In August 2017, we made our way from a summer in Oregon back to Athens, GA through Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. We had only one full day in Grand Teton National Park and didn't know what to expect as it was our first time there. I had consulted a hiking book and picked a lake hike but before we set out, we checked in with a ranger. They suggested a different plan, hiking out Cascade Canyon and to Lake Solitude. When a ranger suggests, you listen.
And thus began one of the most marvelous days we have ever spent in the wilderness.
We started off on the first or second boat shuttle across Jenny Lake. The shuttle shaves off about 2 miles of hiking each way, making this longer trek feasible for our conditioning.
After landing across Jenny Lake, we climbed up the STEEP trail to approach Cascade Canyon. Partway up, we heard some rustling in the brush and a black bear emerged just 15 yards in front of us. We backed up a bit to give it space and Kelly went to work with his large lens. The bear moved on and we started to as well. Then, more rustling, and out of the brush popped the bear's cub. Oh my gosh. Y'all. This was the most magical bear moment we have ever had (and we are at 65 sightings while hiking to date). The mother was not worried about us at all, and Kelly had his long lens out and ready to capture the moment. (This photo is one of our prints available from the park).
After finishing the steep climb, we started the longer and slower climb up through Cascade Canyon. We saw moose wading in the creek and wildflowers everywhere.
At the end of Cascade Canyon, we turned right onto the trail to Lake Solitude. The wildflowers became even more plentiful with fields of blue and yellow spreading out everywhere we could see. Waterfalls, tumbling creeks, and more wildlife (pika and marmots) kept us company to Lake Solitude. There were a few other hikers at the lake but we snagged a wonderful rock along the shore to ourselves for an hour. We shot a time lapse, ate a snack, and even took a short nap.
Finally, it was time to turn around and head back to and through the canyon. The return views were just as delightful and we saw another moose.
The total hike was just about 17 miles, our longest hike of the summer. You can also do this hike as a loop (~20 miles) if you continue past Lake Solitude and back through Paintbrush Canyon.
The hike is definitely popular and you'll likely have crowds near the boat dock at Jenny Lake and probably into the canyon later in the day. But the hike is popular for a reason. If you're looking for a spectacular adventure, put this one on your list.
Pro Tip: We bought our tickets for the boat ride the morning of. I had been nervous we would miss out on tickets but that wasn't a problem. If you are planning on hiking later in the day, both boat tickets and parking spots might be hard to come by. So, start early!