Grand Tetons BackCountry Vacation on a Budget

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In an earlier post we promised to tell you how to do a Grand Teton backpacking vacation on a budget even though Jackson Hole is one of the highest per capita income places in the USA. Here’s how you do it.

  • First, fly into Jackson, Wyoming airport.  We used our credit card reward program miles to get there, so the cost was the redemption fee and giving up using the miles for another trip.  Then, take a taxi to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.
The Jenny Lake Ranger Station near the Jenny Lake Welcome Center.

The small building housing the Jenny Lake Ranger Station can be over looked

  • You have to go to the ranger station to get your backcountry permits, so while you are there get the permit and check into the backpackers campground.  The campground for one night should run you about $8.00.  The permit will cost you $35.00 regardless of how many nights you spend on the trail, so plan your trip to start with a walk up the Paintbrush from Jenny Lake.  Your first night you’ll need a permit in the camping zones just east of Paintbrush Divide. This day hike should get you acclimated to the altitude because you’ll go over Paintbrush Divide at over 10000 feet into the North Fork of Cascade Canyon the next day, passing Lake Solitude.
Heading up the trail in the South Fork of Cascade Canyon in the Tetons

The trail leads through the South Fork of Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton NP

  • Put the South Fork of Cascade Canyon  on your permit for the second night and rest up to cross Hurricane Pass, also over 10,000 in elevation on the third day.





  • The third day will take you into the Alaska Basin where a short day will give you plenty of time to set up camp near Sunset Lake and enjoy the backcountry.  No permit is needed to camp in the Alaska Basin as it is not in the Grand Teton National Park. Accordingly, you may have a number of campers around you instead of the solitude you get in the Park.
Looking down from Mt. Meek pass towards the Alaska Basin

Looking across the Alaska Basin toward Hurricane Pass

  • Leaving the Alaska Basin spend a day and a night on the Death Canyon Shelf or at Marion Lake, or if you don’t have time to relax on the trip, skip the night in the Basin and spend the third night on the Shelf.
Looking toward Mt. Meek from Death Canyon Shelf

Looking toward Mt. Meek from Death Canyon Shelf

  • From the Shelf, you’ll go down past Marion Lake and pick up the trail up Rendezvous Mountain to the top of the TRAM, also above 10,000 feet.  The Tram will take  you down to Teton Village and there is no charge for the ride down.  They only check tickets on the way up. If you ride up, it will cost you $35.00.
The Tram to the top of Rendevous Mountain

The Tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain in Teton Village, Jackson Hole, WY

  • In the Village you can find low-cost accommodations at the Hostel.  You can shower, shave, sleep and get ready to catch a shuttle to the airport, perhaps for as low as $3.

So, there’s your itinerary for the budget trip.  Remember that the permits are limited and in short supply so you might want to try to secure them online before you go.  This trek should be made in August or early September, so try to get your permits at between the preceding January 1 and March 15. You will still have to pick the permit up at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station when you get to Jackson Hole.

What will the trip cost you? Your airfare or credit card miles, one way taxi fare, $8.00 to camp at Jenny Lake, $35.00 for the backcountry permit, your night at the Hostel, the cost of the shuttle to the Airport and whatever food you eat.   For a trip of a lifetime, that is a bargain.  Of course, you’ll have to come back on another trip to explore the rest of Jackson Hole.



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