Hiking The Tetons: Taggart Lake Loop

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, lakes and meadows provide wildlife habitat and scenic recreational opportunities.

Grand Teton peak from the Taggart Lake Trail.
Grand Teton peak from the Taggart Lake Trail.

Taggart Lake Loop (formed by connecting Taggart Lake Trail with Valley Trail and Beaver Creek Trail) is an easy 3.8-mile trail with a lot of scenic rewards.

Geology And History of Taggart Lake
Taggart Lake sits at the base of Avalanche Canyon, due east of South Teton peak. Named for a member of the 1872 Hayden Survey Party, the lake was created by a glacier flowing down the canyon between the ridges formed by the mountains we now call Nez Perce (11,901 feet) and Mount Wister (11,490 feet). Glacial lakes such as Taggart are formed as glaciers gouge out basins and leave behind moraines (ridges of rocks and soil) along the edges. The glaciers eventually “retreat” (melt out), leaving a basin that fills with rainwater and glacial melt. The present lake sits at a 6,902-foot elevation and covers about 110 acres.

Author at Taggart Lake.
Author at Taggart Lake.

Taggart Lake-Beaver Creek Loop
The Taggart Lake Trailhead is 2.5 miles north of the Moose Entrance to the park. It can also be accessed from the Cottonwood Picnic area, just north of the trailhead parking area along Teton Park Road. From either starting point, go east about 0.2 mile (toward the mountains) to intersect the main trail.

For the most dramatic views of Grand Teton peak and the quickest access to the lake, go right (north) on the main Taggart Lake Trail and approach the loop in a counterclockwise direction. Views of the mountain commence immediately as the gently ascending trail traverses meadows where moose are frequently seen grazing.

After about a mile, you’ll reach the intersection to Bradley Lake Trail. Adding Bradley Lake to your hike via this trail and a return to Taggart Lake on the Valley Trail adds about 2 miles to your hike. If you choose to continue on the 3.8-mile loop, go left to Taggart Lake, which you’ll reach in about 0.5 mile.

Taggart Lake to Beaver Creek Trail
Taggart Lake Trail meets Valley Trail at the lake, in a “T” junction. To the right (north) is Bradley Lake (1.1 miles). To continue on the 3.8-mile loop, you will want to turn left on Valley Trail. But first, enjoy the view you came for. On a clear day, the Teton peaks soar above a landscape dominated by pine, fir and spruce. Mule deer graze here at dusk, and hawks often wheel overhead.

Combine Taggart Lake Trail with Beaver Creek Trail for a nice loop.
Combine Taggart Lake Trail with Beaver Creek Trail for a nice loop.

Continuing south on the main trail, you will soon cross over a footbridge at a narrow neck of the lake. Here, the trail begins to climb. Continue about a mile until you reach the junction with Beaver Creek Trail. If you continued on Valley Trail, you’d reach the Death Canyon Trailhead in a few miles and, eventually, Phelps Lake. Instead, take the left fork (essentially straight ahead) onto the clearly signed Beaver Creek Trail.

The remaining 1.2 miles back to the trailhead is a gradual descent through meadows with good possibilities of wildlife and wildflower viewing.

Visiting Grand Teton National Park Basics
Admission to the park is $25 per vehicle ($12 for individuals hiking or bicycling) and is valid for 7 days. 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.

Top Photo: Taggart Lake

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Guide Outdoors Readers: Have you ever hiked in the Grand Tetons …. or on any other great trails? Please tell us about it below.

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