Sunset Lake to North Fork Cascade Canyon (8 miles)
The fourth day of our honeymoon backpacking trip greeted us with a glorious sunny sky once again. We ate and packed up. Chris was feeling much better — not perfect, but definitely improved from yesterday’s altitude headaches and fatigue.
We left Sunset Lake around 9:30 and headed north on the Teton Crest Trail. Today’s scenery remained impressive. In fact, we think it got better. Just 5 minutes into the day, we walked through an amazing wildflower patch. Anna was beaming.
We climbed, pausing to take photos. Or maybe photography breaks were an excuse to catch our breath.
As we neared Hurricane Pass, the Grand Teton poked out dramatically over the ridge.
At Hurricane Pass, the tremendous scale of the Tetons was made plain. Trees at the base were minuscule in comparison. We sat quietly and took in the view.
As we began to descend from the pass, Schoolroom Glacier and its turquoise lake appeared beneath the three Tetons.
Several switchbacks and a short side trail later, we arrived at the bright turquoise pool full of glacier snowmelt. The water appears turquoise because as the glacier grinds against the mountain, it creates a very fine powder called rock flour. The rock flour particles are so tiny that when they flow into the pool, they remain suspended, refracting light to create an intense blue-green color.
We continued hiking down into the South Fork Cascade Canyon. It was idyllic. The trail wound through grassy meadows beneath tall peaks.
The geography of the entire valley was gorgeous, a classic U-shaped glacial valley. Having just viewed a small glacier up close, we could reflect on the massive glaciers that once carved this valley out of solid rock.
The trail parallels South Fork Cascade Creek downwards.
A father and son hiking up asked us to take a photo for them. We happily did, and they returned the favor for us.
As we continued to descend to lower elevation, the vegetation along the trail grew denser. We started holding a loud conversation so as not to startle any bears. The roaring creek nearby made it difficult to hear though. All of a sudden the thick brush next to us erupted with the loud crack of branches snapping. With a rush of adrenaline, we grabbed our bear spray (not cameras). We looked left to see a large creature scrambling and thrashing through the brush about 15 feet away. It was a huge bull moose with large antlers! We’re not sure who was more startled, us or the moose!
Our heartbeats gradually slowed back to normal as we continued down the trail. We crossed the creek on a helpful log bridge.
We reached the Cascade Canyon Trail junction and turned into North Fork Cascade Canyon. The trail now began to climb as it paralleled the North Fork of Cascade Creek upwards. When we are hiking, one of us sometimes calls out “360” to the other person to make sure we’re appreciating the beauty in all directions, not just what’s directly in front of us. This “360” call was sweet. Looking back where we’d come from, the Tetons appeared like something out of a fairy tale.
For a short bit the trail went straight through an area of snow heaps and chaotically twisted and downed trees. We assumed there must have been an avalanche there this past winter. Pika scampered around in the rock piles nearby.
Our backcountry permit for the night applied to any of the designated campsites in the North Fork Cascade Canyon camping zone. We walked past the halfway point of the zone since we heard the views were better on the northern end, closer to Lake Solitude. When we started investigating the signed camping areas in the northern half, we only found full sites. We were getting nervous that we might have to backtrack to find an earlier unoccupied site. Happily, nearing the end of the zone, we found an empty, tranquil spot. Chris unpacked and set up the tent while Anna filtered water and cooked dinner.
Alpenglow kissed the peaks. It was time to sleep and get energized for our final day on the Teton Crest Trail.
Note: This hike occurred in late August.