South Side of Jenny Lake – The Walk Back


If you’ve chosen not to take the ferry on the return trip across Jenny Lake, you have two hiking choices: the north side and the south side.  On a map, it doesn’t look like there’s much of a difference, and it would stand to reason that since the ferry cut across the middle of the lake, it would be an almost equal distance, on either path you chose.

It’s not.  The south side route is much shorter than the north side.  It’s only about 2 miles from one boat dock to the other, on the south side trail.  Take the north side, and it’s more than 4 miles. At least, those are the official distances.  I personally think the south side trail felt longer than two miles, but I had already hiked a long way, up to Inspiration Point and beyond.

On my way back down from Inspiration Point, I turned onto the trail that led to the south shore.  You don’t have to hike all the way back down to the boat dock–there’s a shortcut that takes you past a creek…

… through the woods…

… and eventually drops you off at the edge of the lake.  Surprisingly, about half of the south side trail isnot next to the shoreline.  Many times, the lake can’t be seen at all.

Of course, when you can see the lake, it’s absolutely beautiful.  Keep in mind, though, the mountains are behind you, so you won’t be seeing much of them on the return trip.

When you do see them, they’re in the distance, but still quite impressive.

A little more than halfway along the trail, at the southern end of the lake, there’s a side trail that leads to Moose Ponds.  Shortly before you get there, though, there’s a good spot that overlooks the Moose Ponds, and sure enough, I spotted a moose hanging out there.  It’s a good distance away, and you’ll need binoculars or a good zoom lens to appreciate any moose you spot here.

I like this picture, but I can’t look at it without kicking myself.  When I hike, I normally carry a hiking stick.  It’s a nice one, designed especially for hiking, with a hand strap and knob on the top that unscrews, revealing a camera mount, effectively transforming it into a monopod.  In order to take this picture, I needed to free up both hands, and in the process, I leaned my hiking stick against a nearby tree.  About 10 minutes later, as I bounded along the trail, I realized that I had left my hiking stick behind.  By the time I walked back, it was gone.  In less than 20 minutes, someone had claimed it for their own.  I filed paperwork with the park’s lost and found, but no one ever turned it in.

So, if you found a hiking stick along the Jenny Lake Trail, near the turnoff to Moose Ponds, on September 11, 2007, I sure hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Needless to say, by this point, I was frustrated at my absentmindedness.  Even without that distraction, the two-mile hike back to the boat dock was feeling mighty long–perhaps longer than the official 2 miles.  I picked up the pace…

… and stopped just once more for pictures at the public boat launch.  That’s some incredibly clear water!

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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