Forks of Cascade Canyon – 9.4mi / 15.1km
A visit to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, followed by the gradual grade up this popular, scenic canyon is all about the journey. After taking the boat shuttle across the lake, start from the boat dock and work your way up Cascade Creek as it cascades through a pleasant forest. The network of trails in this area can be a bit confusing, so pay attention to the signs and follow them to Hidden Falls.
Cross a bridge where a short spur trail takes you to the base of the lovely Hidden Falls. After the falls, continue on the trail as it begins to climb up a trail hewn from the rocky cliffs. The trail is fairly wide, but features steep drop-offs which may be too much exposure for those with a fear of heights. (This section can be avoided by taking the longer and steeper horse trail cutoff just north of the boat dock, but also bypasses Hidden Falls.)
As you climb through this section you get your first vantage of the lake from one of the switchbacks; a fantastic preview of what is to come. Summits of the mountains further up the canyon also begin to appear and are breathtaking. The trail leads to the aptly named Inspiration Point which is a popular and busy destination. The views of Jenny Lake and out to Jackson Hole are fantastic.
From here, the trail heads up into Cascade Canyon. The hike up the canyon is a steady, gentle grade that bounces between stands of trees and open sections with impressive views. Keep an eye out for pikas as you travel through the huge boulder fields and for moose grazing amongst the willows below. This canyon is backdropped by tall, craggy peaks. First Teewinot Mountain, then Mt. Owen, and then Grand Teton comes into view.
A waterfall cascades from Valhalla Canyon above. As the trail approaches the junction of the north and south forks, it enters into a cool forest. At the junction, feel free to explore each drainage. (Note: There is a wonderful cascade just up the trail along the South Fork Cascade Canyon Trail.) Turn around here or continue on either fork for some incredible destinations. (See Lake Solitude, Hurricane Pass, and Avalanche Divide for descriptions.)
Trailhead: Head west towards the Jenny Lake Visitor Center at the South Jenny Lake Junction and turn right into the Jenny Lake Visitor Center parking area. Head to the boat dock at the west end of the parking lot and take the boat shuttle for a nominal fee. A longer stroll around the south end of Jenny Lake avoids the boat shuttle. It starts near the boat dock, and adds 2mi/3.2km each way. A third alternative, starts at the String Lake Trailhead and bypasses both the boat shuttle and Inspiration Point. It is 1.1mi/1.8km longer each way and follows along the northwest shore of Jenny Lake.
Elevation Gain: 1,250ft / 375m – Elevation Loss: 1,250ft / 375m