GET OUT: Hidden Falls – a quiet sanctuary in the off season

By on May 13, 2015
Peaceful reflections on Jenny Lake. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Peaceful reflections on Jenny Lake. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Now that the sporadic rain and clouds have hit, it’s time to find something to do that entails little commitment — an activity you can do on a whim whenever motivation begins to trickle in. This off season is unique in the fact that the trails have a lot less snow so you can easily venture to the typically popular places without fear of dodging the crowds. The possibilities of what you can do stretch beyond one’s ability to posthole endlessly up to your ankles. For the first time in years, you may be able to walk with ease.

I began with the same uneasiness anyone would have this time of year. Snowshoes were left behind in the truck, and the trail from String Lake seemed unusually dry. With the east-facing moraine below Laurel Canyon melted out, I determined it shouldn’t be a problem to go without winter footwear.

The weather was a mix between drizzle and hard balls of hail, but once my shoes started moving, it warmed up quite quickly. I could only see the mountains if I looked deeply into the clouds — large pieces of granite looming in the sky.

Hidden Falls lies just past the boat dock. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Hidden Falls lies just past the boat dock. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

I walked through the remnants of the 1999 Alder Fire. This fire initially began by the String Lake outlet and burned along the northwest shore of Jenny Lake. For those biological gurus, this portion of the trail is a great example of how fire causes different things to grow. The scarcity of the forest also makes it easy to spot wildlife. About a mile in from the trailhead, I spotted an osprey flying in and out of a nest tucked in a high, burned out tree. The open area made it easy to sit and watch for a while. Any other time of year, I would feel concerned about blocking the trail as this corridor is well used by many to access Cascade Canyon and Hidden Falls, but today was different. Remembering I was one of two cars in the parking lot, I relaxed with ease and soaked in the scenery. A rustling alongside the trail awakened my senses. I immediately stood guard. A black fox trotted down the trail without a care in the world. The creature seemed so nonplussed I had to say something to deter him from running directly into me.

The old burn quickly transitioned into thick, large spruce and Douglas fir. The trees were a welcome shelter from the pouring rain. I hit a couple patches of snow but continued on. They weren’t very long and it was firm enough that my feet stayed on top. After seeing a sign to Hidden Falls, I went up some newly constructed steps. There appeared to be some trail reroutes to navigate, which were well marked although recent construction was evident.

Manageable patches of snow and trail make walking doable. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Manageable patches of snow and trail make walking doable. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

A short uphill lead me to Hidden Falls. I saw one person taking pictures. He came from the South Jenny Lake trailhead and reported patchy snow, some post holing, but manageable walking conditions. After a short chat, he left and the only chatter I heard was the roar of the falls. I conversed accordingly, pondering the accessibility of this currently quiet destination.

The great part about Hidden Falls this time of year is no matter the weather, one can still view the falls. They are quite unique with the spring melt increasing the water flow, making for a tremendous force to be reckoned with. I made my way back to the trailhead and while I was looking forward to a warm cup of tea, I had no regrets with my tromp in the rain. The fact is, once you decide to walk in the rain, it’s not as bad as it looks from the comfort of your home. Jenny Lake boating is scheduled to open May 15. This service provides accessibility for people of all ages and hiking abilities to enjoy the beauty of Grand Teton National Park, most specifically the area around Jenny Lake. As the summer rolls in, it is only inevitable that more people will flock to Hidden Falls. I can’t blame them; it’s a great spot. Now is the time to explore the more traveled summer trails during a time when others are not.

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