Hiking The Tetons: Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail

Grand Teton National Park is situated in northwestern Wyoming, just north of the town of Jackson and just south of Yellowstone National Park. Established in 1929, the park is a dramatic landscape of sheer mountains formed by fault-block action that rise steeply from a valley floor without intervening foothills. At the base of these breathtaking spires are lakes and meadows that provide wildlife habitat and scenic recreational opportunities. The Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail packs a huge amount of visual reward into an easy, 2-mile, figure-8 loop.

Author selfie on Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail.
Author selfie on Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail.

The Colter Bay Area
Colter Bay is a small bay on the eastern side of Jackson Lake, the largest lake in Grand Teton National Park. Jackson Lake covers 25,540 acres and sits at 6,772 feet elevation. It is flanked by Highway 89 to the east and the Teton Range to the west; Teton Park Road curves around its southern shore.

Colter Bay Village is a developed recreation area off Highway 89 (which is also Highway 191 and 287). Most facilities and services are open from mid- to late May through late September. Colter Bay Cabins are a variety of tent-cabin and log-cabin lodgings and Colter Bay Campground has over 300 tent and RV sites. The area also has a small convenience store and gas station, seasonal horseback riding, and a marina.

The Colter Bay Visitor Center is also open from May to September. The Visitor Center offers daily interpretive programs during the season, led by park rangers.

Picknicking at Colter Bay Marina.
Picknicking at Colter Bay Marina.

The parking lot and picnic area is accessible year-round and provides a great launching spot for many trails.

Lakeshore Loop
Lakeshore Trail begins at the north side of the Colter Bay Visitor Center parking lot, just behind the visitor center and next to the marina and amphitheater. The trail basically forms a figure 8, with two 1-mile loops circling two segments of peninsula connected by a short isthmus. The most obvious route takes you along the south side of the peninsula, just past the amphitheater. From here, you skirt the northern side of Colter Bay, beginning on about 1/3-mile of pavement before the trail turns into a well-maintained dirt and duff path. The forested route is flat and pleasantly wooded, with great water views throughout, first of little Colter Bay and its marina, then of the great expanse of Jackson Lake.

This trail is a good rainy day choice, or a hike that’s easy to do after a day of longer, steeper hikes, or something fun for the whole family when you have just a little more energy to burn. In my case, it was a great excuse to stretch my legs after a morning of hiking the other area trails and a sumptuous picnic at the marina.

Teton Range from Lakeshore Trail.
Teton Range from Lakeshore Trail.

Other Colter Bay Area Trails
Most of the trails from the Colter Bay Visitor Center parking lot take off from the Hermitage Point Trailhead at the south end of the parking lot. From this trailhead, you can take a variety of routes, for loop hikes ranging from less than a mile to meandering treks of several miles. The trip to Hermitage Point, depending upon the route you choose, runs about 9- or 10 miles in length and passes a variety of lakes, ponds, bays, and creeks. Resource protection and the needs of migrating waterfowl sometimes result in closures of parts of the trail system; be sure to check with the National Park before setting out.

Along the Hermitage Point trails, you might see moose, deer, or bears. You will likely see waterfowl including osprey, herons, eagles, ducks, geese, and pelicans. You probably won’t see beavers, but chances are good you will see their handiwork.

Visiting Grand Teton National Park Basics
Admission to the park is $25 per vehicle ($12 for individuals hiking or bicycling) and is valid for seven days (in 2015). The permit also gives you access to Grand Teton’s flashier, more famous sister to the north, Yellowstone National Park. Learn more about Grand Teton National Park at the official National Park Service website, http://nps.gov/grte.


Do we have any Guide Outdoors Readers who have hiked in the Grand Tetons? Please tell us about it below.



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