Alta, Wyoming – The Backside of the Tetons

July 2017

After hiding out in Spencer, Idaho for a couple of weeks, I found myself traveling alone and looking for the next place to go. Kelly had to return to Austin for an undetermined amount of time, so I only had myself to consult as to where I should head. What to do in that situation? Find out where my nearest friends are and beeline there, of course!

Teton Canyon Road – Alta, Wyoming

The friends in question were Tim and Amanda who were among the very first people I met when I hit the road in early 2014. They were hanging out on the backside of the Grand Tetons. One can never have enough of the Tetons, right? So naturally I invited myself to crash their party.

To get to this part of Wyoming you have to go through Idaho. There is no simple way to get from one side of the Tetons to the other, because, well, there is a rather large set of mountains in your way. Plus I was already on the ‘correct’ side of the Tetons, so getting here was pretty easy for me.

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My view of the Tetons as I approached Alta

Even though we were staying in Wyoming, the closest civilization was actually in Idaho. This is indeed a weird piece of Wyoming in that you cannot get directly to it from any other part of the state – you have to go through Idaho.

We stayed off of Teton Canyon Road, which is a road that goes up a canyon right towards the Tetons. Original name, right? Tim and Amanda had done all the hard work finding a spot where not only there was decent cell signal (it’s hard to come by in this canyon), but there was an outstanding view of the Tetons. OK, this will work!

Other than being a bit dusty from the road itself (even though we were quite aways from the actual road), and the finicky internet, this was a mighty fine place to stay for the better part of two weeks.

Oh, and I even did a little going out on the town! Victor is one of the small towns just inside Idaho, and during the summer they have free concerts. So I showed up and enjoyed a bit of music. I also visited the Alta, Wyoming library a couple of times. This has to be one of the best views from a library, with the Tetons framed in the large picture windows. Not a bad place to work from.

Hiking

Anyone that knows Tim and Amanda know that they love to hike. I think they start to twitch something fierce if they don’t get a good hike in on a regular basis. So they roped me into a few hikes in the area – two of which were pretty challenging.

Amanda does such a better job at describing the hikes than I possibly can, so here is her blog post talking about 3 of the hikes they took, 2 of which I joined them on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to subject you to my abbreviated narrative of the 2 hikes. Lucky you!

Bannock Trail

Up the road something like 5 miles was the Grand Targhee Resort, which started life as a ski resort. Like all good ski resorts, they find ways to make money in the summer. Grand Targhee has an outstanding mountain bike trail system, which is their summer bread and butter. For those of us that don’t plummet down ski runs on bikes, they do offer some pretty nice hiking options. Amanda chose the Bannock Trail for us.

She may have been misinformed about the amount of vertical climb on this particular hike, so we did a lot more ‘up’ than we had anticipated. Topping out at 9,900 feet, the Bannock Trail puts you at the very top of the ski runs, with spectacular 360 degree views. Not only do you get a different view of the Tetons than one gets from the park, but you can see deep into Idaho.

Even with more vertical distance than anticipated, this was one spectacular hike. Yes, you can take the ski lift to the top (or back down), but what fun would that be? We hoofed it both directions, which was one of the reasons I passed on the next hike they did. I had to give my feet a break!

Alaska Basin + a little extra

The next hike I joined Tim and Amanda on was what should have been a short, sub-6 mile hike into part of the Alaska Basin. The first ~3 miles was a piece of cake, with a gentle upslope the entire way. Through fields full of wildflowers. I mean, the place was packed with wildflowers. We timed this hike right! And no, the pictures don’t do the flowers justice.

 

When we arrived at what was originally intended to be our turn around spot, we had a bit of a discussion. We were at a literal fork in the road with one sign pointing up to the Devil’s Staircase. At a claimed .9 miles, it couldn’t be that hard, right? And with a name like that, who was I to say no to this trail?

Yeah. About that. Well, the trail lived up to it’s name! And did we stop at the top of the staircase? Nope! We kept on going for a decent distance longer, topping out at just shy of 9,000 feet. Enjoyed some time in snow. Enjoyed another great view of the Tetons.

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