This is the most popular hike in the entire park, and for good reason. It’s easily accessible from the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, maintains a relatively comfortable grade after the initial climb from the shore of Jenny Lake, and offers striking views of the tallest and most recognizable peaks in the park: Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and Mount Owen.
Starting from the Visitor Center, Hikers can choose to either take a ferry across or walk an extra 2 miles around Jenny Lake. We opted to save ourselves 45 mins and get straight into the canyon. From the boat dock, it’s about a mile of steep climb to get out of the trees and reach the turnoff for Inspiration Point. It’s a short but steep .3 miles with a beautiful view of Jenny Lake. Worth it if you wanna see the lake you were just at but from higher up.
As you finally turn into the canyon proper, keep your eyes peeled for rumored mooses. They’re everywhere–in the creek, behind the trees, over the next ridge, just up the trail. Everyone on the trail has heard of the rumored moose, but seeing one yourself is incredibly rare.
In a mile or two, you’ll pass a couple shady areas near Cascade Creek are decent spots to stop for lunch or a quick snack. I like to take this time to identify the visible peaks on my map. Due to the high volume of traffic on this trail, the ground squirrels are very bold. Don’t be afraid to poke ’em with a hiking pole if they get too close, they’re worse than city pigeons.
The official trail continues to the fork, around 3 miles more, most of which is ever-changing views of Grand Teton & friends and the various glacial streams that course down the steep canyonsides.
Unless you’re planning on continuing on to Alaska Basin or Lake Solitude, I’d recommend turning around before you reach the fork. After you cross the bridge above Cascade Creek the trail becomes very steep and thickly forested, and there aren’t any particularly good views worth pressing on to see. There’s no payoff at the Fork either, unless you’re a big fan of the flies that live at the Fork and nowhere else.
On your way out of the canyon, be sure to tell all the incoming hikers about the moose you heard another hiker talking about so they can have the full Cascade Canyon experience.