What Am I Doing?
GYT Reroutes – 2016 FebruaryFebruary 16, 2016
I made a few modifications to the trail. One came in response to a trail ranger’s advice about an area of the Teton Wilderness, another after seeing potential complications with Grand Teton National Park as well as the length of that stretch of trail, and the last in response to a previous comment about the trailhead from Lander not working too well.
Flagg Ranch to Thoroughfare
I met with a trail supervisor for the Teton Wilderness who gave me some valuable information about the trails in that area. He strongly recommended avoiding the western portion of the wilderness since the trails are highly eroded and overgrown, and also since there will be a lot of hunting outfitters setting up in the area during the ideal time to hike through.
He instead recommended using the Boundary Trail along Yellowstone National Park’s south eastern border, which I was hesitant to choose due to issues in obtaining a permit. However I took a closer look at the permit process, and the South Entrance Ranger Station at Yellowstone’s gate can actually issue permits, so this winds up working out better! This will allow hikers to obtain permits for that entire leg of the trail, which will now leave Flagg Ranch, head up to the south entrance where the ranger station is, then begin to proceed heading east along the Snake River. The trail also straddles the borders of Yellowstone and the Teton Wilderness, allowing the option to avoid a permit for a night or two. It then meets up with the original proposed route, where it heads southeast to the Parting of the Waters, before cutting back up north and into the Thoroughfare. Having now stopped at a ranger station, acquiring permits for that area shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Unfortunately, I also discovered that the east entrance does not provide backcountry permits like the south entrance does, so once in that area, a ride will need to be found to Bridge Bay or Canyon Village. These are the two closest locations to obtain a backcountry permit for the next stretch. Of course it could also be a great way to stop and be a tourist while spending a zero day in those parts of the park before wrapping up the last two legs of the trail. You’ll probably also want a zero day there too since the reroute added a bit of mileage to that segment, making it one of the potentially tougher stretches. Likewise, the drive to Cody in the opposite direction could also make for a good break (just don’t forget the permits).
The Teton Crest Trail and Northern Tetons
Another stretch I always had concerns about was the Teton Crest Trail and legally camping in the northern Teton Mountains, as well as using unmaintained trails. This was also tricky because the original length was longer than what I felt most people could do comfortably without a resupply. Between the overall length, the camping permits, and use of unmaintained trails, this area had been nagging at me.
To simplify this, I (reluctantly) made a detour off of the Teton Crest Trail at the Alaska Basin to head down to a campground near Alta, Wyoming. This allows options to not only resupply for the next stretch via caching (make sure it’s bear-proof), but also to potentially head to Grand Targhee Ski Resort and/or the towns of Alta and Driggs for resupplies. Heading north from there, the trail now uses all existing trails in the northeastern end of the Jedediah Smith Wilderness, bordering Grand Teton National Park to the east. The trail then cuts eastward into Grand Teton National Park, and heads north into the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway to end at Flagg Ranch. Once into Grand Teton National Park, it’s about 16 miles to Flagg Ranch. If no arrangements had been made to camp in this part of the park prior, it should be possible to make it through in a day, but obviously a camping permit to break up that stretch could prove valuable. Currently, that could prove to be very difficult since permits need to be acquired in person. While it’s still a better solution than what I had before, I’m still hoping to meet with the park to discuss some options to simplify the complications.
Lander Trailhead and southern Wind River Mountains
A reader named Derek left a comment on the original post of the GYT pointing out that what I thought was a normal dirt road going to the trailhead is actually more of a brutal ATV route. I looked into it further and he was spot on. In fact, some people even use it as a hiking trail. Moving the trailhead farther up that particular trail would make the distance entirely too long for most people. Instead, I moved the trailhead farther south and rerouted the first stretch of the trail to now head northwest toward Cirque of the Towers. Though the trail comes within about 1.5 miles away from the cirque, it cuts north into higher elevations before getting there and then joins the original route. I kinda cringe at getting so close to the Cirque of the Towers and not actually going up there, but that’s something to keep in mind if you don’t mind adding three miles to your journey. This new route also doesn’t gain any significant elevation for the first day or so, so that should allow for an extra day of snow melt (if it really even makes a big difference).
Also, the trailhead now starts at an official campground. This allows for shuttle cars to be arranged easier, as well as drop-offs.
Remaining Tricky Spots
With those out of the way, there’s really only a couple of things that I’m still not completely comfortable with. One is the section of the trail leading into and out of Dubois. There’s an enormous maze of dirt roads in that area that could lead to a lot of confusion, as well as private property. It doesn’t just last for a couple of miles, but dozens of miles. While I would love to include Dubois, this is a pretty significant complication. My original option was to go straight from Pinedale to Jackson, but that’s way too long of a trail to go without resupplies. In fact, even stopping into Dubois isn’t much better. The stretch from Dubois to Jackson is still much longer than I’d like.
I looked closer at the route and there is a ranch along the route that could provide the perfect opportunity for a mail drop, but that’s only if they’re willing to participate, which of course they’re under no obligation to. Regardless, I’ve just reached out to them to see if there are any opportunities available, so I’ll see what the options are when (or if) they respond. It could wind up being an incredibly helpful fix to a couple of problems with the trail in that area, or it could require a completely new reroute.
So how’s it looking otherwise? Anybody want to help me potentially hike some sections this summer?