Hike Paintbrush Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, WY

Updated: Mar 16


Grand Teton National Park is located only 10 miles south of Yellowstone so it would have been crazy not to spend some time there during our trip to Wyoming. We only stayed for 2 days ... but better a short stay than not at all!


Grand Teton National Park is named for Grand Teton, the tallest mountain (13,775 feet) in the 40-mile long Teton Range. One reason the Tetons are so famous is because of the dramatic elevation gain visible from the eastern side. The mountains rise sharply from 5,000 to 7,000 feet (1,500–2,100 m) above the valley floor. Unlike most mountain ranges, the east side of the Teton Range lacks significant foothills or lower peaks which might obscure the view.

Paintbrush Canyon - Cascade Canyon Loop

No cliff hanger story here.... fast forward 3+ hours from the start of the hike. We ran into 3 to 8 inches of recent snowfall after entering upper Paintbrush Canyon. The snow really slowed us down and worse yet, as we continued, the trail markings were often limited to a single set of foot prints in front of us. The pictures tell the rest of the story. The trail starts by following the shoreline of String Lake. Beautiful way to begin the day.


Not the best welcoming sign at the trailhead but better to be prepared. We were as ready as possible having already purchased bear spray cannisters and bear bells.

What incredible views right from the start.

It was a typical forest/alpine trail at the start.

We were climbing higher and the views were improving.

After about 3 miles we lost the pine forest and reached a long stretch of huckleberry bushes, a great 'bear treat'. Time to make some noise and shake those bear bells

At this point we entered the mouth of Paintbrush Canyon and using the zoom lens, we got some nice pictures of the mountains ringing the canyon and saw the first sign of snow on the trail.

Further into the canyon, the trail passed through a large boulder field. Although it was a fairly strenuous section, it was a nice change of pace from the alpine and meadow trail.

Random streams crossed the path as we climbed further into the canyon. Of course that meant slippery terrain.

As we scrambled through the boulder field, we had incredible views looking back at Leigh Lake and Jackson Lake. These views were the energy charge that we needed.

The views got better BUT the snow got deeper. What had started as just enough snow to cover the toes of our boots quickly became ankle deep.

Higher AND deeper. But shortly after we passed the trail for Holly Lake, the multiple sets of foot prints became a single set foot prints. So now it was a combination of altitude, snow and a single set of foot prints impacting us.


The amazing views drove us to continue... at least for the time being.

A short video of the hike to this point.

About 6.5 miles into the hike, as we faced these impressive views, we came to the conclusion that too many factors were working against us to safely completing the hike.

Disappointed but still proud of how hard we had worked to get to the upper canyon (6.5 miles; an altitude of over 9500 feet; and an elevation gain of approximately 2600 feet). Not a bad spot for lunch and a selfie.

Hiking back down, we took a side trail to Holly Lake, a beautiful glacial lake.

We had given it our best but had made the right decision to turn around. Conditions would have only gotten worse.

You know it's an amazing environment when you want to take pictures on the return.

Back to walking along the shore of the lake. Almost back to the trailhead.

Back at the car and ready for a beverage of choice in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Once again we end the hike with a full cannister.


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