Jackson Hole is surrounded by four different mountain ranges, each with different characteristics but all littered with trails. There are so many trails that many of them that are unpopular are left poorly maintained but are accessible to those that seek more of a wilderness adventure. Whether you are training to beat the speed record up the Grand Teton or are a casual trail runner, Jackson Hole is a great training ground to meet your running goals.
Late spring through fall is the best time to run on dirt in the area although winter running is possible but not popular…try nordic skiing
This is the wild wild west. The weather can be extreme so check the forecast before you set off on a monster run.
Bring your favorite shoes. Mine are the Hoka One Torrents. We suggest at least having some decent tread for some of these trails. For the longer trails, extra water and a filter may be necessary. In addition, I bring one cliff bar for every hour I am out. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
There are a lot of options for trail running packs out there. The cost of these packs range from $200 – $20. So how do you know which one is for you? It all depends on what type of runner you are (ultra-marathon runner or ultra-fivemiler) and your build. So try them on before you buy. A good pack sits snug, molded to your upper-mid back, the straps do not sit on top or too close to sensitive parts such as the nipples, and does not shift while in movement. If interested in longer 20 mile plus runs, having enough room for food and an extra layer may be necessary. My personal pack is a $20 Outdoor Product from Target and has done just fine so far.
Under 10 miles
Hagens to Putt Putt Loop, Cache Creek 6 miles 830 ft gain
This is a perfect run for hill training. Most of the uphill climbs are a mellow grade and short giving you the confidence to run this entire loop without needing to stop. Although there is one very steep climb halfway up Hagens trail, an added challenge. This is also a very popular mountain biking trail, so stay alert. Park at Cache Creek.
Phelps Lake Loop, Grand Teton National Park 6.5 miles 1,090 ft gained
A mellow trail with a few short uphill sections. Wildlife such as bear and moose are very active around the lake so stay alert. Start at the Rockefeller Preserve.
Sink or Swim, Summit to Josie’s Ridge Loop, Snowking 5.5 miles 2,071 ft gain
An aggressive quick run with approximately 2000 feet of elevation gain. Start on Linda’s Trail near Russ Garaman Park. Keep trending east on Linda’s until at the junction of Sink or Swim. Run east on Sink or Swim across the ski hill to the summit trail. The summit trail is exceptionally steep for running, but an added challenge if in shape. Once at the top of the summit chair lift. Follow the trail that follows the ridge line trending west. A fun amount of elevation is lost until on Josie’s Ridge. Here it become’s steep down to where you started.
Under 20 miles
Jackson Peak 10.3 miles 2,641 ft gain
There’s something special about the challenge of bagging a peak on a run. Its not the Grand Teton, but its a start in the right direction. Jackson Peak is located in Gros Ventre range. One of the closer mountains to the valley, you can see its north face as it looms just right to Curtis Canyon. To get to the trailhead, take the Elk Refuge road to Curtis Canyon. A few miles up Curtis Canyon, take a right at the first fork. The road is in very poor condition so high clearance and 4-wheel drive is recommended. The trailhead to Goodwin Lake is at the very end of this road. The trail switchbacks up to a ridge line which continues to gain elevation until you reach Goodwin Lake. At the other end of Goodwin Lake the trail then steepens again and then to a mellow grade until the saddle between a giant basin and Jackson Peak to your right. Its only a short distance to Jackson Peak from here. Blast through the fatigue, grinding out the last few switchbacks to the top.
Granite Canyon to Tram Loop 13.4 miles 4,646 ft gain
This loop starts and ends in Teton Village. The trail heads north along the Valley Trail into Grand Teton National Park and gently climbs 4,646 feet over 13.4 miles up granite canyon to the top of the Tram. The tram is free to take down, but be sure to start early enough to make the last tram down (5:00 or 5:30pm depending on season).
Snowking Skyline to Cache Creek Loop 17 miles 3,000 ft gain
With over 2500 feet of immediate elevation gain, be sure to stretch and warm up your legs before this one. Start up the switchbacking mountain biking trail just to the right of the summit chair at the base. Once on Sink of Swim, head east towards Hagens Highway and then up Farrins. Farrins gently switchbacks up the east flanks of Snowking to the saddle between the summit and the Skyline trail. Climb up the Skyline trail which follows the ridge line that gently descends down to the pass between Cache and Game creeks. Enjoy Cache Creek trail as it follows the creek down to the Cache Creek parking lot. Take Hagens trail via Hagens Highway back to the summit trail down to where you started.
Philips Ridge to Philips Canyon Loop 15.1 miles 2,311 ft gain
Philips Ridge gently rises from the northern reaches of Wilson to Teton Pass. Adjacent to the ridge line (NW) is Philips Canyon. To get to the trailhead, drive to the town of Wilson and then take Fish Creek Rd. north until you see a small parking lot on your right. The trailhead is across the road. The trail crosses the creek ascending into Phillips Canyon. Follow the signs for Phillips Ridge which crosses the forest service road and then gently switchbacks up following a single track mountain biking trail. Once near the top of Phillips ridge, take the trail Snowtel towards Phillips Canyon for a mile, then down Phillips Canyon.
Teton Pass to Tram: Teton Crest Trail 13.5 miles 4,000 ft gain
Although it would seem mellow, this run is an ass kicker. The trail consistently looses everything it gains and has a few long uphill sections. Though the views are quite nice the entirety of way. Leave a car at Teton Village and shuttle another to the parking lot at Phillips Ridge of Teton Pass. Another option is to take the StartBus from Teton Village to Stilson parking area (free) and then hitch a ride up the pass. Begin running towards ski lake. At the junction for Phillips Canyon, stay right towards the canyon. The trail descends quite a bit and then meets the junction for the Teton Crest trail. Run the long gentle uphill towards the crest. Once at the top, head north for a tougher long uphill section. The trail gains and loses elevation until a climb that reaches the top of the basin that holds Moose Lakes. At this point you are now in Grand Teton National Park. Follow the trail looking for the junction for top of Rendezvous Mountain. The last bit of the trail climbs hard up to the top of the ski resort. At the top you are rewarded with waffles at Corbet’s Cabin and a free ride down the Tram (last Tram at 5pm).
Cache Creek to Game Creek, Snowking 11.5 miles 1,270 ft gain
This is a mellow long run that gently climbs up Cache Creek and then descends down Game Creek. A shuttle or pick up is required. Leave a car or bike at Game Creek trailhead off the 189 just south of town and drive to the Cache Creek trailhead in east Jackson.
Under 30 miles
Cascade to Paintbrush Canyon Loop, Grand Teton National Park 20 miles 4000 ft gain
This is a popular run among the trail running community as well as a very popular hike among tourists. Most of the traffic is within the first two miles of Cascade Canyon so be polite when passing hikers. This is a tough run climbing up to almost 11,000 ft at Paintbrush pass. The run begins and ends on the southern end of Jenny Lake. You can eliminate four miles by taking boat across although it costs $20. Run up to the south north fork of cascade canyon and then to Solitude Lake. Through one long switchback, the trail ascends to the top of the pass. Be sure to take a few breaks to enjoy the views. The trail down Paintbrush Canyon is steeper than cascade so I prefer to climb up Cascade and down Paintbrush.
Gros Ventre Traverse: Goodwin Lake to Granite Creek 23.5 miles
This run takes a full day due to shuttling the cars to Granite Creek trailhead which is located in Hoback Canyon and then driving to the Goodwin Lake Trailhead which is located in Curtis Canyon. Be sure to pack a swim suite and towel for the Granite hot springs at the end. The trail gently climbs up a ridge line to Goodwin Lake and then steeply up into the Gros Ventre. Once at the junction for Jackson Peak, the mountain range opens up and the trail gently descends and rises until it sharply rises for the pass leading towards Granite Creek and Turquoise Lake. There is an option to go by Turquoise Lake which makes the run a mile longer. From here the trail gently descends down Granite Creek to your car at the trailhead and most importantly the hot springs.
Grand Teton Traverse: Teton Crest Trail 30 miles 3,838 ft gain
This is the crown jewel for most trail runners in Jackson Hole. Its a beast of a run, although the overall elevation gain is fairly mellow considering other runs. The true crest trail climbs up Granite Canyon (39 miles), but most runners will take the tram up in Teton Village. First, shuttle a vehicle to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park and then back to Teton Village. Start at the top of Rendezvous mountains (first tram is at 9am). The trail takes the backside of Rendezvous mountain into Grand Teton National Park loosing elevation quickly. Take the Middle Fork Cut Off towards the Death Canyon Shelf. The trail has a few ups and downs but stays relatively flat until you reach Alaska Basin. After dropping down into Alaska Basin, the climb begins. The trail climbs up out of the basin, past Sunset Lake and pushes to the top of Hurricane Pass. This is a very emotional section of the run as it is all downhill from here. Enter the south fork of Cascade Canyon down to the main fork and then around the south shore of Jenny Lake.
Getting in shape for running or alpine climbing
The boot pack ascends straight up the Exhibition ski run on Snowking mountain
Trails Managed by Friends of Pathways
Friends of Pathways, a private non-profit organization, focuses on our pathway system in Jackson Hole. In the winter, the organization regularly grooms trails open for Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, fat biking, and walking/running. Listed below are groomed trails:
- Cache Creek
- Game Creek
- Teton Pass Road
- The Dike
- Taggart Lake trail head to Signal Mountain
For more information on groomed trails and Friends of Pathways’s role in the community, visit http://friendsofpathways.org/
Elk Refuge Road
The Elk Refuge Road in east Jackson is maintained during winter providing a flat easy run through the Elk Refuge. Beware of wildlife. There are normally 3,000 to 5,000 elk, big horn sheep, and sometimes bison in the the refuge at this time.