Hiking Middle Teton

Hiking Middle Teton | Comprehensive Route Guide, Map & Photos

Middle Teton is one of the three ‘Teton’ peaks in Grand Teton National Park, and the highest summit that can be climbed there without a rope and technical climbing. This makes it one of the most popular routes in the national park, with a hundred people or more summiting on busy weekend summer days. The route takes you from the valley floor, through meadows, forests, rugged canyons, and alpine ridges, to reach one of the highest points in the park. The best time to climb Middle Teton is in August and September after the snow melts but before it starts to fall again. Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds too. Start planning your visit and prepare to climb Middle Teton with our comprehensive route guide below.

Hiking Middle Teton | Fast Facts

TAKE CARE & STAY SAFE!

You are responsible for your own safety in the backcountry.

These peaks can be unpredictable and dangerous. Help is often hours or days away: your safety is primarily your responsibility. Prepare for your trek, understand your limits, be aware of the risks, and equip yourself with the necessary skills and gear. 

Photos of Middle Teton

Hiking Middle Teton via the Southwest Couloir

If you are new to mountaineering and scrambling, it is important to fully plan ahead and research the route to ensure you are prepared. This route involves class 3 and class 4 scrambling off-trail where a fall could be deadly. If you are not comfortable with exposure, I recommend choosing another objective that is class 1 or 2. 

Before you go, you should research and know all of the following:

  • Check the route description, photos, and topographic map.
  • Research the weather forecast and check recent peak conditions.
  • Look at the trailhead info to ensure it is open and accessible.
  • Refresh yourself with our safety and leave no trace tips.
  • Find a nearby campground or motel to stay before your climb.
  • Double check for any permits or regulations in the area before you go.
  • Leave your plans and a check-in time with someone dependable.

The Middle Teton standard route starts at the Lupine Meadows trailhead and runs for approximately 6.6 miles up the Southwest Couloir of Middle Teton to reach the rugged summit. 

The route starts on an established trail, but becomes a class 2-3 scramble not long after reaching Garnet Canyon. From here, the route follows a mix of trail segments, cairns, and boulderfields until it reaches the upper saddle between Middle and South Teton. Then, it is a short scramble up the ridge and couloir to reach the summit. Start early, before dawn, to ensure you find parking and get down before afternoon thunderstorms become a hazard. Some people hiking Middle Teton do so over two days, with a night spent in Garnet Canyon. If interested, contact the Grand Teton National Park Backcountry Office to secure a permit.

The Lupine Meadows Trailhead - predawn start advised.

Start up the trail from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead along the Garnet Canyon Trail. As the trail gradually begins to climb, you will head up a ridgeline after about a mile and a half leading up towards the peaks. You’ll see quick glimpses of the Grand Tetons through the trees, but the best views are yet to come. 1.7 miles into the hike, reach your first junction with the Valley Trail Junction. Take a right to continue hiking straight. 

Start up the trail from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead along the Garnet Canyon Trail. As the trail gradually begins to climb, you will head up a ridge line after about a mile and a half leading up towards the peaks. You’ll see quick glimpses of the Grand Tetons through the trees, but the best views are yet to come. 1.7 miles into the hike, reach your first junction with the Valley Trail Junction. Take a right to continue hiking straight. 

The trail here flattens a bit as you slowly ascend the gentle glacial valley. Your first view of Middle Teton will occur around this point, with 11,901-foot Nez Perce above you to your left. These peaks are verty unstable, so watch out for rockfall along this stretch, especially after wet periods with several days of rain. It is another good reason to always wear a climbing helmet while climbing Middle Teton.

At the 4.5 mile point, you will reach the ‘official’ end of the Garnet Canyon trail. Things get more difficult from this point onward. You will need to navigate through a boulder field, requiring you to scramble on your hands and feet, without a clear trail to follow. Take your time to get through this section, which is approximately 350 feet long. After this, you can pick up an informal trail again leading to ‘the meadows’ about 1 mile further up the canyon. This is a great area for wildflowers and popular for spending the night before ascending Middle Teton.

Continue from the Meadows by following trail segments and cairns along an informal climber’s trail up the canyon to the left and into the south fork that leads to the upper saddle. You will need to spend considerable time route-finding to take the path of least resistance. Look for trail segments and cairns and stick to the canyon bottom rather than climbing along the sides. There may be snowfields along this section into mid-August. Bringing an ice axe with you is a good idea. 

Once in the south fork of the canyon, with the Midle Teton up and to your right, the trail segments tend to follow the right side of the canyon along the slope. Around 6 miles into the route, you will finally reach the saddle between South Teton to your left and Middle Teton to your right. This is the ridge you will follow to reach the southwest gully, your route to the summit. When we reached this point, the summit of the Tetons were encased in mist so we had to follow our map and trust our navigation skills.

This is a good spot to pause and check the weather conditions around you before you continue up to the summit. The southwest gully obscures a lot of the surrounding sky, making this a good point to take a look and double check. Work your way through some initial class 3 sections along the ridge, skirt a few cliffs, and reach the upper ridge which is gentle and comparably flat. From here, the crux of the climb, the southwest couloir, is clearly visible above you.

The lower portion of the gully has numerous social trails to choose from. I found easier passages along the left and right sides of this area, while the loosest scree was found in the center of the gully. As you ascend, the scrambling gradually gets more difficult as the slope increases and it becomes more and more necessary to use your arms and legs to climb upward. If you knock loose rocks down, yell “ROCK!” loudly so others below you can protect themselves.

Test rocks before you put your weight on them – a rock nearly crushed my hand when it unexpectedly rolled over.

Near the top of the gully, turn left towards the summit block and work your way past the final chokestone, a class 4 move, and the crux point along the route. Once past, scramble up the last 20 feet to the small, rocky summit and enjoy your accomplishment with some spectacular views.

At the top, you can see the entire Jackson Hole Valley to the east, the imposing Grand Teton Massif to the north, and the valleys of Idaho to the west. Be sure you descend with plenty of time left to reach the treeline before afternoon thunderstorms become a significant hazard. I hope you found my Middle Teton route guide helpful as you plan your ascent. Safe travels on the trails!

Climbing Middle Teton requires advanced route-finding and navigation skills, with significant off-trail travel without formal trail markers or signs. This is not a hike – and you cannot rely on ‘following the trail’ to stay on route. Rearch the route with this topographic map and keep a copy with you – both digitally on your phone and physically on paper in case you run out of batteries or something happens to break it. Remember, you are responsibility for your safety first and foremost. 

Middle Teton Route Map

Middle Teton Elevation Chart

The temperature, wind, and precipitation changes rapidly in the Teton Range. Check the forecast from numerous sources to prepare for what is possible – and always remember that there is a strong likelihood that the forecast ends up wrong. Last time I hiked Middle Teton, the forecast said there was a 0% chance of rain, but we still hiked down through pouring showers. Always assume you will run into high winds or strong rain.

Here are some dependable weather sources for your forecast checks in the days leading up to your hike.

It is important to know the current conditions along the route and at the summit to properly prepare for a climb of the Middle Teton. Here are several reputable sources with condition information. Keep in mind, we do not verify individual reports – so take each one with a grain of salt. 

 

The Middle Teton route begins from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. This is a popular trailhead, and the starting point for most climbers and mountaineers ascending Middle, South, or the Grand Teton. Make sure you know where you are going rather than following the group in front of you blindly (they may be going somewhere completely different from you).

DIRECTIONS FROM JACKSON PARK ROAD

Access the Lupine Meadows Trailhead from the Teton Park Road one mile south of South Jenny Lake Junction. Turn west and follow a gravel road for about one and a half miles. Do not park alongside the road – only use designated parking areas to avoid unintended impacts.

TRAILHEAD AMENITIES

At the trailhead, there is a vault toilet and a bear-proof storage container. There is no drinking water available at the trailhead and no camping is allowed. 

The right equipment is critically important to have a safe and successful ascent. Here’s what I recommend bringing with you for a climb up the Middle Teton in Grand Teton National Park.

  1. Hiking boots
  2. Backpack
  3. Trek Poles
  4. Ice Axe
  5. Microspikes
  6. Water Bottle
  7. Sunglasses & sunscreen
  8. Extra layers
  9. Knife/multi-tool
  10. Emergency shelter
  11. Water filter or purification tablets
  12. Rain gear
  13. Extra food
  14. Satellite messenger/PLB
  15. Map, GPS & Compass
  16. First Aid Kit
  17. Fire Starter Kit
  18. Climbing Helmet
  19. Warm Hat and Gloves
  20. Headlamp and spare batteries


Check out my complete hiking gear list for beginners for specific recommendations.

There are tons of great camping and lodging options near the Middle Teton climbing route. If you are hiking Middle Teton, you have a lot of different choices, from remote dispersed camping areas and designated campgrounds, to rustic hostels and luxury hotels. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in and around Grand Teton National Park.

CAMPING NEAR MIDDLE TETON


Campgrounds in the National Park book quickly, many months beforehand. If you are looking for a last-minute place to stay, consider visiting one of the dispersed camping areas around the national park, which are easier to find and first-come, first-serve.

LODGING NEAR MIDDLE TETON


Jackson Hole is home to dozens of choices for lodging. There are also cabins and lodges within the National Park, though these fill up far in advance and charge a premium price. There are also lots of AirBNBs and VRBO properties in the area you can rent entirely during your stay.

Grand Teton National Park is visited by millions of people every year, a number that continues to grow. Help reduce and manage this expanding impact by practicing Leave No Trace outdoor ethics while hiking Middle Teton and other peaks in the park.

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Research the route, weather, and potential hazards specific to Middle Teton. Consider hiring a guide if unfamiliar with class 3 routes. Ensure you have the necessary permits and follow regulations.

     

  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stick to established trails and camping areas. Avoid creating new paths or disturbing vegetation. At higher elevations, travel on rock or snow to minimize impact.

     

  3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack out all trash, leftover food, and waste. Use established bathroom facilities where available or dig small cat holes at least 200 feet from water sources to dispose of human waste.

     

  4. Leave What You Find: Preserve the mountain’s natural state. Don’t pick plants, remove rocks, or disturb wildlife. Leave all cultural and historical artifacts as you find them.

     

  5. Minimize Campfire Impact: Use a portable stove for cooking instead of making a fire. If fires are permitted, use established fire rings or fire pans. Keep fires small and burn only small sticks and twigs.

     

  6. Respect Wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance, and do not feed or approach them. Protect wildlife by storing food and trash securely, and control pets at all times or leave them at home.

     

  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Yield to other climbers on the trail, keep noise levels down, and maintain a friendly and respectful attitude. Follow posted signs and regulations, and give way to guided groups or those moving faster than you.

     

By adhering to these principles, you’ll help preserve the beautiful environment of Middle Teton and create a positive experience for yourself and future climbers. Remember, responsible outdoor ethics are vital to maintaining the places we love to explore. Check out the full Leave No Trace for 14er Guide to learn more.

Climbing Middle Teton via its class 3 standard route is an exciting adventure, but it demands careful preparation, especially for those new to technical scrambling and high-altitude ascents. Here are seven essential safety tips:

  • Understand the Route: Familiarize yourself with the standard class 3 route, including key landmarks, potential hazards, and where the route may be more technical. Utilize guidebooks, online forums, and local knowledge to have a comprehensive understanding of what you will face.

  • Train for Altitude: Middle Teton is a high-altitude climb, and the effects of altitude can be serious. Spend time acclimating to the altitude by spending a few days at higher elevations before the climb, and understand the signs of altitude sickness.

  • Bring Appropriate Gear: Wear appropriate footwear for scrambling and have a helmet, harness, rope, and other essential climbing equipment. Even if the route is considered non-technical, safety gear can be crucial in unexpected situations.

  • Know Weather Conditions: Mountain weather can change rapidly. Check forecasts, understand typical weather patterns for the time of year, and be prepared to turn back if conditions deteriorate. Thunderstorms are particularly dangerous at high altitudes.

  • Practice Leave No Trace Principles: Respect the environment by following Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all trash, stay on established trails, and minimize your impact to preserve the mountain for future generations.

  • Climb with Experienced Partners or Hire a Guide: If you’re new to technical scrambling and high-altitude climbing, consider climbing with experienced partners or hiring a professional guide. Having someone who knows the route can make your climb safer and more enjoyable.

  • Have a Plan and Let Others Know: Outline your climbing plan, including your intended route, expected time of return, and emergency contacts. Share this information with a responsible friend or family member, so that they know where you are and when to expect you back.


Learn more in our comprehensive mountain safety guide.

You need to buy a National Park Pass at an Entrance Station to enter Grand Teton National Park before hiking Middle Teton.  

There are no permits or reservations required to climb the peak unless you plan to spend a night in the backcountry zone within Gannet Canyon. These can be purchased beforehand for $20 at the Backcountry Office at the Park.

While climbing Middle Teton, you must follow special National Park Service regulations to help protect the park and reduce your impact. These guidelines include:

  • Unmanned Aircraft Usage: Launching, landing, or operating drones is prohibited.
  • Pet Regulations: Pets must be on a leash (6 feet or less) within 30 feet of roads. They are only allowed in boats on Jackson Lake and are restricted in other areas.
  • Service Animal Guidelines: Must assist with a disability and meet requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Leave What You Find: Do not pick wildflowers, historic objects, or other natural features. Limited gathering of edible items is allowed.
  • Campfire Rules: Allowed only in designated areas within metal fire grates. Fireworks are prohibited.
  • Firearm Regulations: Wyoming state laws apply, and certain restrictions are in place.
  • Bicycle Usage: Permitted on public roadways and specific paths, with guidelines for e-bikes and those with physical disabilities.
  • Grand Teton Pathway Rules: Accessible for bicycles, walking, running, and rollerblading, with specific safety guidelines.
  • Thermal Water Restrictions: Soaking in originating pools is prohibited, but adjacent run-off streams are allowed.
  • Hiking Guidelines: Stay on trails, avoid short-cutting, and follow safety recommendations. Check for closures and restrictions.
  • Mountain Climbing Requirements: Use good judgment, visit specific stations for information, and adhere to backcountry permit rules.
  • Mountain Travel Warning: Be aware of inherent risks including potential rockfall.
  • Winter Activity Guidelines: Skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers should follow safety practices and check for wildlife closures and avalanche forecasts.
  • Snowmobile Regulations: Limited to the frozen surface of Jackson Lake for ice fishing only and Grassy Lake Road in certain conditions.

Visit the Grand Teton National Park website for more information and guidelines.

Climbing Middle Teton is an experience rich in history and natural beauty. Nestled within Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, Middle Teton is the third-highest peak in the Teton Range, standing at 12,804 feet. Its name is derived from its position between the Grand Teton and the South Teton, offering a unique perspective of the surrounding peaks and valleys. It’s often considered one of the most approachable climbs in the Teton Range, making it a popular choice among novice mountaineers and seasoned climbers alike.

The peak was first climbed by Albert Ellingwood on August 29, 1923. He discovered and used the same route we used here, which follows the southwest couloir up to the summit. Since then, thousands of people have reached the top during their visit to the park. It is a popular option for those training and acclimatizing prior to an ascent of the class 5 Grand Teton nearby, which shares possible base camps in the meadows below.

What sets Middle Teton apart from other peaks is its combination of accessibility and natural beauty. The rock formations present various climbing challenges, providing something for climbers of all skill levels. Additionally, Middle Teton offers an exciting approach through Garnet Canyon, filled with wildflowers and stunning views. Its glaciers, including the Middle Teton Glacier, add to the dramatic landscape, while the thrilling summit offers a panoramic view of the entire Teton Range. Whether you’re a passionate mountaineer or simply an outdoor enthusiast seeking a unique adventure, climbing Middle Teton offers a rewarding experience filled with unforgettable sights and challenges.

Check out these additional websites and resources for more info about Middle Teton and the surrounding national park. If you have a question we did not answer above, leave it in a comment below and we will answer it as soon as we can. Safe travels on the trails!

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

A: The time it takes to climb Middle Teton varies depending on the route, weather, and individual experience. Generally, it can take anywhere from 8 to 14 hours round trip for a well-prepared and experienced climber.

A: Middle Teton offers several routes with varying difficulties. The standard Southwest Couloir route is considered a Class 3 climb, requiring some scrambling but not technical rock climbing. Wearing a climbing helmet to protect yourself from falling rock is highly recommended.

A: Among the prominent peaks in the Teton Range, South Teton is often considered the most accessible, with a Class 3 rating for its standard route. It provides a challenging yet achievable climb for those with some experience. Middle Teton is the second easiest to climb, and the Grand Teton is the most difficult.

A: The Grand Teton via the Exum Ridge or the North Face routes is often considered the most challenging hike in the range, with sections rated as Class 5. These routes require technical climbing skills and appropriate gear.

A: For day hikes, a permit is not required to climb Middle Teton. However, if you plan to camp overnight in the backcountry, you’ll need to obtain a backcountry camping permit from the National Park Service Backcountry Office.

A: The elevation gain for the standard Southwest Couloir route on Middle Teton is approximately 6,000 feet from the trailhead to the summit. This is more than a mile of gain from the beginning, to the end.

A: The Middle Teton hike is considered very strenuous. It requires a high level of fitness, good route-finding skills, and the ability to navigate challenging terrain, including loose rock and potential snow fields. If you are not an avid hiker, it will likely be one of the most difficult hikes you have ever done.

A: Garnet Canyon is a prominent glacial valley located in the Teton Range. It serves as the approach for several classic climbs, including Middle Teton. The trailhead for Garnet Canyon is found at the Lupine Meadows parking area, and it offers spectacular views and access to other peaks in the Teton Range.

Remember, as you’re planning your climb, it’s essential to consult with local authorities or guides for the most up-to-date information on routes, permits, weather, and safety precautions. Always adhere to Leave No Trace principles and practice responsible and safe climbing, as your passion for exploring the outdoors safely and responsibly indicates.

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Notice: The material presented in this route guide may not be comprehensive or precise and should not be solely relied upon when planning your climb. Inadequate experience, physical fitness, supplies, or equipment may result in injury or fatality.

The Next Summit and the author(s) of this hiking guide offer no guarantees, neither explicit nor implied, regarding the accuracy or dependability of the information provided.

By utilizing the information herein, you agree to indemnify and absolve The Next Summit and the hiking guide author(s) from any claims and demands against them, including any legal fees and expenses. 

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Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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