While you can drive to the overlook on Signal Mountain in Grand Teton National Park, the quiet hike up rewards you with a pleasant grade, ponds, wonderful forests, open meadows, and a few bonus vantages.
It took a little bit to figure out where the trailhead actually was for Signal Mountain. We started out by parking in the Signal Mountain Lodge parking lot and headed over towards the campground. After a bit of fumbling, we found that you need to take the sidewalk near the RV dump area, then follow the road towards the employee housing until you see the trailhead. Once on the trailhead, however, we were in business and it was great.
The first part of the trail through a nice forest is the steepest, but only for a short section. Pretty soon the trail leveled out and we crossed over the Signal Mountain Road. Just across the road is a wonderful lily pad covered pond that had a bunch of Mallards swimming in it. (A little side note is that there is a pullout near this pond with a couple of parking spaces which you could use to start the hike avoiding the RV dump and short, steep section.) The trail wraps around the pond and comes to a junction.
Taking a left at this junction takes you up via the ridgeline while the right takes you past a few ponds. Both trails meet back up before coming to the top which gives you variety on the way up and down. We chose the ponds in the morning and the views later as we’d be facing out on the way down. After doing it that way, I’d recommend it.
After the junction, we worked our way up via the pond route finding ourselves continuing through the wonderful forest full of birds and pocket ponds and meadows. The forest never got dull and the trail didn’t get steep. The largest pond is surrounded by some grass, then trees on one side and sagebrush meadows on the other.
The trail heads up from the sagebrush meadows through a wonderful draw that gradually closes in the higher up you go. You travel through the cool shade of the trees bordering the meadow that you are following up while looking at hillsides on both sides. We came to the lone switchback on the trail which meant that we were close to the overlook. The trail broke from the trees and out in the open views.
Aside from one other group of hikers, we’d not seen anyone else. The top, however, was a different story. The Signal Mountain Road takes folks to the top, including this overlook. I prefer to work a bit for these views and we definitely appreciated them. Expansive views to the east and south show broad meadows while views to the west feature the magnificent Tetons and Jackson Lake. The trees in this direction are a bit tall, so the views are not completely clear. This is a problem for someone wanting a photo with no obstructions, but not for the people just soaking in the beauty.
We headed back down. According to our plan, we took the ridge route down which featured some nice, open meadows. We stopped in the first one and had our snack, opting for the quieter areas with amazing views instead of the crowded views up top. After lunch, we continued through more trees and meadows, eventually joining back up with the trail near the lily pad pond and back to our car.
While the Signal Mountain hike isn’t a top 10 hike of Grand Teton National Park, it’s a wonderful hike to get away from the crowds, have great vistas, and see some great birds, flowers, and potentially other wildlife.