Contrary to what many locals would have you believe, not everything in Jackson is a race or contest to see how deep/far/high you can get on a single hike. There’s plenty of amazing hikes that don’t require a bivy sack. Last week I covered No Name Lake– which is a pretty tame hike, although not as tame as Phelps Lake in Grand Teton National Park.
Beyond being a super easy hike, Phelps Lake is appealing for several other reasons. First, aesthetically it’s pretty amazing- the views into Death Canyon are breathtaking and the lake itself is not too shabby. Next, as it’s a lower elevation lakes it’s one of the earlier ones to melt off. This also means that it warms up (at least by Jackson standards) a little more than other lakes. I’ll throw it out there and say by July the temps are pretty manageable for swimming.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, Phelps Lake has an awesome jump rock. It’s not huge, probably about 20′, but it gets the job done. If nothing else it’s a solid warm up for the No Name Lake cliff. I even go as far as to bring a tube up to Phelps to optimize floating and lounging.
I usually approach Phelps from the Death Canyon Trailhead. You can get to the Death Canyon Trailhead two ways- from Teton Village on the Moose-Wilson road, or by hanging a left in Moose just after the visitors center. Oddly, if you head through Moose first you don’t have to pay park fees, while if you enter from Teton Village you do. Something to keep in mind if this is the only hike you’re going to do in the park. The trail from the parking gradually climbs about 500′ to the Phelps Lake overview, at which point you descend to Phelps Lake. Take a left when the trail splits to get to the jump rock and a nice beach on the west end of the lake. All in all, it’s difficult to find a spot as spectacular as Phelps, with so little effort.