Last week I enjoyed the heck out of the cream-cheese-powdery turns on Teton Pass. But I’m done writing Excursion columns, for this winter at least, about skiing.
In no particular order, here are the three hikes I’m most looking forward to doing again this summer.
White Rock, Wind River Mountains
Distance: About 14 miles and 4,000 vertical feet of climbing
Start: The Green River Lakes Trailhead
White Rock Peak is more an 11,000-foot ridge with a spectacular summit nubbin than a true peak, but the views from it are amazing and worth the 2,000-ish feet of bushwhacking.
From the Green River Lakes Trailhead start up the Highline Trail, which skirts around and above the eastern shore of the lower Green River Lake for a couple of miles. At the far end of the lake a trail splits and heads up Clear Creek Canyon. Take that trail and stay on it for about 1 mile, where there’s another marked fork. Take the trail for Slide Lake.
After a substantial bridge across Clear Creek, the trail passes into a perpetually boggy area. The only relief from it comes when the trail begins to switchback up a hillside to Slide Lake. A couple of miles up you’ll pass Slide Creek Falls, which is several hundred feet long and, rather than free falling, cascades down a 25-degree rock face. Mother Nature’s waterslide.
After climbing switchbacks for about 800 feet you come to a large meadow that the trail skirts the northeastern side of. The bushwhacking starts at the far end of the meadow. You should be able to string together open slopes almost all the way to the ridgetop. When I last went several years ago there was an unavoidable section of avalanche debris, but otherwise the bushwhacking was easy.
From the top of the ridge, you look down on the Green River, which doesn’t look real. It’s a milky, electric pale green. The ridge’s 11,284-highpoint is at its south end and worth the extra bit of walking; from it you can see Gannett and a bunch of other big, glaciated peaks I don’t know the names of. Square Top is also right there. To the north Flat Top Mountain looks much more impressive than it does from below.
Distance: 20 miles and 5,000 vertical feet
Start: Daly Creek trailhead outside West Yellowstone, Montana.
The 20-mile Sky Rim hike is the most alpine-y hike I’ve found in Yellowstone. The ridge, which stretches between Daly Pass and Big Horn Peak, is the northwestern boundary of Yellowstone, and, according to the book “Hiking Montana,” it was part of the last bit of land added to the park in 1927.
This lollipop loop hike can be done in either direction; I’ve always done the direction that has me go up Daly Pass rather than down.
The first several miles are meadow hiking and nothing spectacular. And the last 6-ish miles are in the forest. The heart of the hike is the undulating 7-mile ridge between the two. From Daly Pass, it’s less than a mile to the ridge, where one of the first things you’ll see is a trail sign with two Sky Rims heading in opposite directions. One of the Sky Rims heads north into the Buffalo Horn area of the Gallatin National Forest. The second heads southeast and stays just inside Yellowstone. You want the second one, which is a right at the junction.
Once on the ridge, you have to do a little route-finding, but it’s not difficult since the goal is to stay on the ridge and the ridge is rarely wider than 200 feet. Stay on the ridge and you will not get lost.
Hiking the ridge you have 360-degree views. You can see the Gallatin Range, the Absarokas and even The Sphinx in the Madison Range. You cannot see the Tetons.
The 9,888-foot summit of Big Horn Peak isn’t technically part of the Sky Rim, but the 0.3 mile detour to it is worth the effort. The section of trail is literally carved from the peak’s crumbly, cliffy side.
Get back to your car via the Black Butte Creek Trail. After about 6 miles, take the Black Butte Cutoff Trail to get you back to Daly Creek. You’ll hit the trail you took in 2 miles from the trailhead parking lot.
Distance: 13.2 miles and 4,100 vertical feet
Start: Teton Canyon Campground
I hope to do this hike with my mom this fall. When I wrote the book “Best Easy Day Hikes in Jackson Hole” a couple of years ago, she was my main proofreader. Included in her notes to me was: “Table Mountain sounds like a great hike. Do you think I could do it?” My response? “Yes, with some training.” So, this fall.
Table Mountain is not an easy hike, but it is the easiest hike that takes you to the summit of a major peak in the Tetons.
The North Fork of Teton Canyon Trail does not start gently. It begins climbing directly from the parking lot. Every so often it gives you a mellow section— often a wildflower-covered meadow — but climbing is generally the rule.
About 4 miles from the parking lot the trail deposits you into an expansive cirque from which you get your first views of Table Mountain, which is almost directly in front of you. Since the geography directly in front of you is steep and snaggly and loose, the trail heads south to switchback up a grassy hillside. The climb up this hillside to Table Mountain’s summit ridge is about 1,100 feet.
Once on the ridge it’s about 1.7 miles and 1,200 vertical feet to the summit, where there are 360-degree views that include the Grand, Middle and South Tetons, Hurricane Pass, Alaska Basin and Cascade Canyon. The views are among the best in the range.