Looking for a high-altitude summit hike near Jackson Hole that doesn’t involve a massive elevation gain? The Jackson Peak hike across the valley from the Teton Range is a short drive from Jackson and gets you above 10,000 feet in just a few hours.
This hike can easily be done in a day, or you can extend your trip and camp at Goodwin Lake below the summit. While this hike is fairly popular among Jackson locals, most of the national park tourists have no idea this trek even exists.
This hike is also dog-friendly since it is located outside of the national park and features a nice lake to swim in.
Distance and Elevation Gain
The one-way distance to Goodwin Lake is 3.1 miles and the one-way distance to the summit of Jackson Peak is 5.1 miles, making for a round-trip distance of 10.2 miles.
The total elevation gain to the summit of Jackson Peak is 2,641 feet. If you only hike to Goodwin Lake, the elevation gain is 1,407 feet.
The summit of Jackson Peak lies at an elevation of 10,741 feet.
Most reasonably fit day hikers can complete this trek in 6-8 hours, factoring in an hour for breaks. However, this also makes a great overnight backpacking trip.
This is considered by most to be a difficult hike due to the high altitude and total elevation gain. However, compared to most summit hikes in Wyoming (especially in the Tetons), this is on the easier end of the spectrum since it does not involve any off-trail scrambling.
Also, the starting elevation at over 8,000 feet as much higher compared to any of the hikes that you start in the neighboring Teton Range which gives you a head start in terms of elevation gain to the summit.
The best trail map to use for this hike is the Jackson Hole Trail Map from Adventure Guides.
How to get to the trailhead
From Jackson, it’s about a 35-minute drive to reach the Goodwin Lake Trailhead. When you reach the main traffic light at Town Square in Jackson, instead of turning left onto Highway 191, you’ll continue straight on Broadway Avenue until the road ends next to the National Elk Refuge.
At this point, hang a left onto the Elk Refuge Road. After 3.6 miles, the road will take an abrupt left and you’ll continue for an additional mile before turning right onto the marked Curtis Canyon Road.
From here, the dirt road will climb up into the Gros Ventre Mountains and can be a little rocky in spots, but most two-wheel drive vehicles can handle it just fine initially.
After driving a good way up the road, you’ll come to a split with a marked sign that says “rough road ahead” for the right-hand side of the split, which is the road you must continue on to reach the trailhead.
This is where the road gets more treacherous, and to continue beyond this point, you’ll need a high-clearance, four wheel drive vehicle. If you don’t have one of these vehicles, then park your car here and it’s about a 1.5 mile hike with 500 feet of elevation gain to reach the trailhead.
The first section of this road, a few hundred feet past the split, features some deep ruts to maneuver and if your car can make it around this section, then you’ll be able to make it to the trailhead.
The click-able map below contains full directions to the trailhead via Google Maps.
Trail Breakdown and Highlights
After the exciting drive to reach the trailhead, your hike will start on a positive note because you’ll have outstanding views of the Teton Range across the valley.
The open meadows near the trailhead are filled with wildflowers in the summer as well.
The hike starts out steep for the first mile, gaining about 700 feet, until you reach a ridge and the trail becomes more forested.
The elevation gain becomes much more gradual over the next 2 miles until you reach Goodwin Lake. The views of the Tetons diminish through the tree cover, but you’ll have nice views open up along the left side of the ridge.
You’ll reach Goodwin Lake after hiking 3.1 miles, and this is a great spot to take a quick snack break before pushing on to Jackson Peak. It makes an even better spot to take a longer break on the hike back down, especially if you brought fishing gear with you.
Right before you reach Goodwin Lake, the trail will come to an unmarked split where you can either continue straight along the right-hand side of the creek, or take a left and cross the creek. Take the left hand turn and cross the creek, which from July on is an easy crossing.
Once you leave Goodwin Lake, the trail will head back up through a thick forest initially before opening up into more interspersed meadows as you head higher up. This section is another wildflower hot spot from mid July through early/mid August.
About one mile after leaving the shore of Goodwin Lake, you’ll reach a marked trail intersection and take a right toward the trail heading up Jackson Peak.
The trail will steepen from this point forward, but the views into the heart of the Gros Ventre Range are spectacular.
From the trail junction, the remainder of the trail gains about 800 feet over 0.8 miles to the summit of Jackson Peak.
Take a well-earned break upon reaching the summit and enjoy the expansive views of the Jackson Hole Valley and the Teton Range.
The picture below was taken in early July, whereas the previous pictures were taken in late August, so you’ll notice varying snow levels as a result.
Best time of year to hike Jackson Peak
The prime season to summit Jackson Peak is from July through September. If you want to catch wildflowers at their prime, mid-July through early August is usually the best time.
Temperatures are at their warmest in July and August, but you still want to make sure to pack warmer layers because it can get chilly above treeline even in mid-summer, especially if there is wind.
Snow tends to linger into late June, and in heavy snow years early July, around Goodwin Lake and on portions of the slopes up Jackson Peak. You could do this as a snow hike in June, but you’ll want to prepare with the necessary traction gear and you definitely don’t want to get caught in an afternoon post-hole mess on the way down.
Thunderstorms are common across these mountains from June through August, so you’ll want to watch the weather forecast closely and make sure to do this hike in the morning if there is any chance of a storm.
Being near the Continental Divide, sometimes the storms will blow in from the west after passing over the Tetons, while other times they will develop right on top of you.
At a minimum, your goal should be to make it back down to Goodwin Lake before any storms develop as the terrain above the lake is more exposed to lightning risk.
Later in the season, September is a beautiful time of year and you won’t have to worry about bugs. Thunderstorms are less common in September as well.
The first snows usually arrive in mid/late September and October, though with light snow cover this hike would still be very do-able. Pay attention to conditions closely, however, as a heavy October snowstorm could pose an avalanche risk.
This trail falls under a Winter Wildlife Closure from December 1 to May 1 and therefore is not accessible during this time.
During the month of May, Jackson Peak is a popular destination for backcountry skiers and offers numerous spring skiing options, including the classic north face on the opposite side of the summer trail.
Wildlife, bugs and water
Moose and deer are the most commonly seen big game animals on this hike, but both black and grizzly bears inhabit this area as well so make sure to be alert and carry bear spray.
The mosquitoes can be pretty bad around Goodwin Lake from July through mid-August, while black flies can also be a nuisance during this time on the hike from the trailhead to Goodwin Lake.
There is only one minor water crossing right before you reach Goodwin Lake. During high water season in June you may have to get your feet wet to cross this, but from early July on it’s an easy crossing.
Car camping and backpacking options abound in this area. For backpacking, Goodwin Lake makes for an excellent overnight destination. There are plenty of camping spots near the lake (must camp at least 200 yards from the lakeshore), and this is a popular spot for Jackson locals to camp.
Because of the mentioned bug issues, I would recommend mid August through mid September as the best time to camp here.
This area is located in the Gros Ventre Wilderness Area of Bridger-Teton National Forest and dispersed camping is permitted, but you must stay at least 200 feet away from the lakeshore.
If you plan to day hike this trail but area looking for spots to camp while visiting the area, there are tons of options on the drive up to the trailhead.
The developed Curtis Canyon Campground is available for $15 per night, but there are plenty of other places you could camp for free farther up the road.
Here are a few items I consider to be essential for this hike:
- Bug spray if hiking before mid-August
- Extra layers
- Ski hat and lightweight gloves
- Bear spray
- 2 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 (if hiking early or late in the season)
- Microspikes or crampons (if hiking early or late in the season)
- Rain jacket and rain gear (if anything but a dry forecast)
- Down jacket
Where to Find Weather Forecasts
Here are links to National Weather Service point weather forecasts at various portions of this hike and for the town of Jackson (for before and after your hike) that take elevation and terrain into account.
Keep in mind that there is a greater margin of error in mountain forecasts for remote areas, but the NWS point forecasts are one of the more reliable sources.
Another weather source that is well worth your time to check out is the OpenSummit website and app.
This app provides detailed weather forecasts specifically for mountain summits, and they will be expanding their offerings in the near future as well. Two-day forecasts are free and any forecasts beyond two days require at $19/year subscription, which also gets you access to OpenSnow ski area forecasts in the winter
In addition, since this hike is in the Jackson Hole area, you can follow my local weather blog — Jackson Hole Weather Forecast — which is typically updated Mondays through Fridays, for more detailed written weather analysis in the area.
Post-hike food and drink
This hike is located close to the town of Jackson, so you’ll have plenty of options for post-hike meals.
The Snake River Brewery is one of the best options if you’re looking for a combination of better than average bar food along with local craft brews. This is one of my favorite spots in Jackson, though admittedly it can get crowded at peak hours during the summer.
Another great brew-pub option is the Stillwest Brewery, which is located right across the street from Snow King and has a sweet outdoor covered deck.
If you’re looking for Asian food, I would recommend Phoenix and the Dragon, which offers many unique, modern and interesting dishes and has a healthy spin on things as well with many gluten-free and vegan options if you wish.
Other hikes in the area
Did you enjoy the hike to Jackson Peak? Here are a few other hikes in the area you may also like!
- Sleeping Indian/Sheep Mountain (9.8 miles RT, 4,199 ft. elevation gain)
- Static Peak (16 miles RT, 5,000 ft. elevation gain)
- Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes (8.9 miles RT, 2,942 ft. elevation gain)
- Holly Lake (13 miles RT, 2,713 ft. elevation gain)