Secret shortcut over the Tetons, not so secret anymore

Jon Groberg, right, of Sandy, Utah, takes a photo of his father, Joe, of Idaho Falls with the Grand Teton and Middle Teton in the background while on Hurricane Pass on Monday. The pair were day-hiking from the west side of the range to Jenny Lake.

It’s interesting how things in the backcountry change over time.

On Monday, two friends and I hiked up a slightly hidden canyon called Roaring Creek on the west side of the Teton Range to Hurricane Pass and down Cascade Canyon to Jenny Lake on the east side of the range.

The thing that impressed me most was seeing that a trail now takes you almost the entire way up Roaring Creek Canyon. A few years ago, the trail often disappeared here and there on the way up causing a bit of route finding. Obviously more people have been using this unmaintained trail.

To find the Roaring Creek Trail, start by hiking about 1 mile along the South Teton Trail (the one that goes to Alaska Basin). After about 1 mile, the trail crosses a bridge. We hiked another ¼ mile past the bridge and took a faint trail to the left (east) down to the South Fork of Teton Creek. Here we walked upstream until we found an easy set of boulders to jump across the creek. Once across the creek, we bushwhacked back downstream and toward the canyon wall until we found a prominent trail. We followed this trail, zig-zagging up the canyon side and gaining 1,000 feet until it enters Roaring Creek Canyon. Here, the trail more gradually climbs up the canyon another 2,000 feet to Hurricane Pass and saves at least 5 miles off the Alaska Basin route to the pass.

Roaring Creek Canyon is the canyon seen paralleling the ridge that leads to the top of Table Rock Mountain.

We started our hike at about 7:15 a.m. At the trailhead we saw a few groups starting their hike up to the top of Table Rock Mountain. When we told some where we were going, a few wanted to go with us.

From the start until we hit Hurricane Pass, we were the only humans on the trail. We did see a moose and a few marmots. A few stick figure humans were visible in the far distance on the summit of Table Rock Mountain.

“We’ll start seeing people at the pass,” I predicted. Sure enough, we arrived at Hurricane Pass about the time a couple of backpacking groups did. One was a group of five from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They were hiking the Teton Crest Trail. We helped each other take photos with the Grand Teton as a backdrop.

It’s about 5 miles from the trailhead to Hurricane Pass using the Roaring Creek shortcut.

From the pass, we hiked down past Schoolroom Glacier — it was fissured and cracked open and smaller than I ever remember it being — and down the South Cascade Canyon trail back to Jenny Lake. We saw few people on the South Cascade Canyon trail, but after we arrived at the junction with the north and main trails, the flow of people was constant.

We arrived at the boat dock at 5 p.m. and met our wives on the other side of Jenny Lake just after their arrival — 16 miles and about 10 hours later.

We weren’t trying to set any speed records and I think the mellower pace was kinder to bodies. I wasn’t particularly sore or tired the next day.

To contact Lisa Dayley Smith write to lsmith@uvsj.com