Static Peak is one of the premier summit hikes in the Teton Range that does not involve scrambling or technical climbing. The 11,303-foot peak in the Southern Tetons offers a rewarding objective for the ambitious hiker along with stunning scenery.
The 16-mile roundtrip hike to Static Peak begins at the Death Canyon/Whitegrass Ranch Trailhead in the southern portion of Grand Teton National Park.
Highlights include but are not limited to a beautiful lake, cascading rivers, wildlife opportunities, amazing wildflowers in mid-summer, and high alpine views.
Distance and Elevation Gain
This is a long hike that is better suited to someone with an above average fitness level. The one-way distance to the top of Static Peak is 8 miles, making for a roundtrip out-and-back distance of 16 miles.
The net elevation gain of this hike (summit elevation minus trailhead elevation) is 4,523 feet. However, when you factor in a 500-foot descent early on in the hike, this leads to a total elevation gain of about 5,000 feet.
After the first 2 miles of up-and-down, the trail consistently gains elevation at a rate of about 750 feet per mile to the 11,303-foot summit.
How to get to the trailhead
The Death Canyon/White Grass Ranch Trailhead is about a 35-40 minute drive from Jackson.
From the Moose-Wilson Road, it’s a 2-mile drive on the Death Canyon Road to reach the trailhead.
The last mile of this road to the trailhead is unpaved and is fairly rough. It helps to have a four wheel drive or high clearance vehicle for this section, though a Suburu would be just fine.
I’ve seen two wheel drive Sedans make it to the trailhead, but do so at your own risk. Otherwise, there is a parking area at the start of the unpaved section. If you start here, it will add an extra mile of hiking through easy terrain to reach the trailhead.
There is a bathroom located at the trailhead.
Trail Breakdown and Highlights
The trail to Static Peak is well-maintained and very well-marked. The only off-trail hiking comes toward the very top upon reaching Static Divide at 10,800 feet. From here, it’s an easy 500 foot ascent up grassy slopes to the summit of Static Peak.
For description purposes, the hike can be divided into four sections.
Death Canyon Trailhead to Phelps Lake
At the very start of the hike, you’ll reach a junction with the Valley Trail just a few hundred feet in. Take a left at this trail junction and head toward Phelps Lake.
The hike begins with a gradual climb to an overlook above beautiful Phelps Lake after 0.9 miles.
From here, it’s about a 500 foot descent until reaching the next trail junction with the Death Canyon Trail at 1.7 miles. Take note: you’ll have to regain this elevation on the hike out.
Phelps Lake to Death Canyon Patrol Cabin
Upon reaching the Death Canyon Trail just above the shores of Phelps Lake, take a right and head into Death Canyon.
From here, it is another 2 miles of steady climbing before reaching the Death Canyon Patrol Cabin at 3.7 miles. Enjoy view looking back down this steep canyon as you ascend.
Just before reaching the Patrol Cabin, the terrain will flatten out with a couple of nice calm pools in Death Canyon Creek. These are popular swimming spots on warm days – be sure to stop here to take a dip on your way back down!
Death Canyon Patrol Cabin to Static/Albright Saddle
At the Death Canyon Patrol Cabin, stop for a quick snack break, then take a right on the Alaska Basin Trail.
This next section of trail climbs 2,300 feet in about 3 miles with good views opening up to the west into Upper Death Canyon.
You’ll ascend many switchbacks through a mix of forest and open meadows, and during mid-summer the wildflowers through here are incredible!
The last time I hiked this trail in late July, the yellow arrowleaf balsamroot flowers were really stealing the show.
The trail will initially reach a “false” saddle on the south side of Albright Peak. There is a neat view of Phelps Lake way below you at this point.
Continue hiking up the western slopes of Albright Peak before reaching a saddle between Static Peak and Albright Peak.
Although I’ve never done it, there is an optional side trip scramble to the top of Albright Peak from this saddle. It would be about a 500-foot ascent over class-2 terrain.
Upon reaching the Static/Albright saddle, the views really begin to open up. You also get your first views of Static Peak.
Static/Albright Saddle to Static Peak Summit
From here, the most spectacular section of the hike is ahead. The remainder of this hike is through the alpine zone as you climb above treeline.
If you are hiking this trail before August, you will likely have one or two snow crossings where an ice ax is recommended. These crossings are pretty easy as long as the snow is soft and there are good tracks through the snow.
However, slope angles are rather steep, hence why it is advisable to carry an ice ax.
If you really don’t want to carry an ice ax or cross the snow, you could also traverse above these snowfields (typically do-able by mid July) with some minor scrambling involved.
From the Static/Albright saddle, it is roughly one mile of hiking to reach Static Peak Divide at 10,800 feet. Buck Mountain will come into view behind Static Peak as you near the divide.
From the well-marked divide, leave the trail and walk the final 500 vertical feet to the summit of Static Peak. Although this is off-trail hiking, there is nothing technical about the final ascent to the top and the route-finding is as easy as it gets.
On the summit, the views of the surrounding Tetons and Jackson Hole Valley are incredible. Buck Mountain and the Grand Teton both dominate the views to the north.
As long as the weather is good, enjoy a well-earned lunch break on the summit and soak in the views.
However, if the clouds look at all threatening, then cut your summit visit short and start heading back down. After all, this mountain was named Static Peak due to its exposure to lightning strikes during thunderstorms!
Best time of year to hike Static Peak
Generally, mid July to late September is the best time to do this hike and avoid significant snow issues.
However, this varies from year to year depending on snowpack from the previous winter/spring and when the first significant snows arrive in the fall.
For wildflowers, mid July to early August is typically the peak season. In big snow years, wildflower activity could remain excellent into mid to late August.
September is also a good time for this hike as fall colors arrive. Additionally, thunderstorms are less frequent in September compared to July and August.
In the spring time, Static Peak occasionally sees visits from backcountry skiers, who approach via Static Peak Draw on the east side. However, note that Static Peak is closed to all human traffic between December 1st and March 31st to protect winter bighorn sheep habitat.
Moose are commonly seen on this hike, especially between the trailhead and Death Canyon Patrol Cabin.
I’ve seen black bears near Phelps Lake and in Death Canyon on multiple occasions. They can also be seeen higher up on the trail between the patrol cabin and the Static/Albright saddle.
Grizzly bears are less common in this area compared to black bears, but I have heard several reports of grizzly sightings, especially near and above the patrol cabin.
Other frequent wildlife sightings on this hike include deer and marmots, and occasionally elk in the first mile of the hike to Phelps Lake.
What about bugs?
If you do this hike in July, you’ll probably encounter mosquitoes near Phelps Lake and possibly along the river near the patrol cabin. But for most of the hike, they aren’t bad.
If you decided to camp in the Death Canyon Camping Zone (which I’ll describe in the next section below), mosquito issues can be far worse in this area.
I have encountered black flies in July when hiking back down this trail in the afternoons. But they aren’t terrible here compared to many areas.
From mid August on, bugs are likely to be a non-issue.
Day hike or Overnight hike?
At 16 miles roundtrip, Static Peak makes for a long day. There are options for those who would prefer to do this as a backpacking trip.
However, I believe Static Peak is better suited as a day hike for most people.
Camping will require a side trip: Since this hike is located in Grand Teton National Park, you must camp within designated camping zones only.
The closest camping zone to this route is located about a mile away down a different trail, so this would add to your total distance and hiking time.
It can be difficult to secure a permit: If you don’t secure a permit through the park service before May 15, then you’ll be at the mercy of a walk-in permit no more than one day before your trip.
If there are no walk-in permits available for your camping zone, then you’ll be out of luck!
Carry a lighter day pack: Doing Static Peak in one day means you can carry a lighter pack rather than hauling a heavy multi-day pack partway up this hike.
Logistics: From the closest backcountry camping zone to this route, it would still leave about a 5.3-mile (one-way) and 3,500-foot climb to the summit of Static Peak.
Options for camping
Even though I prefer Static Peak as a day hike, this can certainly be done as part of a multi-day trip. For instance, you might want to spend 2-3 days in the backcountry and hike to the top of a mountain from your campsite.
Where to Camp: Your best bet for camping is in the lower portion of the Death Canyon Camping Zone.
To reach the Death Canyon Camping Zone, hike 3.7 miles up the Death Canyon Trail to the Death Canyon Patrol Cabin. From the patrol cabin, the trail will split with the right fork heading up to Static Peak.
To camp, you will instead continue straight on the Death Canyon trail for about a mile until reaching the lower Death Canyon Camping Zone. At this point, your elevation will be near or just below 8,000 feet.
Important Considerations When Camping: The two most important things to remember when camping in the Death Canyon Camping Zone are 1) Campfires are not allowed, and 2) A bear canister is required for food storage.
How to Secure a Backcountry Permit
Advance Reservations: Grand Teton National Park offers advance reservations to one third of its backcountry permits from early February through May 15 each year.
To book a reservation in advance, visit the Recreation.gov website and search for Grand Teton National Park. Be sure to look for sites in the lower Death Canyon Camping Zone. It costs $45 to reserve a permit in advance.
After reserving your permit, you must pick your permit up from a ranger station before 10am on the day of your trip, or else it will be released. The closest location to pick up your permit for this trip is the Craig Thomas Visitor Center in Moose.
Walk-in Permits: The remaining two thirds of backcountry permits are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis no more than one day prior to the start of the trip. Walk-in permits cost $35.
Once again, the most convenient place to snag a walk-in permit is at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center in Moose.
As mentioned earlier, Static Peak got it’s name for a reason. This is not a place you want to be caught up high during a thunderstorm.
Thunderstorms and Lightning
Thunderstorms are common in the Tetons, especially during June, July, and August. Although less common, they can occasionally occur in September as well.
Lightning danger is typically highest during the afternoons and evenings. This means an early start with a goal of summiting by noon or earlier is advised when thunderstorms are in the forecast.
However, occasionally subtle weather systems move through during the summer, which can trigger early morning thunderstorms. These are the most dangerous for peakbaggers since they tend to catch people by surprise.
The Tetons can also see dry spells during the summer with little or no thunderstorm activity. These can be great times for hikes such as Static Peak.
For hiking Static Peak, I recommend checking the National Weather Service point forecast for the upper elevations of the peak, as well as forecast discussions from the NWS Riverton and Pocatello offices.
Although these discussions can be somewhat technical, even a weather novice can gain valuable insights from these discussions. The NWS discussions are issued twice per day – once in the early morning and again in the afternoon.
- Static Peak – National Weather Service 7-day Forecast for 10,000 ft.
- NWS Forecast Discussion for Western and Central Wyoming
- NWS Forecast Discussion for Eastern Idaho
Wind, Snow, and Cold Weather
Lightning is one of the top weather concerns for hiking Static Peak, but it is not the only one.
High winds can also be an issue above the Static/Albright saddle once you reach treeline.
Snow can fall at any time of year in the Tetons, even in the summer. In recent years, accumulating snow occurred down to 9,000 feet in the Tetons in August of 2018, and in July of 2016.
For daytime temperatures in the summer, you can generally expect the temperature to drop 5 degrees Fahrenheit per 1,000 feet of elevation. This does not factor in the wind chill.
For example, let’s say the forecast high in the town of Jackson (elevation 6,200 feet) is 80 degrees. Static Peak is about 5,000 feet higher than Jackson, so it would be safe to estimate a high temperature of about 55 degrees on the summit.
Morning low temperature forecasts are more tricky since valley inversions are common on clear nights without precipitation.
If you plan to hike this trail early or late in the season, you will want to get the latest update on snow conditions.
The Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers periodically update snow conditions on for the major passes and peaks in Grand Teton National Park through the summer. Go to their website and click on “Static Peak Divide” on the right hand column for the most recent update.
If the most recent conditions are outdated, then you can also call Grand Teton National Park at 307-739-3399 or stop by one of the visitor centers to ask a ranger about current conditions.
Here are a few items I consider to be essential for this hike:
- Extra layers
- Ski hat and light weight gloves
- Bear spray
- 3 liters of water or a water purification system
- Personal locater device, such as a SPOT or DeLorme beacon
- First aid kit
Here are a few items I might bring depending on current conditions:
- Ice ax
- Microspikes or crampons
- Bug spray
- Rain jacket and rain gear (if anything but a dry forecast)
- Down jacket