Phelps Lake Loop – 7.3mi / 11.7km
This loop spends a large portion of its time faithfully following the shoreline of the wonderful Phelps Lake as it skirts below the moraine that confines the lake. The trail begins at the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve amongst wetlands and sagebrush meadows with stunning views of the Tetons.
You quickly enter into the forest and meet up with Lake Creek. Stay along the northwestern side of the creek as you hike up through the trees on the Woodland Trail. The trail wanders up through the varied forest as it crosses the Moose-Wilson Road and continues up to the shores of Phelps Lake. There are numerous places to sit along the shores to enjoy the lake backdropped by the tall, gray walls that form the entrance to Death Canyon.
Continue along the eastern shore as it travels through an older forest that is dry and open. All along this stretch, you can see the lake through the trees. There are a few spots to step out and enjoy an unrestricted view. At the head of the lake, a small, sandy beach is a nice surprise before the trail veers away from the lake for the first time. It reaches a trail junction for Death Canyon and the Phelps Lake Overlook. (The side trip to Phelps Lake Overlook adds 2mi/3.2km and 500ft/150m to the trip, but the bird’s-eye view of the lake is worth the effort.)
Continuing on the loop around the head of the lake takes you through a wetter riparian area, and provides a close-up view of the towering walls of Death Canyon. After crossing the creek that exits the canyon, the trail climbs up onto the moraine that forms the western boundary of the lake. A brief walk through an avalanche chute gives you the best elevated view from the loop. It looks down at the willows, alders, and marshy areas at the head of the lake.
After passing the junction with the Open Canyon Trail, the trail descends through the trees back to the shores of the lake, and remains there until it approaches the junction with the spur trail to Huckleberry Point. Huckleberry Point is a great little peninsula that juts out into the lake. The loop closes as it wraps around to the south end of the lake. Along the way, an elevated trail passes through a great wetland area, then continues on to more views of the lake. Huge Douglas fir trees provide shade for a rest on one of the park benches.
Take the Lake Creek Trail back to LSR Preserve. This trail closely parallels the playful creek for much of its length, traveling through the forest with a couple of small meadows.
Trailhead: Take the Moose-Wilson Road south from Moose to the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve. The trailhead is located in the parking lot.
Elevation Gain: 650ft / 195m – Elevation Loss: 650ft / 195m