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Paintbrush Divide

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 4.9 (31) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A classic, long day trip for the extra-fit, or overnight trip for those looking to camp.


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Map Key

19.6

Miles

31.6

KM

Loop

10,665' 3,251 m

High

6,802' 2,073 m

Low

3,932' 1,199 m

Up

3,932' 1,198 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (4°)

33%

Max Grade (18°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

This spectacular loop combines Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons via Paintbrush Divide. Generally completed by extra-fit folks as a long day trip, or as a two-day overnight for those looking to camp.

The trails heading down from Inspiration Point are some of the most-crowded in the park, but the rest of this route should provide some relative solitude. Additionally, an ice axe may be necessary through July.

Need to Know

Permits are required for all overnight backcountry stays in the park and parkway. To
minimize the impact on park resources, backcountry permits are limited. One-third of the
backcountry campsites and all of the group sites may be reserved in advance. The remaining sites are filled on a first-come, first-served basis at park permit offices no more than one day before the trip begins. Plan alternative routes based on availability.

$25 per walk-in permit.
$35 per advance reservation. This fee covers the reservation and permit

See this site for campsite reservations.

Description

Starting from Leigh Lake Trailhead, head west on Leigh Lake Trailhead Connector, then head immediately north onto String Lake Trail. From here, soak up the awesome views of the surrounding Teton Range just across String Lake. These views are best during the morning hours when the skies tend to be clearer.

Initially String Lake Trail is doubletrack, but after turning left (west) at the junction of Leigh Lake Trail, the trail becomes singletrack. Immediately after this junction you'll cross a long, trussed footbridge and enter some deep forest. Continue through this mature forest until you reach an intersection with Paintbrush Canyon trail. Turn right (northwest) and start your ascent of Paintbrush Canyon.

The higher you ascend, the more the forest starts to thin out and the more colorful your surroundings will become. In addition to great views, this canyon is teeming with wildflowers, specifically Indian Paintbrush - this canyon's namesake.

When you hit the junction for Holly Lake trail, you can continue up the canyon, but it's recommended that you head to Holly Lake to get some great lakefront views. Continue up this steep climb to this crystal clear lake set in the shadow of Mount Woodring (11,591'). After a nice break, continue up this trail and rejoin Paintbrush Canyon.

Paintbrush Canyon climbs for ~1 more mile, rises above treeline, and gains Paintbrush Divide (10,700'). The divide is north-facing, so plan for snow (an ice axe may be necessary through July here). The trail is well-contoured up to the divide somewhat offsetting the presence of snow.

After some great views from the divide, head down an equally, if not more scenic route down to Lake Solitude. For the majority of this descent you can see both Lake Solitude, Mica Lake and Grand Teton.

Over time Lake Solitude has become one of the most heavily trafficked routes in the park, so don't expect total solitude here...

After taking in the views from the lake, head down North Fork Cascade Canyon. Grand Teton is constantly looming overhead on this trail, an awesome view you might miss if you do this route the other direction. Once at the fork of North and South Cascade, turn left (east) and head down Cascade Cascade Canyon Trail to the Jenny Lake boat dock.

Just prior to reaching Jenny Lake, take in the awesome views at Inspiration Point, an amazing overlook with sweeping views over the lake. Not too long after you'll pass by Hidden Falls Spur. Take this trail for an up close and personal view of the massive waterfall.

After a short descent from the falls you'll reach a trail heading to the Jenny Lake boat dock. Go left, cross a bridge, then take another left onto Jenny Lake Trail. This trail follows along the western shore of Jenny Lake to a junction with String Lake Trail. Go right (east) here and pass the String Lake Trail Connector and eventually turn right onto the Leigh Lake Trailhead Connector.

Flora & Fauna

Between the crags of the Tetons, ice age glaciers carved deep canyons. Today, the canyons contain dense conifer forests and open meadows of wildflowers. As elevation increases, wildflowers abound while trees become stunted and eventually shrub-like.“Krummholz” (German for “crookedwood”) plants are dwarfed forms that are treelike at lower elevations.

From treeline to valley floor, forests provide cover and food for many mammal species. Look for elk, mule deer, martens, red squirrels, black bears and snowshoe hares. Moose are a common sighting near the creeks that line these beautiful canyons.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tom Robson with improvements by Jackie Eldredge

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 31 votes

#4

in West

#196

Overall
  4.9 from 31 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#4

in West

#8

in Wyoming

#196

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1,098 Views Last Month
20,000 Since Jan 7, 2015
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Photos

The mighty Cathedral Group! with permission from Richard Ryer
Jan 8, 2015 near Jackson, WY
The Teton Peaks
Mar 30, 2020 near Alta, WY
Grand Teton National Park
Apr 1, 2020 near Colter…, WY
Grand Teton as seen from a meadow on North Fork Cascade Canyon trail.
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<br>
Image by the National Park Service (NPS).
Dec 23, 2014 near Moose W…, WY
The Tetons from String Lake
Jan 8, 2015 near Jackson, WY
Beautiful views abound in Grand Teton National Park.
Apr 19, 2017 near Alta, WY

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Check-Ins

Aug 10, 2020
Zachary Bowen
19.6mi
Jul 19, 2020
Richard Van Straten
with Shannon 19.6mi
Aug 21, 2019
Anna Goodridge
Not for the faint of heart, but absolutely amazing. The last mile of uphill was rough but the views were worth it. 20.2mi — 6h 00m
Aug 6, 2019
Alex Martin
Jul 11, 2019
Dillon McGraw
2 day trip 19.6mi
Nov 5, 2018
U K
Sep 30, 2018
Ester Andreh
2 days hike, backcountry camping at Holy Lake. 31.8mi