Distance: 7.4 miles | Type: Out-and-Back | Time: 4 – 5 hrs | Level: Hard
Conquering Delta Lake hike should be at the top of every adventurer’s list when visiting Grand Teton National Park. The trek to Delta Lake is as equally beautiful as it is challenging.
Delta Lake hike offers a bit of everything to love about the Tetons: panoramic views, scrambly segments, jagged mountains, and turquoise alpine waters.
Let’s just say, even the best photos do not do Delta Lake justice.
If you’re short on time and can only squeeze in one big hike during your trip to Grand Teton National Park, look no further. When I asked for hiking recommendations in the Tetons I received an overwhelming amount of responses insisting that the Delta Lake hike was the best trail in the park.
In this guide, I will cover how to find the Delta Lake hike trailhead, what to expect, trail route options, and what to pack for the ultimate day hike in the Tetons.
How to Hike Delta Lake Trail in Grand Teton National Park
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Grand Teton National Park Entrance Fees
Entrance fees are required to enter Grand Teton National Park. Visitors can choose between 1-7 day passes or an annual pass.
A 1-7 day pass is $35.00. If you plan on visiting nearby Yellowstone National Park or other National Parks within the year, I recommend opting for the $80 America the Beautiful annual pass.
You can purchase your passes ahead of time here or at the booth upon arrival.
How to Get to the Trailhead
To access the Delta Lake hike, hikers will need to park and begin at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. The trailhead is located off of Lupine Meadow Road and can be accessed via the scenic Teton Park Road.
Note that Teton Park Road is closed from the months of November – May.
Lupine Meadows Road is a long gravel road seemingly leading to nowhere. Rest assured as you near the trailhead you will begin seeing vehicles lining the road in overflow parking.
The parking lot is large but serves as the launching point for several trails. Expect the lot to fill quickly and aim to arrive early.
We began our hike just after 7:30 a.m. and the parking area was already completely full with cars lining the gravel road a mile out. In retrospect, we would have begun our hike just after sunrise to beat the crowds and the heat.
There is one vault toilet located near the trailhead but no other facilities are provided.
What to Expect Hiking Delta Lake in the Grand Tetons
No Official Trail Signs
It’s important to note that there are no official trail signs indicating that Delta Lake can be reached via the Lupine Meadows Trailhead.
The trail board highlights several trails and route options, including routes to Bradley Lake and Surprise Lake (among others) but does not show a route leading to Delta Lake.
At times my hiking partner and I were convinced we were in the wrong place. However, we later discovered that the Delta Lake connector trail is not maintained by the park service and therefore not highlighted on the park boards.
Use your offline trail map and the directions below to ensure you end up at Delta Lake.
Delta Lake Hike
The Delta Lake hike started off much easier than we anticipated. The first half mile or so is relatively flat and wooded.
The trail slowly begins to gain elevation but doesn’t kick it up a gear until the trail turns right and begins climbing towards the mountain range.
From here, the elevation gain steadily increases and becomes more challenging. While the incline isn’t incredibly intense during this section of the trail it is sustained, and will most definitely get your heart pumping.
The further you traverse onto the trail the more shade becomes sporadic. If you are hiking during the warmer months, make sure to periodically rest and hydrate, and capitalize on those precious moments of shade.
Bradley and Taggart Lakes
1.8 miles into the trail, you come to a Y. The trail leading down and to the left takes hikers to Bradley and Taggart Lakes. Those set on solely conquering the Delta Lake hike should continue straight.
Though we did not venture down to Bradley and Taggart Lakes we enjoyed panoramic views of the lakes from above.
Just after continuing straight, you begin the switchback segment of the trail. This was my favorite section of the trail because of the sweeping views and abundant wildflowers.
We completed the Delta Lake hike in July when there were blooming, colorful flowers around every turn. If wildflower season is what you’re after, consider visiting the park May-September.
However, keep in mind that every season is different and affects the blooming season.
Along the switchback section, you come to a second Y in the trail. Going left at this split takes hikers to Garnet Canyon. For Delta Lake, continue on.
You traverse through the switchbacks for another 1.5 miles before coming to the third Y. This splits marks the break-off for the Delta Lake hike.
At this final split, going left leads hikers to Surprise and Amphitheatre Lakes while going right takes hikers to Delta Lake.
Again, there is no sign indicating that the trail on the right will lead you to Delta Lake. The next .5 miles of the trail are unmaintained and require hikers to navigate over fallen trees, traverse two boulder fields, and scale an extremely steep hillside.
This segment of trail, though short, is the most technical and challenging section of trail. During this stretch, we relied heavily on our offline trail map from AllTrails.
The boulder fields are more intimidating than they are difficult. Although no clear trail can be identified, the best way to get to the other side of the rocks is to take a straight line across them towards the trees. Make sure when navigating the boulders to watch for wobbly rocks.
There are two boulder fields hikers need to navigate before the final steep scramble up to Delta Lake. Take your time on these sections.
Once you reach the last 500 yards of the trail you quickly realize how the hike earned its Hard user rating. At one point during the final stretch, the incline grade hits 53%.
This section of trail isn’t necessarily technical but it requires a heck of a lot of grit. My biggest piece of advice here is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, push through the burn, and celebrate in knowing you’re almost there.
The words, “it’s worth it” have never been more true for a hike than they are for Delta Lake.
Once you scramble up the final stretch your efforts are immediately rewarded and the pain of getting there a distant memory. Awaiting for hikers is a picturesque view not only of the crystal blue waters of Delta Lake but also of the famous jagged peaks of the Tetons.
Due to the popularity of the Delta Lake hike, you most likely won’t have the scene to yourself. Despite its difficulty, Delta Lake hike is highly trafficked by hikers of all ages. We encountered hikers over 60 as well as hikers under 6.
Peruse around the lake until you find the perfect spot to sit down and soak it in. There are plenty of awesome spots to spread out and eat lunch, read, or even take a dip before making the trek back down.
Surprise, Amphitheatre, and Delta Lake Trail
If you’re looking for even more beauty and want to stretch the length of the hike, consider adding on both Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes.
Visiting all three alpine lakes is an 11.5-mile round-trip hike. At the third trail split after the switchbacks where you veer right to Delta Lake, left will take you to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes. Which order you choose to do the lakes in is up to you.
Attempting to visit all three lakes would be a tough undertaking, but if your legs are up for the challenge, why not send it?
Allow anywhere between 5.5 hours to 7.5 hours to complete Surprise, Amphitheater, and Delta Lake Trail.
What to Pack
Make sure you’re prepared for your day exploring Delta Lake hike by packing the following items:
Water and Snacks
A good rule of thumb is to carry half a liter of water for every hour of walking. I recommend bringing no less than two liters of water on this hike.
Packing snacks or even a lunch for the trail is a good idea also. We enjoyed lunch while gazing out over Delta Lake. It was the perfect place to relax and recharge for the hike back down.
Always practice Leave No Trace.
As I mentioned earlier, shade is far and few between on the trail. I recommend bringing along sunglasses, sunscreen, and/or a hat so you can enjoy the hike despite the blazing sun.
While most of the trail is well maintained, the final stretch to Delta Lake is not. Good hiking shoes are a must and will help tremendously through the boulder fields, scramble sections, and steep terrain.
I’m late to the trekking pole game but now that I have them, I’m never looking back. Trekking poles are great when navigating uneven terrain or steep inclines.
This trail has both. If you have them, bring them.
Since the Delta Lake hike is an unofficial, unmaintained trail, offline maps definitely come in hand. We love and use AllTrails.
Last but not least, bring bear spray.
Grand Teton National Park is well known for its bear population. There were signs lining the trailhead alerting hikers of recent bear sightings in the area and what to do in the event of a bear encounter.
It’s always better to be prepared than out of luck. Bring bear spray and have it easily accessible.
Grand Teton to Yellowstone
When visiting Grand Teton National Park you can’t pass up the opportunity to visit nearby Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone is located just over 1.5 hours from the park. Planning a trip to both is a great way to knock out two incredible National Parks in one trip.
Even if you don’t have a lot of time to spare, you can experience so much of the park just by spending one day exploring. Check out my guide, How to Spend One Epic Day in Yellowstone National Park for a full-day itinerary.
Below are some of my favorite can’t-miss recommendations for adventures in Yellowstone.
Fairy Falls is a quick trail just under 5 miles round trip. The trail is flat, well maintained, and heavily trafficked. While the trail itself is nothing special, the waterfall at the end is stunning.
Fairy Falls was our first adventure during our visit to Yellowstone National Park and remained one of our favorites.
Visiting Grand Prismatic is an absolute must while exploring Yellowstone and turned out to be my favorite stop in the park. Even the best pictures will never do it justice.
The colors and textures of Grand Prismatic are nothing short of mind-blowing and are sure to leave you in awe.
This waterfall is a bit of a hidden gem compared to other stops in Yellowstone. Mystic Falls is accessed via Biscuit Basin and provides beautiful views from start to finish.
With it being such a stunning trail, we were surprised to find only a handful of others at the waterfall. If you’re looking for more of an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Yellowstone National Park, look no further than Mystic Falls.
While you won’t be avoiding the crowds with this stop, Old Faithful geyser is iconic to any visit to Yellowstone. Make sure to plan your visit around Old Faithful so you can witness its eruption.
Old Faithful erupts around 20 times per day, roughly every 30 – 60 minutes. You can track the next predicted eruption time on the GeyserNPS Twitter account.
Have you taken a trip to Grand Teton National Park or planning one in the future? If you have any questions about other hikes or camping in the area, drop me a message in the comment section below!
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