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.
Hike at a Glance
Location: Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
Type of Hike: Out-and-back
Distance: 16 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,000 feet* (4,500 feet to summit, extra 500 feet on the hike back)
Max Elevation: 11,303 feet
Min Elevation: 6,807 feet
Trailhead: Death Canyon
This is best done as a long day hike with an early start. You could camp in the lower portion of the Death Canyon Backcountry Camping Zone, but this would add extra mileage to the hike and would not be worth hauling the extra overnight gear in my opinion.
Permits and Regulations
Another reason this hike is best done as a day trip rather than a backpacking trip is that you must secure a permit (link) for backcountry camping in Grand Teton National Park. Backcountry permits in this park are in high demand and the process to reserve is a pain unless you are hiking after Labor Day when peak summer crowds subside.
For day hiking, permits are not required. Be sure to stay on the designated trail up to Static Peak Divide. Above Static Peak Divide, there are faint climbers paths to follow to the summit – stick to these paths as much as you can to avoid trampling the fragile alpine tundra.
Dogs are NOT allowed on this hike or on any trails in the national park, unless you have a registered service dog to aid with a disability in which case you must register at the Moose Visitor Center. Emotional comfort dogs or emotional support dogs do not qualify as service animals for national park trails.
Drones are also prohibited inside the national park boundaries.
Leave No Trace
As backcountry travelers, it is our responsibility to minimize our impact on the wilderness areas we use, both for the sake of the ecosystem and for the sake of other wilderness users. The last thing anyone wants is to come across a campsite full of trash.
Here is a quick rundown of the 7 Leave No Trace Principles:
Plan Ahead and Prepare: Check local conditions, be aware of any fire bans or wildlife closures.
Camp on Durable Surfaces: Set up your tent in an area that avoids trampling vegetation as much as possible, and also camp at least 200 feet away from water – both to protect the water from human impacts (food, human waste, etc.) and to give wildlife a buffer to travel along the water’s edge undisturbed.
Dispose of Waste Properly: This is a big one, and sadly tends to be neglected by many parties. Pack a trowel with you and when you “have to go”, dig a hole and bury your poop, at least 200 feet away from water and trails. Also, carry ziploc bags to pack out your used TP – please do not leave used TP as this is an (especially disgusting) form of littering.
Leave What You Find: Leave previously made fire rings as you found them without breaking them down or altering. Do not dig trenches or platforms for your tent.
Minimize Campfire Impacts: Use existing fire rings. Use dead wood for fuel and refrain from breaking branches off of live trees. Most importantly, please be extra thorough about properly extinguishing your fire, and use more water than you think you need. Western U.S. forests are susceptible to fires during the summer dry season and unattended campfires are one of the most common causes of forest fires.
Respect Wildlife: Observe animals from a distance and do not approach. Store food properly.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Be courteous, avoid excessive noise that could take away from the outdoor experience.
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!
When to Visit
Generally, mid July to late September is the best time to do this hike and avoid significant snow issues. There are a couple of steep snowfields that often linger into July where an ice ax and crampons would be necessary to safely cross.
However, the season varies from year to year depending on snowpack from the previous winter/spring and when the first significant snows arrive in the fall.
In rare years, you may be able to hike Static Peak with minimal snow issues as late as mid October, but I wouldn’t bet on it if you’re planning in advance.
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.
Mosquitoes and black flies can be a nuisance on lower portions of this hike in July and early August, but they are not as bad here compared to other mountain ranges in the Northern Rockies. Bugs also become less of an issue across the higher portions of this hike.
During the spring, 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 April 30th to protect winter bighorn sheep habitat.
Temperatures vary quite a bit by elevation on this hike. During July and August, high temperatures on the lower portions of this hike below 7,000 feet are typically in the 70s to 80s, while above 10,000 feet, highs are typically only in the 50s to 60s.
Winds can also be gusty above treeline, which on this hike is located at around 10,200 feet.
Low temperatures vary by elevation and are coldest in the valleys during mornings with clear weather. Generally, lows are in the 40s during mid-summer but often dip into the 30s by late August.
Temperatures start to cool off quite a bit in September with average highs in the 60s to 70s on the lower portions of the hike and 40s to 50s above 10,000 feet. Average lows are in the 20s to low 30s.
Snow can fall at any time of year on Static Peak, but typically the first “real” snows of the fall season occur in September. Most of the early snows will largely melt off in the days to follow, but by late September or early October, snow that accumulates on higher portions of the trail may stick around through the winter.
Thunderstorms are common in the Tetons during the summer and can develop quickly, so plan your hike for early in the day even if there is only a slight chance of thunderstorms in the forecast.
Static Peak got its name for a reason as the peak is know for being prone to lightning strikes. Keep an eye out for vertically growing clouds and dark bases and be prepared to bail if necessary as the upper portion of this hike above treelike is exposed.
The best place to fill up on water is along the creek near the Death Canyon Patrol Cabin. You’ll continue to cross some smaller streams heading uphill from the patrol cabin but eventually the trail will become dry as you gain elevation and approach the Static-Albright saddle.
As for water crossings, during early summer snowmelt runoff you may have a couple of minor stream crossings above the patrol cabin, but you should be able to keep your feet dry.
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.
If you’re lucky, you may spot a bighorn sheep on the upper reaches of Static Peak, but they tend to head for more remote areas during summer hiking season.
The hike to Static Peak Divide is on a well-marked, well-traveled trail that is easy to follow. The section from Static Peak Divide to the summit of Static Peak involves unmarked hiking on faint climbing routes.
However, the routefinding from the divide to the summit is easy. The summit is right in front of you and involves walking up a grassy slopes without any sketchy/exposed sections to negotiate.
Getting to the Trailhead
The Death Canyon Trailhead is about a 40-minute drive from Jackson. The last mile of the Death Canyon Road before reaching the trailhead is unpaved and 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 if that’s what your driving, only attempt this last section if you know your vehicle’s limits well.
Alternatively, 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.
Footwear: I’m a big fan of trail runners and love my Hoka Speed Goats. If I were expecting to encounter long stretches of fresh snow on the trail during a late season trip in September or early summer with significant lingering snow, then I would go with my Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GX, which are sturdier/higher top versions with a trail run design that are also waterproof.
Ultimately, the best trail shoes for you are whatever fits you the best and I recommend trying on shoes rather than buying online. But I offer my own experiences to at least point you in the right direction as to what “type” of shoes work well on this hike.
Backpack: For big day hikes, I have used the Osprey Talon 33 for years and love it. It fits comfortably and is just the right size to carry the essentials for a big hike at elevation, without weighing you down too much.
Hiking Poles: I never hiked with poles until a couple of years ago when I was recovering from knee surgery (torn meniscus) but ended up loving them and now I always hike with poles. They are helpful on the steeper, talus-y sections ascending and descending Sundance Pass on this trip. I currently use a pair of locally-made poles that I picked up in New Zealand, but I’ve had good experiences using Black Diamond poles as well.
Personal Locator Beacon: For an extra margin of safety, I hike with a DeLorme InReach Explorer just in case myself or someone in my group gets injured or into trouble.
Trail Map: I use the Jackson Hole Trail Map from Adventure Maps when hiking in the Tetons, but similar trail maps from Beartooth Publishing and National Geographic are also excellent for this area.
Clothing and Other Gear:
- Wool socks
- Softshell pants or rain pants (depending on temperature and weather forecast)
- Short sleeve shirt
- Long sleeve shirt
- Outer shell waterproof jacket
- Down jacket
- Wool hat
- Lightweight gloves (or thicker gloves if cold weather is forecasted)
- Bug spray
- Bear spray
- First aid kit
- Emergency bivy sack
- Emergency blanket
- Down jacket* (during colder weather)
- Ice axe* (if lingering early summer snow expected)
- Crampons* (if lingering early summer snow expected)
- Microspikes* (if early fall light snow cover expected)
This is just a list of some of the key items I recommended for this hike. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive list.
Post Hike Meal
If you’re driving north from the trailhead through Moose, then check out Dornan’s Pizza and Pasta and sit on the upstairs deck if possible for epic views of the Tetons.
If you’re heading south through Teton Village, then I would recommend Teton Thai for Thai food, Mangy Moose or Spur Restaurant for standard bar/grill food, or Calico for pizza and Italian options. Alternatively, head to the Stagecoach in Wilson for Street Food tacos.
There are also tons of places to eat in Jackson, but during the July & August busy season, reservations or takeout are recommended.
Where to Stay Before/After Your Hike
Camping in Bridger-Teton National Forest outside of Grand Teton National Park is your best bet for convenience, affordability, and escaping the crowds. I would encourage looking outside of Shadow Mountain and Curtis Canyon, both of which are overcrowded and overused.
Wherever you decide to set up camp in the national forest, please be sure to keep a clean camp and to pick up after yourself as our forests have seen a significant increase in usage and human impact in recent years.
Lodging is difficult in Jackson during the summer months as rates are very high and rooms fill up far in advance. Also, AirBnb options are limited to areas outside of the Town of Jackson city limits due to a lack of affordable local housing for residents.
Therefore, for lodging options, your best bet is to stay on the Idaho side of the Tetons in Victor/Driggs (or beyond).