Fourth of July in the Grand Tetons

Jenny Lake

Grand Tetons is an absolutely stunning national park - there's just no other way to describe it. The Teton mountains are dramatic. The alpine lakes - Jenny, String, Leigh, and Jackson - are pristinely clear. The evergreen forests, the massive skies, the river crossings - everything is so strikingly beautiful. With a four day weekend for Independence Day, we made the trek from Denver up to this wilderness gold mine in northwestern Wyoming. 

Our campsite in Lower Paintbrush Canyon

Upper Paintbrush Canyon

We started the weekend low on sleep. Driving all the way to the park after work on Friday took about 9 hours, so we slept in our car in the visitor center parking lot when we arrived circa 2:30 AM. While not the most restful night, it did mean we were first in line for backcountry permits when the ranger station opened at 8 AM on Saturday morning. We hiked through Paintbrush Canyon from the String Lake trailhead and found a dope site in the lower camping zone. We spent the afternoon hiking and playing in the nearby river. There was still a ton of snow as we hiked further along the trail into Upper Paintbrush Canyon. At night, we shared dehydrated meals, played cards, listened to music, and enjoyed some libations.

Sunday morning started early - we watched the sunrise, took a splash in the river, and yoga'd. After group coffee and packing up, we headed down the trail for another day of backpacking. The mid-day heat baked us as we descended the canyon, so we cooled off in the cold, clear waters of String Lake once we got back to the trailhead. After sunbathing, lunching, and replenishing our food stores, we were ready for our next trek: Cascade Canyon.

Beginning the hike up Cascade Canyon

Beginning the hike up Cascade Canyon

Calm before the storm

Calm after the storm

The weather, however, was not ready for us. It had started to drizzle and the sky was completely overcast. We forged onward despite the ominous conditions. Distant rumblings and sporadic rain drops accompanied us throughout the hike. As we reached the fork in the canyon (~9500 ft elevation), the sky finally opened up and poured down us as relentlessly. The storm was torrential for an hour and a half, even hailing for a few minutes. We huddled under sparse pine trees, swigged gin, and waited it out. Shivering and soaked to the bone, we stared up at the sky, hoping for a break. If the storm didn't stop, we knew we'd have to hike back down the trail to avoid freezing in our sopping wet clothes. But Mother Nature delivered, as she often does. The monsoon slowly turned to a drizzle and the clouds shuffled across to reveal a clear blue sky. We emerged from our evergreen hideout and continued our hike into the South Form camping zone, where we snagged an amazing site. We spent the evening like we had the previous one - with communal dinner, card games, and drinks - but it felt different. Everything was a little bit better after the storm - the dehydrated meals were tastier, the games more fun, the whiskey and beer sweeter. We slept soundly that night, grateful to have made it through the storm and to all be together. 

Monday was an early start yet again. We emerged from our tents and hiked up past our campsite to catch the sunrise. My friend Amanda and I found a perfectly flat section of the trail in direct light of the morning sun for yoga. This, along with group coffee and a splash in the rushing stream, woke us up for the descent through the canyon. We cooled off in String Lake once back at the trailhead, before heading to Jackson Hole for fuel (gas, food, and caffeine). Jackson Hole is a funky, "Old Western"-style town and definitely worth exploring if you're visit Grand Tetons. After fueling up, we drove south to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area for our last night of camping. We built a fire, shared beers, and recapped how amazing the weekend had been. We all already missed the beauty of the Grand Tetons.

Thanks for reading! GTNP is a massive park with tons of hiking and backpacking options. Plan your overnight stay here. Happy adventuring!