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Laurance S Rockefeller
Preserve (Tetons)
Phelps Lake and Sides


shore of Phelps Lake

Yesterday we visited the Laurance S Rockefeller (LSR) Preserve in the south-eastern section of Grand Teton National Park. We had hiked a short loop along Lake Creek (the outlet for Phelps Lake) last year, but did not have time for much more. With snow still covering the trails above 9,000 to 10,000 feet this season ('14), we have had more time to explore the region.

The LSR Preserve is a very popular area of the Tetons. The land was originally a homestead, then a dude ranch and a private resort, and finally was a gift to the Grand Teton Park. The old structures were removed from the grounds and then the land was amazingly restored. It was amazing just to see the great work done. The attention to detail was also seen in the trails and facilities.

Our plan was to walk around Phelps Lake and add the side trails of Aspen Ridge and Boulder Ridge to the circuit. The total mileage was to be around 9.5 miles - depending on whose map you were reading.

After leaving the Visitor's Center we hiked along the Lake Creek Trail. We had already hiked this section of trail before, but still marveled at the garden like scenery. After crossing the Moose-Wilson Road, it was a short distance to our first junction, the Aspen Ridge Trail. Turning west we left the Lake Creek Trail for a much less used path. The Aspen Ridge Trail had more wildlife tracks than it did boot prints on the path. We were all alone and loving it.

Kaufman Creek overflowing with snow melt

Cruising through groves of aspen trees we crossed a couple of ridges and descended to Kaufman Creek. The creek was swollen with snow melt as it filled its banks. After following along the creek, the trail climbed back over the ridge and joined the Phelps Loop Lake Trail near the overlooks and end of the Lake Creek Trail. We saw two hikers (they seemed surprised to see us) on the Aspen Ridge Trail.

View from Huckleberry Point

Great views could be seen almost immediately, from the shores of Phelps Lake. We took a short detour to Huckleberry Point, a rocky shore jutting out into lake.

metal grate serves as a walkway over a marsh

Back on the Phelps Lake Trail, we were amazed with a metal grate raised walkway over a marsh.

The Lake Trail was a crowded pathway, but it was popular for a reason. The path had great scenery, diversity, and was relatively easy to hike.

Boulder along the north shore of the lake

After finishing the hike along the south shore, the trail joined the Valley Trail for a short distance. After crossing the inlet to Phelps Lake, the trail headed east along the north shore. There were three backcountry campsites along the section of trail. A great boulder stood along the shore. It was but a short scramble to the top and to great views.

David Spalding's grave site

About 0.10 mile from the outlet of Phelps Lake, another side trail left the Phelps Lake Loop Trail - the Boulder Ridge Trail. A 0.10 mile up the side trail was the grave site of David Spalding, who had homesteaded the property (and also participated in the first ascent of Grand Teton.)

beautiful path through the grasses and trees on the Bould Ridge Trail

The Boulder Ridge Trail, like the Aspen Ridge Trail, had not seen much use. We thought the trail was fun and isolated. It was definitely worth the detour off the main trail. We did not see anyone on the trail. Oh, we did not see many boulders on the ridge either. We don't exactly know why it was named Boulder Ridge trail.

Returning to the main trail we turned left and followed the Woodland Trail back to the Visitors Center.

The circuit was a fun mini adventure. Check it out if you are ever in the area.

Happy Phelps Lake trails


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