July 2, 2020
We woke to sun streaming in the windows and it was cool enough out that Susan donned her puffy coat to step outside. But the air warmed quickly and by the time she finished her coffee she was ready to change into shorts.
After breakfast, we drove to a trailhead at Jenny Lake for a 10-mile loop hike around the lake plus an offshoot up to a waterfall and lookout.
The trailhead parking lot was very small and already full, so we parked at the nearby String Lake trailhead instead. This added a little distance to our hike but it was a worthwhile addition that went past a small lake and a rushing creek.
Jenny Lake is at the base of the Tetons and the first part of the trail shows off the mountains with the beautiful lake in the foreground.
It had rained the night before and parts of the trail were muddy but the going was easy in our hiking boots and the trail was almost completely empty, though we spotted a marmot a few feet from the trail.
About halfway around the lake the trail arrived at the Jenny Lake campground and visitor’s center, which were mobbed with people who’d just arrived at the park for the July Fourth weekend. It was odd to be at a noisy crowded place after several miles of solitude, but I took advantage of the good cell signal there and called my mom to wish her a happy birthday.
We couldn’t wait to get back on our serene trail. As it turned out, we were able to leave the area but not the hordes. Noisy families in flip flops and souvenir T-shirts heading to the falls and lookout now crowded the loop trail. Undoubtedly there’d be few additional animal sightings and greater need for face masks.
At about the halfway point from where we’d started on the loop, the trail began to parallel the mountains, which marched right down to the lake. Every clearing exposed a gorgeous view of the rugged and close-up Tetons, with snow halfway down their flanks.
Two and a half miles past the visitor’s center along the loop trail, the trail Y-ed at the offshoot to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The side trail immediately crossed a bridge over a rushing creek. We sat along the bank, enjoying the cooler air and a snack break.
The side trail was even more crowded because people who didn’t want to hike the 2½ mile section of the loop trail from the visitor’s center to the offshoot trail had paid $18 each way to ride a shuttle boat that deposited them near this location.
Hiking up the 600-feet in elevation side trail to Inspiration Point, we were a little worried because of the swelling number of people on the trail, so many that sometimes we had to pass them almost touching. Still, we soldered on to Inspiration Point, a rocky uphill slog part of which were steps cut right into the base of the mountain. Overweight adults and tired toddlers climbed along with fit teens and a handful of through hikers like us. Around every turn was another beautiful view, mostly populated by people taking group pictures and selfies.
It felt a little too Disney-like for us at Inspiration Point so after drinking in the closeup views of the mountains, we stopped briefly to admire Hidden Falls and then headed down to intersect the Jenny Lake loop trail we came in on.
At the point where the trail went by the shuttle boat landing a couple hundred people waited in line and blocked the trail—many who hiked to the offshoot trail apparently were now tired out and had decided to take the boat back. We wove our way past the crowd, happy to finally be away from the crowds as we headed back to the Jenny Lake loop trail.
Now that the trail was nearly empty, we saw another marmot near the trail as well as a bald eagle sitting at the top of a dead tree, surveying the lake. By the time we got to the end of the loop, we were starting to drag and both of us knew we had not had nearly enough caloric intake for the hike. My watch’s hiking app said I had used almost 2,700 calories so far.
Finally, back at the trailhead parking lot, we sat in the truck for a minute, then made our feet happy as we removed our hiking boots. The trail had given us stunning views and a worthy hike despite the crowds on the side trail. On the way back to the campground we already began planning our next hike. Our legs insisted that it should not be 10+ miles long.
That evening, we found the energy to take a dusk drive to look for wildlife. We were rewarded with deer, two antelope and a beaver but sadly, no bear. A sunset view of pink-toned snow on the mountains brought our day to a close.