Walk past abundant wildflowers, a babbling creek, tall waterfalls, scramble over boulders and be rewarded with sweeping 360 views of both Garnet Canyon and Alaska Basin, as well as a close-up look at the Grand Teton.
Bring bear spray! There is water along most of this hike which is great for refilling, however, be aware that you use the bathroom far away from the water source. This hike contains some scrambling and is not suitable for everyone.
It's steep on the way up, and maybe unrunnable for most non-elite runners. The way down is technical but runnable in most sections. Watch out for ankle twisters.
Many climbers will start this hike in the early morning hours with plans to climb the Grand Teton, however, this hike to the Lower Saddle is beautiful of its own accord. You'll pass by fields of wildflowers, hike along creeks, see many waterfalls, and at the saddle, you'll be rewarded with incredible 360 views.
This hike starts at the Lupine Meadows Trail
. At 1.7 miles in, you'll take a right at the fork, towards Garnet Canyon. At 3 miles, you'll get to another fork. Take a left toward Garnet Canyon. The first four miles are well marked and well maintained by the Park Service. You'll be hiking through alpine forests and meadows with many wildflowers.
At mile 4 is where the trail becomes unmaintained and is known as a climber's trail. At this point, you'll come across the first of two boulder fields where the trail disappears completely. Following the path of least resistance and maintaining the same direction of travel, you'll quickly pop back to the trail next to Garnet Creek. This boulder section should be less than 100 meters.
After the boulders, the trail will be right next to the creek for half a mile. Around mile 4.6, near Spalding Falls, the trail goes to the right and starts switchbacking upward away from the creek.
Around 5.7 is the second boulder field, near the Morainal Camping Zone. You'll see the small metal sign for the Morainal Camping Zone right before you enter the boulders. The trail disappears in a couple of spots that are easy to navigate in the daylight, however, even in the dark most people do just fine. Follow the path of least resistance.
When you regain the trail, take the main path upward, along the right side of the Middle Teton Glacier. In early summer, it is best to avoid hiking through the snow as it could be very dangerous. This summer trail should take you right up to a fixed rope section of the Lower Saddle's Headwall (around mile 6.3). This section can be scary for those who are not accustomed to exposure or using ropes. These ropes are very handy and are sometimes removed and replaced by rangers or guides. This section is a rockfall zone and you may want to wear helmets. You can contact the Jenny Lake
Climbing Rangers before your trip to see if the fixed rope section is free of snow.
After the fixed rope, there is about a quarter-mile to the Lower Saddle. As you approach the true saddle, you'll see a sign that informs hikers to stay off the fragile alpine tundra vegetation. About 20 feet to the southeast of the sign and between two large boulders, you can find a hose that allows you to refill your water. This garden hose collects a flow of water from snowmelt drainage. Many people drink this water without filtration.
If you need to use the bathroom, walk to the west side of the saddle to avoid contaminating the water source on the east side of the saddle. There is a fenced-in privacy area on the western side of the saddle, but it is not a functioning toilet. You must pack out any human waste.
At the Lower Saddle, to the east, you can see the entirety of Garnet Canyon and Bradley Lake. To the west, you can see Alaska Basin and all of the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness. To the northeast is the Grand Teton. To the south is the Middle Teton.
If you are planning to climb the Grand Teton do your research on the best approaches to the Upper Saddle.
Bring bear spray! You may see bears or moose or other wildlife. Depending on the time of year, you are likely to see a wide variety of wildflowers that change with the elevation. The saddle is an alpine tundra with fragile alpine vegetation.