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2. Amphitheater Lake Trail

In my opinion, one of the best day hikes in Grand Teton National Park has to be the Amphitheater Lake Trail. Unlike Taggart, this is a strenuous trail suitable for more experienced hikers. Situated under the charmingly named Disappointment Peak (which is anything but), the Amphitheater and Surprise Lakes are a joy to behold.

Amphitheater Lake Trail is one of the best day hikes in Grand Teton National Park thanks to stellar views of the anything but, Disappointment Peak
The Amphitheater Lake provides a view that takes the fatigue right out of your legs. Florin Chelarut licensed under CC BY 2.0

Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes Offer Up the Rewards of Hiking

Starting from the Lupine Meadows trailhead, the initially flat trail soon ascends into dense forest that restricts any sight of your surroundings. There’s a lot of wildlife in the area and it’s not uncommon to see black bears along the route, so the park service strongly recommends hiking in groups, making a lot of noise and carrying bear spray.

After a while you’ll reach a junction where an opening in the trees will offer an incredible view of Bradley and Taggart Lakes. Further on the trail will switch back several times, giving you a glance of Jackson Hole and the famous Sheep Mountain in the distance, one of my favorite sites on this trail.

As the trail climbs further with even more switchbacks, you’ll turn right at an intersection, after which Disappointment Peak will rise in front of you. The 11,623 ft (3,543 m) peak was given its name by a group of Colorado climbers who unsuccessfully attempted to climb the Grand in 1925. Beneath its slopes lie two glacial lakes — the smaller Surprise Lake and, further on, its big sister, Amphitheater Lake. When I’m there, I like to choose one of the many rocks to sit on and enjoy this subalpine gem and its beautiful backdrop.

Even More Greatness Just a Small Detour Away

From the trailhead to the lakes, it’s roughly a 5-mile (8 km) hike, with plenty to see during the ascent and a spectacular payoff at the end that makes it all worth it. But let’s imagine for a second that you’re not interested in the lakes, or you’ve already seen them and are looking for something else to do while you’re there.

Instead of turning right on the junction to Amphitheater Lake, take the left path to Garnet Canyon and check out why climbers flock there year after year. The walls of Middle Teton rising majestically into the blue sky, Irene’s Arête towering above you — I mean, it’s just spectacular. Even if you’re not into climbing, it’s definitely worth seeing.

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