The sudden jaw-dropping, in-your-face view of the Grand Teton Mountain Range as you crest Table Mountain is worth the 4,000-foot gain - it's a view you will never forget.
View of the Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and South Teton from summit of Table Mountain, 11,106 feet
Trip Stats for North Teton (Huckleberry)/Face loop:
"There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games."
- Ernest Hemingway
North Teton Trail (Huckleberry Trail) from North Teton Trailhead to Table Mountain summit
click on map for full Topozone map
Jedediah Smith Wilderness boundary about 1 mile into hike on North Teton Trail #024
Fred and I hiked the amazing North Teton trail to its spectacular summit this past August, at the suggestion of a friend who found out we were going to the "Idaho side of the Tetons". We didn't want to see the crowds of people in Grand Teton National Park, so we hiked out of Driggs, Idaho.
At the end of Teton Canyon Road, 10.5 miles from downtown Driggs, Idaho there are two trailheads. The trail from the North Teton trailhead (North Teton trail, AKA Huckleberry trail) goes to Table Mountain, and the trail from the South Teton trailhead goes to Alaska Basin (another stunning hike where we saw a moose). The Face trail is accessed between these two trailheads. Some hikers ascend via the Face Trail; it is a more direct but steeper, unmaintained route to Table Mountain. We descended via Face Trail but I would not do that again because it is very steep with loose rocks and shallow switchbacks, and my toes got really sore pushing against the front of my boots!
If you want to avoid Face Trail, you can do an out-and-back hike on North Teton Trail for a total of 13 miles.
This hike gets more spectacular with nearly every step. As with most summit hikes, it starts out in thick forest canopy, hiking along North Fork Teton Creek. Multi-colored blankets of wildflowers among bright green grasses and shrubs covered the lower slopes of the U-shaped glacially-carved valley we walked through. Peaks towered above us as tall limestone cliffs seemed to surround, dominating much of the horizon. There had to be a break in those walls to get us on top of the ridge overlooking the valley we had ascended.
Face Trail trailhead located between North Teton and South Teton trailheads at the end of Teton Canyon Road
North Teton Trail (Huckleberry Trail) goes along North Fork Teton Creek
North Teton Trail (Huckleberry Trail) - Jedediah Smith Wilderness
North Teton Trail leaves the North Fork Teton Creek at 8,400 feet, then heads southward through the steep basin and toward a break in the cliffs. The trail then switch-backs to the ridge, climbing ~ 1,500 feet through basin and up switchbacks in about 1.5 miles. The ridge is at 9,900 feet. Table Mountain looks like an altar facing the immense and looming Grand Teton. After the steep ascent from basin to ridge, the trail takes a turn southeastward with its sights straight toward the summit, passing very close to the cliff edge for one last view of the magnificent basin just ascended. Just 1,200 more vertical feet to climb to the summit!
One of the switchbacks that climbs out of basin in a southwestward direction to top-off at ridge (~ 9,900 feet) and nearby intersection with Face Trail
Table Mountain facing the Grand Teton as viewed from switchbacks out of basin
Along North Teton Trail (AKA Huckleberry Trail) on ridge near intersection with Face Trail ~ 10,000 feet
After climbing out of the basin onto the ridge, the trail heads straight toward the summit, surrounded by wildflowers the entire way until the summit block. Table Mountain looms ahead and it seems to take forever for it to get closer. The juxtaposition of the tips of the Grand Teton and Mt. Owen rising behind the low, broad and grounded bench of Table Mountain is a rare sight. This is a great example of Earth's awesome forces; a relatively "young" fault (Buck Mountain Fault) raising old rocks higher than newer rocks in such a dramatic manner. After passing through pines and purple lupines, the trail suddenly opens up to a vast and high open meadow dotted with swaying white bistorts (my favorite wildflower). We saw people the size of small dots on the final incline to the summit. With legs burning, we made our way up this incline to the cool, breezy summit scrambling through a cut in the sharp rocks. A few more steps along the flat summit, and then WOW! The earth quickly drops below you as you stand on a precipice (2,300-foot drop in this case), and the world opens up to make you feel like a speck in the middle of it. But this is no "ordinary" summit because you come face to face with the enormity of the Tetons, making you feel even smaller. The Grand is so close you can see its ledges and walls. You have worked to claim your lofty space, but you gaze at a space loftier than the small patch of Earth on which you stand.
Looking down from summit at the final approach to Table Mountain with Roaring Creek and Alaska Basin Trail to the left of ridge (southwest)
Hiking through a sea of American bistort (Bistorta bistortoides) and purple aster on the final stretch to Table Mountain
Sue on summit of Table Mountain, 11,106 feet with Grand Teton and Mt. Owen in background
Summit of Table Mountain
Peaks left to right: Mt. Owen, Grand Teton, Middle Teton
Fellow hikers lingered at the summit. We savored the experience, too, and then saw weather coming in from the southwest. We decided to get off the exposed rock, and on our way down, a lightning storm raged over another ridge. We took the Face Trail # 029 at the intersection with North Teton Trail which saved us time and mileage. Face Trail starts out with gentle decline and ends with a quadricep workout down the very steep pitch with loose rocks. At the end of this trail, a metal sign reads "Face Trail 029 - Very Steep - Not Recommended". Next time, I would go up Face Trail and down North Teton Trail. Or skip Face Trail altogether.
The next day, we hiked 5 miles up Alaska Basin Trail with millions of wildflowers.
Intersection of North Teton Trail with Face Trail ~ 1.5 miles from summit
Face Trail is ~ 2.6 miles shorter on the way down but much steeper!
Miller, M.B. (2012, August 2). Great Unconformity in the Teton Range, Wyoming. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from - https://geologictimepics.com/2012/04/
Ortenburger, L. N., and Jackson, R.G. (1996) A Climbers Guide to the Teton Range, 3rd Edition. (Click on title for link).
Thank-you for your comment - we are lucky to have access to such beauty. I have been to Targhee once skiing and remember seeing the Tetons from the top of the ski run! So much to do, so little time!
If you are into hiking, there are thousands of mountains that you can climb up to prove your greatness in hiking. I guess, Caribou-Targhee National Forest will give you an experiencer that you will never forget. Based on how you have narrated your hiking story here, It wasn't really easy. There were huge challenges that may have stopped you from the hike, but you were dedicated to reach the peak. No amount of challenge can ever back you down! Caribou-Targhee National Forest should be part of everyone's hiking bucket list!
Thank-you for your comments - they are very accurate when you talk about the challenge of this hike. And I agree this hike should be a part of everyone's bucket list - in fact, there were a lot of people on the trail that were doing the hike in their own time, not trying to do it fast, but to enjoy it and respect the gorgeous wilderness they were hiking in. That is what's special about hiking - sharing beauty and our wilderness!
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Sue and Fred
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Exploration documentaries – "explorumentaries" list trip stats and highlights of each hike or bike ride, often with some interesting history or geology. Years ago, I wrote these for friends and family to let them know what my husband, Fred and I were up to on weekends, and also to showcase the incredible land of the west.
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