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683 Amphitheater Lake 2012-07-30

Amphitheater Lake

On our first day in the Tetons we spent an easy day stretching our legs while circling Jenny Lake. On day two, we chose the 9.6 mile (round trip) hike to Amphitheater Lake. Unfortunately, we started at the late hour of 8. We were not really worried about afternoon storms, but we were concerned with the heat. The trail has a reputation for being brutally hot.

From the trailhead the path climbs gently to the south for a half mile before it rises to a moderate grade. Still not steep, the trail stays near Glacier Gulch Creek and finally crosses the creek at .70 miles from the trailhead.

The trail contours to the south and then heads more westerly as it reaches a ridge at about 1.20 miles. Continuing along the north side of the ridge and at times on the crest of the ridge, the trail climbs to a small saddle at 1.70 miles. The ridge has always been one of our favorite parts of the trail. The saddle is also a junction with the trail climbing from Bradley Lake. The junction is a nice place to rest.

Leaving the junction the trail climbs steadily across a large open slope. The sun warms the slope quickly. Luckily for hikers, there are small oases of trees across the exposed slope. Each oasis looked well used! I think we stopped or at least paused at each clump of trees for a bit of respite from the heat.

Upper reaches of the exposed slope

Crossing the Exposed Slopes

Four long switchbacks keep the trail at a moderate grade as it climbs almost 1,000 feet in 1.3 miles. After the four long legs of the first switchbacks, the fifth one is shorter. After changing directions (5th time), it is but a short distance to the Amphitheater Lake and Garnet Canyon junction - three miles from the trailhead. The junction is once again a nice place for a rest. Oh, Garnet Canyon Trail (the route to the Meadows, Caves, Moraine, Lower Saddle and the standard Teton Climbing Routes) turns left at the junction - Amphitheater Lake goes straight.

From the junction it is 1.8 miles to Amphitheater Lake with 1300 more feet of elevation to gain. Ouch.

The trail on the upper section is still in excellent condition and kept at a moderate grade. At almost every switchback, there is a good rest stop, some are really outstanding with great views. There are still three long switchbacks (mostly exposed to the heat), but then there are a series of shorter turns that climb the final .60 miles to Surprise Lake.

Amphitheater outlet feeding Surprise Lake below

Amphitheater Outlet draining to Surprise Lake

Surprise Lake is a wonderful mountain lake. The lake is fed by the outlet from Amphitheater Lake as the stream cascades into the lower lake. The views are better from the upper lake.

It is .2 miles to Amphitheater Lake - all uphill, but at least it is shady. From the shore of the lake, Teewinot sits to the north. Following the ridge from Teewinot to the west is Mount Owen. Then due west of Amphitheater Lake is Disappointment Peak. It is in the foreground. In the background is the summit of Grand Teton. Disappointment Peak was deservedly named by early climbers looking for a route to the to of Grand. They were disappointed when the course they had chosen did not lead to the summit.

Teewinot from Amphitheater Lake

Mount Teewinot

To return to the trailhead, reverse your climb.

Amphitheater Lake Trail is a great mountainous hike. It gives a good taste of the Teton Range. The trail is a good workout, as it climbs 3000 feet in less than 5 miles. In Tennessee that is similar to the effor to climb the Alum Cave Trail on Mount LeConte. Of course in the Tetons, the 3,000 feet climb only gets you to a lake, the peaks there are much higher : - )

Happy Amphitheater Trails

Note: We are back home in TN after over 8 weeks in the mountains. Oh, it is very warm in TN - the patron state of sweat!


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