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Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina

Grand Teton National Park

Targhee/Teton Area, Wyoming

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Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina

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  • Colter Bay Marina.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Heading out after renting a tandem kayak just a few feet from the water.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Stick to the southern shore when entering and exiting. Turn left when heading out and the right on your way back in.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • The beautiful Teton range.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Take a swim break at the first point.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Left to right: Mount Teewinot (12,326 ft), Grand Teton (13,776 ft), and Mount Moran (12,605 ft) are the highlights of this peak-laden range.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Waterfall Canyon, not accessible by trail, is completely wild and untouched.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Taking a break along the shore before the Tetons.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • This adventure is such a cool new way for people to explore the park.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • The water is so clear.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Pulling up onto the southern tip of Little Mackinaw Island.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Nearby wildfires can make it a bit hazy, but imagine a clear day!- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Clear Waters on Jackson Lake.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • What a great way to spend the day. Sheffield Island is on the right.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • The Grand Tetons.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Jackson Lake before the Grand Tetons.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Time to go!- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Paddling at Jackson Lake.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Paddling at Jackson Lake.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • This area would be impassable with only a drop of a few feet in lake level.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • Paddling at Jackson Lake.- Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
  • - Jackson Lake via Colter Bay Marina
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Amazing place to kayak. You can walk on the various islands. Easy access.
Cons: 
Rapid changes of weather in the park. Potential sun exposure.
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Region:
Targhee/Teton Area, WY
Congestion: 
Moderate
Site characteristics: Water: 
Lake
Motorized watercraft allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Portage required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
Water difficulty: 
Easy / Class A
Current Local Weather:
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Paddle Description

Paddle Description

Pro Contributor

We know how stunning the Grand Tetons can be, and getting to view them from a kayak on the massive open waters of Jackson Lake is a dream come true. From the Colter Bay Marina within the Grand Teton National Park, you can boat and kayak out to deep blue water with the jagged mountain range sitting just above the reflection. You get great views of the northern canyons, several of which have no foot trails to access them. Paddle to the rocky beaches of the many nearby islands within the lake and take a dip in the frigid water to cool off on a hot summer day.

You can rent single and two-person kayaks at the marina, which is great for out-of-towners. Head west to exit the marina while hugging the southern end to avoid motorized boats. There is a small bay on the left as you make your way to the first channel into Colter Bay. If you head left here, you will go toward the Heron Ponds; this is one of the few places where you are not allowed to exit your craft and walk around because of the nesting birds in the area. You can pass that waterway and round the northern tip of Little Mackinaw Island and into its bay. There is a small backcountry campsite that can be reserved online or in person at the permit office near the marina.

Southeast of Mackinaw Bay is Half Moon Bay, which also makes it just south of the Heron Ponds. From this general area you can access multiple islands such as Sheffield and Badger, but keep in mind that the beaches have large stones that are not easy to walk on without footwear. Farther south is Hermitage Point, but that's about the limit of where you would be traveling to from Colter Bay. Bring the fishing poles to have a try at the cutthroat and brownies that are stocked from the nearby fish hatchery.

Bring your swimsuits and pack a lunch to enjoy at the far southern tip of Little Mackinaw Island while looking out to Elk and Dollar islands and the Tetons beyond. It is quite the place to have lunch, and it takes about three hours total to enjoy the islands. You can't go past a quarter-mile offshore (west) of these islands, which means no heading to the largest of them, Elk Island.

As the water levels change, so does your ability to paddle between islands, and sometimes the channels between islands become impassable in low water. You get a laminated map when renting the kayaks, so that comes in handy, and GPS and cell phones should work fine out there. Bring sunscreen, water, a large hat, and a snack. Life vests are provided when renting kayaks. Be prepared for rapid changes of weather at this park and the potential for afternoon lightning storms.

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