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Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop

Grand Teton National Park

Targhee/Teton Area, Wyoming

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Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop

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  • Stay loud, have your bear spray ready, and keep your head on a swivel as you hike around Leigh Lake and up into Paintbrush Canyon. - Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Stay loud, have your bear spray ready, and keep your head on a swivel as you hike around Leigh Lake and up into Paintbrush Canyon. - Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Stay loud, have your bear spray ready, and keep your head on a swivel as you hike around Leigh Lake and up into Paintbrush Canyon. - Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Elk making their way across the mountainside.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Make sure you turn around on your early morning ascent to catch the sun rising into Paintbrush Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Make sure you turn around on your early morning ascent to catch the sun rising into Paintbrush Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • A developed bridge crossing over a river in Lower Paintbrush Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • A developed bridge crossing over a river in Lower Paintbrush Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Your first wide open view of Paintbrush Canyon as you climb up out of the first batch of trees into a clearing.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Your first wide open view of Paintbrush Canyon as you climb up out of the first batch of trees into a clearing.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • A great view of a waterfall draining from the mountains before you wind up and around Paintbrush Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Your first look at Leigh Lake below the canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • The trail opens up and winds around the the Holly Lake junction in the North Fork.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • The Holly Lake junction in Upper Paintbrush Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • A great view looking up the trail in the Upper Paintbrush Canyon area.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • A sign marks the beginning of the Upper Paintbrush Camping Area. Look for more signs pointing out campsites.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • A great view looking uphill in the Upper Paintbrush Canyon area.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Look behind you shortly after passing Holly Lake for incredible views of this alpine terrain.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Snow fields are likely to remain into early September.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Snow fields are likely to remain into early September.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Snow fields are likely to remain into early September.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • You'll have amazing mountain views during the entire ascent up Paintbrush Divide.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Hikers make their way across the rocky traverse before the difficult last push to the top.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • This is the most difficult section of the hike. Take extra precaution on every step, as all rocks are loose on this steep section before reaching the top.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • The 360-degree views from the top of Paintbrush Divide are absolutely awe-inspiring.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Paintbrush Divide: elevation 10,700 feet.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Two hikers cautiously navigate up the most difficult section of the pass featuring very steep and loose rocks.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Don't forget your summit snacks en route to Paintbrush Divide. You're not going to want to leave the views up top.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • From the top of Paintbrush Divide, you can either retrace you steps back down Paintbrush Canyon or push through to Lake Solitude and down Cascade Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Have your camera ready immediately as you descend down from Paintbrush Divide.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • The trail winds down the side of the mountain and switchbacks to reach Lake Solitude.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • A panoramic view you'll run into overlooking all of Cascade Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • A perfect view of Grand Teton while hiking down to Lake Solitude.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Smoke from the Montana wildfires made for a hazy view of the Tetons.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • It takes most of the summer for Lake Solitude to fully thaw out.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Normally the Tetons would be crystal clear, but wildfire smoke created a haze over the Teton Range.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • The last stretch of trail before reaching the end of Cascade Canyon at Lake Solitude.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Grab a prime spot in the shade on the giant smooth rock on Lake Solitude and enjoy your lunch before completing the loop.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Lake Solitude is the perfect setting to enjoy your lunch and take a dip if your body can handle the chilly water temperatures.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Lake Solitude offers crystal clear waters to take a dip in before completing the second half of your hike.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • This view is exactly why most people hike counter-clockwise and down through Cascade Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Cascade Canyon is absolutely filled with wildflowers.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • This view is exactly why most people hike counter-clockwise and down through Cascade Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • This view is exactly why most people hike counter-clockwise and down through Cascade Canyon.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • From Lake Solitude, you'll have a few mostly exposed miles of hiking before getting back into dense woods.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Follow signs to the boat dock and continue around Jenny Lake toward Leigh Lake.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • As soon as you hike around Jenny Lake, you'll run into a fantastic swimming hole just a half mile from the Leigh Lake parking lot. The temperature is much more reasonable than that of Lake Solitude.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Don't be surprised if there is a marmot or two looking for snacks at Lake Solitude.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
  • Be aware that even in June there can be knee deep snow toward Lake Solitude and even more up higher toward the divide. Plan this as a late summer hike.- Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Arguably the best day hike in the park. Plenty of water to filter or swim in. Easy to follow trail.
Cons: 
Early start is usually in darkness. Long hike (10+ hours). Bear country.
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Region:
Targhee/Teton Area, WY
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
3,817.00 ft (1,163.42 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
20.00 mi (32.19 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,883.00 ft (2,097.94 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Even considering the size of Grand Teton National Park and it's incredible mountain peaks, there seems to be a lack of longer day hike options available between 10 and 20 miles. The Paintbrush Canyon to Cascade Canyon Loop combines two of the most popular canyons in the park with a high elevation pass and a picturesque alpine lake. This is among the premier day hikes in Grand Teton National Park.

While this 20-mile loop can be completed in either direction, this is far and away the more popular route mostly because of the steady and gradual ascent up and through Paintbrush Canyon and the amazing views you'll be faced with as you hike down through Cascade Canyon.

Starting from the Leigh Lake parking lot is the most efficient way to begin this loop (Jenny Lake is ideal if you'll be hiking clockwise), and the first 1.5 miles tracks all the way around Leigh Lake until you reach the Paintbrush Canyon-String Lake Trail junction, where you will take a sharp right to continue up into the canyon. From there the hike is very straightforward with virtually no other trail junctions.

If you plan on backpacking the loop, you'll find plenty of signs indicating where the backcountry camping zones begin and end as well as signage directing you to each campsite. You'll pass through four different camping zones, two in each canyon: one in each of the upper and lower sections of each canyon.

Furthermore, there's a short 0.3-mile detour to Holly Lake toward the top of Paintbrush Canyon (about 5.5 miles in), where there are additional backcountry campsites that are popular among backpackers due to the scenery and proximity to Paintbrush Pass.

Continuing past Holly Lake and through Upper Paintbrush Canyon, you can finally see the highest point of the hike at Paintbrush Divide. As you begin to climb, be mindful of the views all around you, as they are the best in Paintbrush Canyon. Even in late summer, you're likely to cross a couple short snowfields, but they're relatively flat, and you should have no problem crossing them in hiking shoes/boots.

In order to finally reach Paintbrush Divide, you'll need to carefully hike up a steep rocky section on the mountain; you'll know it when you get there. Be mindful and cautious of every step, as the rocks in this section are loose and unsettled. After a quick cautious climb you'll reach Paintbrush Divide, elevation 10,700 feet above sea level.

After you soak in the views from Paintbrush Divide, continue on the trail around the ridge and down the backside of the mountain toward Lake Solitude. You'll have a rare view of both Mica Lake and Lake Solitude as you start your descent. The hike down to Lake Solitude is the rockiest part of the entire trek, but it soon gives way to packed dirt and offers the most amazing views of Cascade Canyon and Grand Teton looming over it. 

Lake Solitude offers a perfect resting spot to cool down and even take a dip if you can handle the water temperature. Continue down Cascade Canyon where you'll have endless picture opportunities for the next couple of miles. You will quickly realize why so many people choose to complete the loop in this direction. The hike down Cascade Canyon is a steady downhill trek until you reach a number of steep and narrow switchbacks leading to Jenny Lake. Follow signs to the boat dock and then veer right to head clockwise around Jenny Lake back to Leigh Lake.

After an exposed hike around Jenny Lake, you'll happen upon a swimming hole in the water connecting String Lake to Jenny Lake. After over 10 hours and 20 miles of hiking, this swimming hole is only about a half-mile from the Leigh Lake parking lot and provides a perfect opportunity to cool down before wrapping up your hike.

This hike is in bear country! Be Bear Aware! Bring bear spray, a bell, and a cannister, stay loud so as to not surprise bears, and keep your head on a swivel!

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