Jenny Lake and Hidden Falls Hike
Jenny Lake is, in many aspects, the center of activity for Grand Tetons National Park. The lake itself is over 1100 acres and is nestled at an altitude of 6,000 feet above sea level amongst the gorgeous snow-capped peaks of the Tetons. It is located at the foot of what is called the Cascade Canyon.
We arrived at Jenny Lake around lunchtime and bought a bag of chips, loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter for an inexpensive picnic lunch. There are multiple trails that go from the General Store and Ranger Station area and there are picnic tables on a few of them (Ask the nearest Park Ranger and they’ll point out which is closest…or most likely to be vacant!).
The area around the lake is beautiful. We were there in late June and the crowd level was moderate, so I could only imagine that the peak summer crowds would be much higher.
Our family wanted to get over to see Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, and we had 2 options: One, we could hike the 2+ miles around the lake; or Two, we could take the shuttle boat across the lake. We chose the boat ride and had a great time! The shuttle boat prices were reasonable (Approx. $10/adult and $5/child); You get a tremendous view crossing the lake along with a tour guide; And you save an hour or two of time, if you’re pressed for time and trying to see as much of the park as you can.
The hike from the shuttle boat dock to Hidden Falls was a leisurely ½ mile. The only challenging part came with the mud (from snow melting), but even that was manageable.
We stopped short of Inspiration Peak due to the snow. It was quite funny to have started the day with the air conditioning on in the mini-van and just an hour later, the boys were throwing snowballs at each other with Hidden Falls in the background!
One thing that I love about National Park vacations are the stories you pick up from Park Rangers and tour guides. Jenny Lake’s namesake is Jenny Leigh, Shoshone wife of Beaver Dick Leigh, famous pioneer and first ‘white man’ to permanently set up his residency in the Jackson Hole area (1862). Beaver Dick, Jenny, and their four children spent many hard years in the Tetons working as trappers and guides for survey groups that came to the area. Tragically Jenny and the children were lost to smallpox during Christmas week in 1876. Beaver Dick lived on in the region until his death in 1899. Hard to fathom what a rugged and tough group our early American western pioneers were.
I’m really glad that our family saw the Jenny Lake area, took the shuttle boat tour, and did that short hike up to see Hidden Falls. It was a highlight of the Tetons trip. If you find yourself with an extra hour as you depart this area, ask a ranger for directions to Moose-Wilson Road. We took a ride with the hopes to see a moose (the one animal that alluded us)…yet we ended up seeing a gray wolf and several elk. This is a great park for wildlife spotting…so build some time in your schedule to take some excursions to see what’s out there!