Snowshoe to Taggart Lake at the base of the Teton Range in Wyoming
Winter in Wyoming can be fairly harsh, but there are numerous activities available during the winter months for those willing to endure the frigid temperatures for some outdoor enjoyment.
One of my favorite outdoor activities is hiking. So, why not throw on some snowshoes and trek to the base of one of the most grandiose mountain ranges in North America?
Winter can be a popular time for travelers to flock to Wyoming to visit Grand Teton National Park. Snow and ice blanket the valleys, lakes freeze and snow caps each peak of the iconic Teton Range.
Winter months are some of the most favorable for wildlife viewing in Wyoming, as it is much easier to spot wildlife in the snowy landscapes than it might be during the warmer seasons of the year. Make sure you take some time to visit the National Elk Refuge to witness some of the wildlife that inhabit the area. Elk can be seen grazing in the valley, coyotes can be seen hunting their next meal, and bighorn sheep can be found seeking shelter behind the butte that runs along the Elk Refuge Road.
Driving along Highway 89 from Jackson also yields great opportunities to spot wildlife. Keep your eyes out for moose, which are often spotted along the road near the Moose Entrance Station. Bison are also often seen along the road in the valleys, especially between Blacktail Butte and the town of Kelly near the Gros Ventre Junction off of Highway 89.
Some visitors also choose to go skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or at nearby Teton Village. Others choose to spend their time nordic skiing along the many trails in the area.
Snowshoeing is one of the most popular winter activities, and gives visitors the opportunity to hike and visit areas of the park that are commonly inaccessible during the winter months secondary to road closures.
This blog post is going to focus on snowshoeing to Taggart Lake, which lies at the base of the Teton Range and offers up-close-and-personal views of the rocky peaks.
There are plentiful options for stores and locations in Jackson to rent winter gear you might need for your outdoor adventures. We were able to find affordable snowshoes to rent at Teton Mountaineering. The staff was very helpful with instruction on the use of equipment and even took time to educate us on many of the winter trails that are available in and around Jackson.
The following items are recommended for hiking during winter months:
Crampons or snowshoes, as needed
Hiking poles with snow baskets, as needed
Insulated waterproof hiking boots
Base-layer clothing such as long sleeve shirts
Mid-layer clothing such as a fleece jacket or pullover
Puffy insulated jackets or waterproof/windproof jackets with attached hoods
Waterproof gloves or mitts
Waterproof/windproof pants with full-length zippers along the side
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Headlamp with extra lithium batteries if hiking during dark hours
Personal first aid kit
Fire starting materials
Gear repair supplies
High energy snacks
Taggart Lake Trail Stats
Roundtrip Distance: 3.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: ~ 300 ft.
Trail Location: Taggart Lake Trailhead
Trailhead Elevation: ~ 6600 ft. above sea level
The route to the Taggart Lake Trailhead is a short 20-30 minute drive from Jackson along Highway 89 before turning onto Teton Park Road, a little over 2 miles past the Moose Entrance Station.
Teton Park Road is typically closed for the winter months starting in November, but leads directly to the Taggart Lake Trailhead. The parking lot for the trailhead is open all year long, making this a popular area during winter for outdoor enthusiasts. I recommend arriving early in the morning to guarantee yourself a parking spot, as it tends to fill up quickly.
We arrived to the Taggart Lake Trailhead to clear, but brisk conditions with the beauty of the Teton Range fully exposed. We were very lucky this day, because out of the four days we visited the park, this day was the only day the mountains were fully visible throughout the entire day. It is quite common for the view of the mountains to be obscured by clouds or snowstorms during the winter season, but don't let that discourage you. During our visit, the clouds seemed to dissipate towards the end of each day and produced beautiful sunsets each evening.
After admiring the beauty of the staggering Tetons, we began to prepare for our snowshoe adventure to Taggart Lake. You will most likely receive conflicting opinions on whether you need snowshoes versus crampons for this particular winter hike. I will tell you that we were pleased that we chose to rent snowshoes. Although the majority of the trail was appropriate for crampons, there were certain areas near the lake where we were forced to bear our snowshoes in order to the fully explore the lake and those areas off the beaten path.
The Taggart Lake Trail is well-maintained and groomed during winter, which made it easy to locate compared to other winter trails that I have hiked. When on the trail, it is important to be aware of which side is appropriate for snowshoeing and which is designated for nordic skiers. It is best to try to snowshoe parallel to the ski track and not walk on the track, in order to prevent disrupting the track for downhill skiers. During our hike, it was apparent which side was designated for each activity, so we continued to follow the trail and eventually came to the first split.
After about 0.1 mile into the trek, the trail split to the left, leading to Beaver Creek Trail. To continue on towards Taggart Lake, snowshoers should veer to the right.
We soon reached a footbridge over the frozen Taggart Creek, which during warmer months offers stunning views of the flowing creek below. Instead of cascading waterfalls, we were treated to mounds of snow, creating a winter landscape worth admiring.
Soon after crossing the footbridge, the trail began to gradually increase in elevation. This portion of the hike lead us through a forest of pine, fir and spruce trees.
Slightly over a mile from the trailhead, we arrived to the Bradley Lake Trail junction. The trail split once more towards Bradley Lake on the right, while the trail on the left lead to our destination of Taggart Lake.
At this point, the trail opened up and views of the Teton Range were in full effect, and the trail leveled out to a more even terrain. We continued walking for about another 0.5 mile until we finally reached the frozen shores of Taggart Lake.
After reaching the lake we took some time to enjoy the landscape, some snacks and a water break. It is common to see snowshoers and skiers making their way across the frozen lake in the winter, which isn't fully recommended but I can't say that I didn't do it either.
There are certain safety tips and precautions you must take into consideration before venturing onto a frozen body of water.
Snowshoeing to Taggart Lake was one of the highlights of our time in the Grand Teton National Park. The trail not only offers hikers remarkable views of the Teton Range, but also grants the opportunity to spend time in nature and to admire the great outdoors in one of the most natural and pure areas of North America.