America's Best Hikes
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Teton Crest Trail, Wyoming
The hike: Tracing the spiky ridgeline of Grand Teton National Park, the peaceful 39-mile Teton Crest Trail is the ethereal yin to the snaggletooth range's tumultuous yang. As you meander past meadows full of wildflowers and alpine lakes, you'll see few hikers and many animals—bison, moose, black bears, and grizzlies (gulp) call this territory home. Most of all, it's the close-up views of the sharply rising mountains that lure backpackers to the Teton Crest Trail. Only camping-savvy, experienced hiking nuts should attempt the entire trail, which takes four to six days; it starts at the Phillips Pass Trailhead on Highway 22 at the Teton Pass and ends just north of Jenny Lake.
Peak experience: Getting goose bumps as you gape at the Grand Teton (13,770 feet), Middle Teton (12,804 feet), and South Teton (12,514 feet).
Need a shortcut?: To enjoy some of the prime panoramas without so much panting, take a shuttle boat across Jenny Lake from the parking lot at South Jenny Lake and follow the 6.6-mile trail up Cascade Canyon, which connects to the Teton Crest Trail.
Base camp: The Jackson Hole Four Seasons in Teton Village, about 20 minutes north of the main trailhead. The hotel's "Base Camp concierge" will pack your gorp and send you off in the right layers of fleece and Gore-Tex; the spa staff will welcome you back with a therapeutic massage (doubles from $595).
When to go: Go in summer to avoid the most snow. Obtain a backcountry permit by mail, fax, online, or in person; one-third of the permits can be reserved in advance, and the remainder are filled first-come, first-served at park permit offices.