Taggart Lake Trail, Grand Teton National Park


After hiking about five miles along String and Leigh Lakes in the morning hours of Day 5, I decided I wasn’t thoroughly exhausted.  So, I decided to give Taggart Lake Trail a try.

If you’re entering the park from the south, and driving along Teton Park Road, the Taggart and Bradley Lakes Trailhead is the first one you pass.  Since these lakes are further south than the popular Jenny Lake, you have an even better view of the main Teton peaks from here.

Just in case you can’t read that tiny sign, here’s the info.  From the trailhead, Taggart Lake is 1.6 miles (one way), and Bradley Lake is 2.0 miles (one way).  The trail splits, forming a triangle of sorts, so you can visit one lake, then the other, before returning to the trailhead (which would require about a 5 mile hike).  Also worth noting: there’s an alternate return path from Taggart Lake to the trailhead.  It’s longer than the more popular path (and more direct path), so I didn’t see any reason to take it.  But if you want a longer hike, it’s there for you.

The trail starts out easy enough.  The path is wide and flat–basically a dirt road.  It’s fairly obvious that a challenge lies ahead, though.  Directly in front of you is a hillside of moraine.  It’s within this pile of glacial leftovers that the two lakes were formed.

About 3/4 of a mile into the walk, you’ve already started to gain some altitude.  Good thing there’s a beautiful spot to stop and catch your breath.  At this point, the trail meets up with Beaver Creek.  Beyond this cascade, the trail follows the creek for a while, sometimes out of view, but always close enough to hear the relaxing trickle of water.

When you finally reach the top of the moraine, you’re rewarded with this fantastic view of the trail, leading into the Teton Range.  The lake isn’t visible yet, but don’t worry, it’s not far.

It would be impossible not to notice the lack of tall trees along the top of the moraine.  It’s all because a fire swept through this area, two decades ago.  Lightning started the fire back in 1985, and it’s taken years for nature to recover from the devastation.

When you finally reach the edge of Taggart Lake, scout out a good spot to sit and relax.  There are plenty of big rocks at the water’s edge, that make for good seats.

Perhaps the best spot on the lake can be found on these rocks.  If no one else has already claimed the spot, you can hop out onto the boulders, and make yourself comfortable, enjoying an incomparable view of the lake and the Teton Range.

Like the other lakes at the foot of the Tetons, Taggart Lake offers crystal-clear water.  Because I arrived in late afternoon, I wasn’t expecting to find a glass-like reflection.  The lighting is all wrong in mid-afternoon, and there was enough wind to make the lake’s surface a bit choppy.

It doesn’t matter where you stop along the water’s edge, a good view awaits.

When it was time to leave, I decided to hike a short distance up the alternate route, which makes a long arc to the south before returning to the trailhead.  I did find this clearing to be photo-worthy, but I didn’t see any other reason to take the long way back.

I hiked back to the trailhead, following the same path I took on the way in.  If I hadn’t already walked so much that day, I probably would have gone on to Bradley Lake.  It’s not terribly far out of the way, and I think it would have been worth it.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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