Marion Lake to Death Canyon Shelf (5 miles)

On the second day of our Teton Crest Trail honeymoon hike, we slept in and had a leisurely morning. Breakfast by Marion Lake was tasty. Food always seems to be extra delicious in the backcountry. The scenery was hard to beat!

Marion Lake
Marion Lake

We weren’t the only ones enjoying a lakeside breakfast. As we ate, Chris spotted movement on the far shore. It was a mother and baby moose. As Mom ripped and munched on leafy shrubs, her youngster plopped down in the mud nearby. We’re guessing this was the same pair we had spotted from across the valley yesterday.

Moose by lake
Moose by Marion Lake

After breakfast, we packed up camp and started hiking north. A short but steep uphill got our blood flowing.

Teton Crest Trail just north of Marion Lake
Teton Crest Trail just north of Marion Lake

At the top of the hill, we spotted two of Anna’s favorite things — hummingbirds and paintbrush! The buzz of the hummingbird’s wings was unmistakable as it dashed from one flower to the next.

Hummingbird eating paintbrush nectar
Hummingbird eating paintbrush nectar

Marmots too were feasting as they prepared for the cold weather and hibernation to come. Their frequent whistles kept all the marmots in the colony aware of our approach. Hiker alert!


The views today really opened up, and just kept getting better as we walked north. In addition to fields of wildflowers, we had amazing 360-degree views far into the distance. We were gifted with a spectacular view of the Grand Teton capped by a recent dusting of snow. In a few days, we would be standing right near the Grand.

Teton Crest Trail with the Grand Teton in the distance
Teton Crest Trail with the Grand Teton in the distance

After the Fox Creek Pass junction, the trail climbed up onto Death Canyon Shelf. The shelf is a plateau a few hundred feet wide. It’s an impressive place to walk. On our left was a steep wall of rock, and on our right was a dizzying drop into the deep glacier-carved Death Canyon.

We found a good lunch spot at the edge of the shelf.  A creek roared a thousand feet below. Insects buzzed by in a light breeze as the sun warmed us. Looking out across the canyon, we spotted a steep creek and waterfall on the opposite side. We napped in the sunshine a bit. Our last couple months had been consumed by moving into our new home, plus preparations for our wedding and for an extended family celebration gathering. Now it was time to relax and enjoy the simple, powerful beauty of this place.

We continued walking north along Death Canyon Shelf. A ground squirrel paused briefly from eating flowers to watch us pass.

Ground squirrel

Our backcountry permit allowed us to stay anywhere in the Death Canyon Shelf camping zone.  We knew we wanted to camp somewhere north of the designated large group campsite to even out our daily mileage. Once past the group site, we were on the lookout for an already impacted area with a great view, some wind protection, and water within a short walk. We checked out a few side trails and picked this awesome campsite with views straight down into Death Canyon. The sheer scale of the landscape was humbling.

Looking into Death Canyon
Chris looking into Death Canyon

While filtering water, we found a collection of eggs sheltered in a calm part of the creek.

Aquatic eggs
Aquatic eggs

We made dinner, then bundled up in our sleeping bags and read. After nightfall, a pack of coyotes howled in a sudden frenzy for about 10 seconds. It sounded like a mix of babies crying and people yelling and screaming. A half hour later, the eerie cries erupted again, then ceased for the night. We slept well after that.

Note: This hike occurred in late August.


  1. Excellent photography!! I have a feeling I’m seeing Anna’s photo lens at work. Hummingbirds hadn’t yet migrated south?

    So, the “Tetons” is a range, but leading up to just one peak?

    Thank you for ‘bringing us there!’


    1. The photos in all our posts come from both of us. Most of the animal shots in these Teton Crest Trail posts were taken with our new super zoom camera. Recall that this hike occurred in late August. The area is covered in snow now. Grand Teton is the tallest mountain in the Teton Range, which is part of the larger Rocky Mountain Range.


  2. What was the camera you used on the trail? We just visited in late july but couldn’t use our planned itinerary because of the heavy snowfall this year. We canyon hopped to get to our TCT campsites instead.


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