Updated: May 20, 2020
Perched high up in the Teton Mountain Range, the enchanted Delta Lake sits just below the Grand Teton.
The trail to Delta Lake is a bit of a difficult one. At 9 miles round-trip, with about 2,300 feet of elevation gain, the hike itself is moderately difficult. However, what makes the Delta Lake hike more challenging than your typical hike into mountains is that the trail is actually unofficial and unmaintained by the National Forest Park Service. There are several steep boulder fields and fallen trees that you will have to navigate through and around. Don't let this scare you off though, the majority of the Delta Lake trail up to the Grand Teton is actually a very heavily trafficked trail, and it is not hard to find your way up to the emerald green lake. Once you get about a mile from Delta Lake you will have to find your way onto the unmaintained part of the trail, where you will break away from the crowds. We'll explain just what to look for to find this hidden gem.
Getting To Lupine Meadows
You start off the hike on the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. To get here to the trailhead, head North from Jackson on US191. Make a left on Moose Junction onto the Teton Park Road. Stay on the Teton Park Road for about 7 miles until you reach the Lupine Meadows Road turnoff on your left. Follow the unpaved road until you reach the parking lot.
As with any well-known, or popular hiking spot, it is best to try to arrive at the trailhead early to avoid the large crowds that are bound to show up. Once you've geared up for your hike with sunscreen, fluids, snacks, and bear spray (yes, there are a lot of bears in the area), head towards the trailhead and take a good look at the trail map. It will look something like the one below. Notice you can see Delta Lake on the trail map, but there is no marked trail heading towards it. This is where you need to pay attention.
You can see that the Amphitheater Lake Trail goes pretty close to Delta Lake. This is the trail that you will be on for the majority of the Delta Lake hike. From the map, you can see that there are six (6) switchbacks on the Amphitheater Lake Trail. The sixth switchback is where you will get on the Delta Lake Trail. Make sure you count the switchbacks as you hike.
Starting The Hike
From the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, the first mile of the trail is relatively easy and gradual. Once you hit a long, right-hand turn, the trail will get steeper and you'll start to ascend up in the mountains. You'll climb a decently steep trail until you reach a junction with the Valley Trail and Amphitheater and Surprise Lakes. Make sure you stay straight on the trail towards Amphitheater and Surprise Lakes.
At this point, you'll start going through the Switchbacks. For about a mile and half you'll walk amongst open meadows and beautiful views of Jackson and Bradley Lake down below. There's limited shade throughout these switchbacks, so make sure you have plenty of water. Eventually, you'll reach another junction in the trail. To the left, you'll have an option to go to Garnet Canyon, or you can stay on the Amphitheater Trail. Make sure you stay on the Amphitheater Trail.
After this junction, the next switchback will be where you enter onto the Delta Lake trail. As you're going through the Switchback (you'll be turning left), you will see footprints and a small cut-out trail going down a bank right in the middle of the switchback. This is your ticket to Delta Lake.
Hiking The Trail To Delta Lake
You'll quickly realize what I mean when I say unmaintained trail. There are trees that have fallen across the trail, and a lot of overgrowth and obstacles that you will need to maneuver. Make sure you stay on the faintly marked trail, as it can be easy to lose amongst the brush.
After being on the Delta Lake trail for about 5-10 minutes, the trail will open up to a large boulder field. It can be a little tricky the find the trail at this point, and it definitely requires some agility to climb over a bunch of large boulders. Keep a lookout for Cairns (those little rock towers) that other, amazing hikers have added to the trail. As long as you follow the Cairns, you'll be on the right path.
You'll go through two boulder fields in total. The second one being the larger of the two, climbing about 500 feet of elevation in total. Once you reach the top of the second boulder field you will finally see Delta Lake!
Go find a nice rock along the shore of the lake, eat some lunch, snap some photos, or go for a very, very frigid swim. Located right underneath the Grand Teton, you'll be in awe of the greenish-blue hue of Delta Lake. It is truly an amazing sight. Enjoy!
**On your way back down the Delta Lake trail, make sure you continue to look for the Cairns. it is easy to go too far down the bound fields and miss the dirt trail back to the Amphitheater Trail Lake trail that will bring you down to your car in the Lupine Meadows.**
Important things to pack for the hike to Delta Lake
Water and Fluids - there is minimal shade throughout the switchbacks. Water is essential.
Bear Spray - Bears frequent this area. Make sure you always have bear spray accessible.
Food and Snacks - Don't get hangry
A Hat - Sun Hats are a great option
Camera - to document the beauty of the lake
Check out some other great ideas to do in Grand Teton National Park here
Happy Hiking! Let me know how your hike to Delta Lake went in the comments down below. Thanks for reading.