While Grand Teton National Park is best known for the mountain that gives its name to the park, there are plenty of other hikes and climbs that are worth the effort to admire the beauty of the park, including a trip to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes. The two alpine lakes are reached by the Amphitheater Lake Trail, which rewards hikers with great views of the Jackson Hole valley, the Teton Range, wildflowers, and a few of the region’s nicest alpine lakes. With a bit of luck, there will also be deer and bears along the way.
This hike starts at the Lupine Meadows Parking Area. It first travels through a nice forest and gains little noticeable elevation. After 1.7 miles, the Amphitheater Trail intersects with the Valley Trail, which leads to Bradley Lake and Taggart Lake. Save these two for another visit.
From the intersection, the trail switchbacks up to Surprise Lake for a little over 3 miles, intersecting with the Garnet Canyon Trail along the way. During the ascent, the views of the Jackson Hole valley are excellent, and Bradley and Taggart Lakes will also make an appearance. Wildflowers are abundant, especially early in the summer as good parts of the trail cross a grassy slope. The trail eventually flattens out a bit and reaches Surprise Lake at 9,570 feet. The scenic lake is dominated by Inspiration Peak, which scramblers can tackle easily.
At 9,698 feet, Amphitheater Lake is located a quarter-mile away in a cirque dominated by Disappointment Peak (11,618 feet) and Grand Teton (13,770 feet) to the northwest and Tweeniot Mountain (12,325 feet) to the northeast. The Middle Teton and Teton Glaciers can be seen early in the season. Later in the summer, turn right after reaching Amphitheater Lake and continue for a few hundred yards to see views of Teton Glacier. Amphitheater Lake is a beautiful area and an excellent place to have lunch and catch one’s breath before starting the descent via the same trail used for the ascent.
To enjoy views of a third lake, Delta Lake, simply climb up on the ridge to the right of Amphitheater Lake. There is no marked trail, but the terrain is open, and the grade is not too steep. That will add more views to an already-excellent outing.