Backpacking North Fork Trail via Cascade Canyon

If you would like to read my entire Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park road trip blog, here is the link.

Since the snow this year was crazy I carried all mountaineering gear including my shovel. My pack easily weighed around 45-50lbs. I started at around 9.45 not a super early start by any means but the hike was going to be around 9 miles so I figured I would be fine.

The initial half hour was devoid of any snow but then it started showing up, I had to be really careful about not post holing but once in a while I did sink up to my knees. So it was really slow going, I didn’t take the higher hidden falls trail and after couple of hours I was at the hidden falls. From here the trail goes into the canyon and so far following it wasn’t a problem.

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point

I got to inspiration point and beyond it there was no obvious sign of the trail. I got little worried but then looking around I saw footsteps going into the canyon so I followed them. It was tricky following them but I knew the general direction I was headed into so wasn’t worried.

Some Footsteps

At one time I did think of turning back but the canyon was really narrow and it has a stream flowing so as long as I stayed to the right of it I would be fine. Soon enough it seemed that the footsteps I was following were leading up a couloir so I decided to make my own path.

I had the entire trail programmed into my Garmin Fenix but the trail was entire loop and I needed to start it from first point so it was kind of useless.

After an hour or so I thought to myself the worst case scenario would be that I would have to camp somewhere in middle and since there was snow everywhere it wouldn’t matter but I was seeing signs of trail here and there so I carried on. It also helped that the stream was there so I could not go far from the trail in this narrow canyon. There was a reason I decided to hike this in such conditions the navigation was relatively straightforward. There was a trail underneath all the snow and I was never far from it.

Keeping the stream to left

As I got deeper into canyon it started to get wider and I was slowly getting unsure of the trail. My GPS was now showing the way points that I had saved but the scale was not enough for me to use them but luckily for me I came across very obvious set of tracks and so I decided to follow them.

These set of tracks led me over a bridge and to a cabin, later I found that this bridge indicated start of north fork trail but then I had no clue about the south fork.

Bridge

The cabin seemed deserted although I had no interest in finding out whether it was occupied or not. The tracks stopped little further away from the cabin and at this point again I had no idea where I was. Seemed like I was on the north fork trail but in that case where would the south fork be and how do I get there or my second night of camping.

I decided to continue further north and it seemed like I had definitely hiked lot more than I should have to be in the camping zone. It was around 5 at this time so I better established campsite before the weather got worse it certainly didn’t seem like improving.

I wanted to camp at spot which would give me great views of the Tetons but it was little exposed and I didn’t think the weather would cooperate for some night photography so I decided to head back and camp at a similar spot which was lower and protected. If I wanted to do some night photography I had to hike for 2 minutes and I would get some nice views.

View of Tetons

The smart ass in me decided to make a platform for the tent and started to dig it out but it seemed another n exercise in futility so that plan was quickly abandoned and I used that for kitchen and pitched the tent at other spot which was somewhat level. I did dig a hole for the vestibule so taking off and putting my boots would be convenient.

I had to hurry and make dinner quickly since the weather was turning for the worse and sure enough as I finished dinner it started raining with some hail. I got back into the tent and called it a night.

Even though I wasn’t expecting any bears given the conditions I made sure that I kept food and all the smelly things outside. I thought about staying at this site for the second night instead of going to south fork but I wasn’t sure if weather would be good and if I had to do cooking inside my vestibule because of that I didn’t want to attract any bears. Small chance but why take it.

All night long I could hear raindrops along with some crackling sound which couldn’t quite figure out. I somehow got decent sleep and it wasn’t surprising since I was spent.

Next day morning I was hoping for clear blue skies and it seemed like for change my wish would be granted and I thought about staying another night here to see if conditions improved. I really wanted to take that shot of Tetons in glow of sunset.

It didn’t seem worth the gamble so I decided to pack it up and head back.

Heading back was lot easier since I had my own footsteps to follow but again there were times when I managed to loose them. I wanted to take mg own time hiking out but the weather was starting to get worse again there was little bit of snow and the canyon was starting to get socked in and if I didn’t hurry I was going to be in white out conditions. It felt like the mountain was asking me to gtfo and as I was leaving there was a white dense fog behind me.

Cloud cover moving in.

I had ski tracks to follow now but they didn’t lead me to inspiration point and they led me north side of jenny lake which wasn’t right so I decided to make my own tracks since I knew the direction in which I was supposed to go and soon enough I reached jenny lake dock which was nice and I chilled there for a bit. A Fox came by to say hello but I think he was more interested in the squirrel than me. He didn’t linger long enough for a photo opportunity either.

Relaxing at Jenny Lake Dock

I continued on some footsteps around the lake but soon came to a dead end and if I wanted to get back on trail I had to cross a log bridge which wasn’t in good shape so I went back to finding the right trail which didn’t take that long. It was now a matter of getting back to the car, which wouldn’t be for another couple of hours. Along the way I met with lot more folks, which was surprising since I just met one person on the way in.

Tricky Bridge

I was in hurry to get back to the campground so that I could grab a campsite before it got full and I was there by 2 pm or so. I was planning on staying there for couple of days and then spend another two at Yellowstone. I really wanted to camp at amphitheater lake but after this backpacking experience I decided that it wasn’t the best idea.

I would love to come back and do the entire Teton Crest trail and i am seriously considering doing in Mid September this year. Though I have to say some company would be great, If you are interested hit me up.

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