A Teton alpine lake that won’t disappoint

Marion Lake sits high in the Tetons along the Teton Crest Trail and is a favorite destination for many hikers. (Jerry Painter photo)

I once hiked with a woman who hit the trails into her eighties, nearly up to the year she died.

Her favorite place to hike was the Tetons. I once asked her for her favorite spot in the Tetons and she replied, without hesitation, “Marion Lake.”

So if you’re compiling a list of “must-do” hikes in the region, put this one on your list. Whether it’s a day hike or backpacking trip, Marion Lake will not disappoint.

This smallish alpine lake sits high along the crest of the Teton Range above Granite Canyon. On one side it is backed by huge mountain cliffs; on the other, the slopes drop away down deep canyons to Jackson Hole in the distance. Backpackers are rewarded with sweet backcountry campsites.

It can be reached from a few different directions and is one of the “must stops” along the Teton Crest Trail. Whenever I’ve hiked a fall up-and-over on that end of the range, I like to include Marion Lake in the route. It’s a perfect lunch/rest spot. On the north end of the lake is a large spring to top off water bottles.

There are a three general approaches to get to Marion Lake: You can head straight up Granite Canyon about 8.8 miles, take the tram up from Teton Village and hike a little over 6 miles to the lake, or access it along the roughly north-south Teton Crest Trail. There are no bad choices, though the tram option is probably the easiest.

Perhaps my favorite approach to Marion Lake is via Death Canyon Shelf from the north (one of my favorite places in the entire range). Because this lake sits at 9,200 feet, you may want to check with the rangers on trail conditions, especially if you take the tram option. Most trails above 9,500 feet still have plenty of snow on them — the tram route starts at 10,450 feet. A few more weeks of summer heat should help dry up most of the trails in the region.

If you go up these trails in August, keep your eyes open for huckleberries. While the fruit ripens around here in late July, berry season in the Tetons arrives a few weeks later. I’ve had to shoo my children down the trail to keep them on task because the lower sections of the Granite Creek Trail pass through large patches of huckleberries. By the time the hike is over, we all have purple tongues and finger tips.

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On the subject of snow, a few friends spent last weekend climbing to the top of 12,000-foot peaks in the Lost River Range and skiing back down. It got me thinking about the upcoming solar eclipse and where adventurous folk will be hanging out to experience midday darkness. One friend thinks the top of Borah Peak will be quite popular, while other peaks such as Mount Baird, the Grand Teton, or Menan Butte could see a lot of action. I’ll be lucky to get out of the newspaper office in time to see it happen.