The Enchanting Delta Lake

Delta Lake

Have you ever seen a photo of a beautiful place that makes you think, "It can't be real? Someone must have altered it to make it look so magical." And as you admire the photo, you dream of that place, and you wish you could be there right now, in a secret realm all your own. Or it could be a place you made up in your mind, a place you visit when you close your eyes—a safe and rejuvenating place where you feel reconnected with nature and yourself. But you know you can never go there because it can't exist in the real world… can it?

Let me show you how to go to a place I know about, a place that lives up to all of those Photoshopped pictures that make you gasp and sigh. A real place, with a small lake of turquoise waters so clear you can see to the bottom, hidden away below the towering Teton Mountains. And when you get there, you will find some large boulders by the water's edge, beckoning you to sit for a while and let your troubles float away on the gentle breezes. Oh, and the trees, the beautiful pines full of singing birds, and the puffy white clouds hanging lazily over the tallest peaks. Do you want to come along to a place like that? Okay then, listen closely, and I'll tell you how to find this magical yet very real place that doesn't just exist in someone's imagination.

Let me tell you about Delta Lake and give you directions for finding it. I suspect that when you get there, you might say something like," Hey, that Peter person wasn't kidding. This place is everything he promised it would be, and so much more." I hope you will think that anyway… Nah, I know you will. You'll have to hike to Delta Lake, and it's a 7-mile round trip hike at that. But it's worth it. You should bring a picnic lunch with you. When you get there, you won't want to leave for a while that I can promise.

Delta Lake 2

There are some things I need to tell you, though, as this hike won't be for everyone. Small children should not attempt this one because there are many boulder fields you have to trek through that would be difficult for them. The hiking trail to Delta Lake is no longer maintained and hasn't been for some time. It's as wild as you are going to get, which makes this one even more special. Whenever we've been on this hike, we rarely see anyone else. I can't promise you won't see anyone else when you go, but you probably won't.

Before going further, I want to tell you some things to bring with you. Bear spray. You may come upon a bear on this trail. If you aren't familiar with what to do when encountering a bear, I talked about it here: https://www.peternoahthomas.com/2016/02/the-bears-will-be-out-of-their-dens-soon.html

As I said in that post, I'm not trying to scare anyone; I want you to be safe. You'll need hiking shoes/boots, water, and snacks. Keep the snacks or food in sealed containers so as not to attract bears.

Since this trail isn't maintained, and if you have a terrible sense of direction, bring someone along who won't get turned around and lost. I know this from experience. Cough cough It's easy to lose sight of which direction you are going. Remember, this is a wilderness area. Obviously, a compass of some sort will help and is a good idea. Be mindful of your surroundings as you will need to come back this way when you leave. This isn't a loop hike. You will go in 3.5 miles and back out the same 3.5 miles.

I'll tell you how to get there now, but remember, the park rangers are there to help you and to answer your questions. Before going on any longer hikes such as this one, you should stop by a station and let them know about your hike. That way, if you don't check back in after several hours, they will know you are out there and where to send help. They will be able to tell you how to get to Delta Lake if you ask. I've never met a park ranger I didn't like. They are good people, and they take pride and joy in telling folks about the parks. Don't hesitate to speak to a ranger if you see a ranger station. They will be very welcoming. Okay, ready? Here we go.

First, you will go to the Lupine Meadows trailhead and park in the parking area. You can find this trailhead on the Teton's park map you will get when entering the park, but just in case: From Jackson, head north into the park on US191. Make a left at Moose Junction onto Teton Park Road. Stay north on Teton Park Road for just over 7 miles, where you will then turn left onto Lupine Meadows Road; it is unpaved but relatively well maintained. Follow Lupine Meadows Road to the end, where you will find a parking area, and the Lupine Meadows trailhead, where you'll begin the hike.

From the Lupine Meadows trail-head, the first mile of the trail is a pretty gentle, steady incline before it banks to the right and begins a steeper ascent up a ridge. This portion of the trail is mainly forested with occasional views of the Teton mountain range. When you reach the Valley Trail's junction, make sure to stay straight toward Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes. The next mile and a half take you over a series of steady switchbacks through open meadows with views of Jackson Hole and Bradley Lake below. You will eventually reach another junction where the trail will split to either Garnet Canyon (left) or Surprise/Amphitheater Lakes (straight/right). Make sure to stay straight/right toward Surprise/Amphitheater Lakes. The first switchback after the junction, you will leave the somewhat maintained trail.

The unmaintained trail is not hard to find but easy to miss if you're not paying attention. The trail will quickly descend and just as quickly mellow out. This portion of the trail is why I said earlier that it is "unmaintained" with several fallen trees creating obstacles. While the trees are not difficult to navigate, losing sight of the faint trail is possible. This is where having good direction-finding skills comes in handy. After a few tenths of a mile, the trail will open up into the first boulder field. Look for cairns (A cairn is a human-made pile or stack of stones left by some kind soul) to guide you to stay on the trail.

The trail continues after the first boulder field, then entering a much larger boulder field, which marks the final 500 feet of elevation gain to the lake. Be careful as some of the boulders can move. Keep an eye out for cairns to help maintain your course and take it slow; while you don't need to be an expert rock climber by any means, it still takes some balance and careful navigation. Follow the boulder field up. Eventually, you will be able to see and/or hear the runoff from the lake. Follow the water up to the foot of the lake. You made it!

Delta Lake 3

Welcome to the unbelievable Delta Lake. Take a deep breath, let your cares go, and bask in the wondrous beauty of a place you never knew could be real, and yet, you are there. Enjoy! =]:)

This hike is for advanced, experienced hikers

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  1. Beautiful! We say it a lot...that can’t be real!! Thanks, Peter!

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Robin and Happy New Year.


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