream flowing down the canyon, and to the south you'll see the towering peaks of Teewinot, Owen and the Grand Teton. To the north, Mount St. John is equally rugged if not quite as tall. There are warning signs abound for grizzly bears, but with the popularity of this trail, a confrontation seems unlikely. We finally reached the split, where it is about another three miles to Lake Solitude. We could see that there was still a lot of snow on the peaks and it looked like the upper valley was also quite snowy. The route south leads eventually to Hurricane Pass, which looks like a very pretty hike also. We crossed a bridge and followed the trail up towards the lake. Soon, we were in patches of snow, and then in solid snow. The snow steepened just before reaching the lake, and a couple of hikers from the midwest were here resting apparently struggling with the altitude. The lake was still almost entirely frozen over as we had expected.
The scenery was excellent. To the south the Grand Teton stands out, with lower Owen, and even lower Teewinot to it's left (east). It looked like it was still winter up here! A track was evident leading to a pass that drops into ??? canyon making a good loop hike if you've got a car shuttle. Cornices hung from the nearby peaks, and tiny cracks could be seen in the lake, but it was still weeks before it would look like a normal lake. We found some rocks jutting out of the snow and rested for 45 minutes eating lunch and enjoying the scenery. The trip down the snow was easy, just being careful not to slip into the protruding rocks, and before long we were back at the trail junction. By now the effects of the long hike were starting to hit me, and the long, flat three mile walk out seemed to take forever. Even worse was arriving back at the dock and having to wait quite some time in a line to get on a shuttle back to the parking lot. We did meet a friendly family from Tampa who was on a multi-week trip (by car) through the west.
We spent the last day of our trip driving to a few of the scenic views along the road in the park before heading home (about a four hour drive). It was an excellent trip and one I would love to do again, but later in the year when I know the lake is not frozen over. Nearby Table Mountain is another peak high on my "wish list" that I hope to climb in the next year or two. Hikes up Garnet Canyon and Surprise/Amphitheatre Lakes are also high up on my list of future trips.