Teton Crest Trail: Flora & Fauna

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Our Teton Crest trail hike was amazing (trail report), but one of the things that struck me the most was the amount of flowers and widlife. The hike continually crosses multiple parks including the Grand Tetons National Park as well as the Jedediah Smith Wilderness / Caribou-Targhee National Forest, and the scenery was impressive in all of them. Each new valley had something different and new to see.

Elk Lakes Provincial Park

FLORA

The Dwarf timed this hike at probably the absolute peak time for the alpine wildflowers. It was amazing to see so many flowers, fields of flowers. I was quite amazed at the quantity and variety of flowers. They were much bigger and more plentiful than here in Alberta (the mountains seemed to have more top soil than our more rocky Rockies). Every valley had a couple new varieties of flowers that we hadn’t seen in the valley before. The variety and abundance were quite stunning as was the size of some of them. At points they were so thick that they were impeding the trail and knocking my poles back into my feet. Around the springs and creeks some of the flowers were more than waist-high.

The group photo (missing Dwarf)

The Nation Parks Service (NPS) has links to the various plants (here, and here). Tetonconservation.org has a nice pocket guide here.

FAUNA

I was also impressed with the amount of wildlife. We ran into moose on multiple days, deer, a tonne of birds and rodents of various shapes and sizes and apparently we just missed a black bear sighting on the trail out.

We ran into a moose while ascending Moose Creek Pass. It wasn’t very far from us, but she didn’t seem all that concerned about our presence and went back to munching on plants. The next morning we woke up to a mule deer having breakfast in the meadow between our site and Marion Lake. While it kept a better eye on us, it also didn’t seem too concerned. The morning after that we woke up to two moose in the lakes at Alaska Basin. At first I wasn’t sure what I was seeing until I moved in for a closer look. That bull moose kept a much better eye on me.

Beautiful creek near Elk Lakes

For most of the hike we came across a multitude of birds and rodents darting around the trail, a list of which found here and here. Of course there were lots of cute chipmunks, interesting pikas and fat marmots. We’d regularly get peeped at as another marmot or gopher would raise attention to our presence, or hear the scurry of something darting into a hole. At hurricane pass with so much constant human presence (because everyone stops and looks around for a bit), they didn’t seem to react at all and just sat there munching on the sparse vegetation.

There were also a bunch of little birds around frequently dusting themselves on the trail (which was dusty, convenient). They’d hop or fly away as you’d approach, and you could see flocks of them flying around the valleys. I was quite surprised with the amount of rodents that I didn’t see any raptors (hawks, eagles), but only finches, sparrows, etc. The biggest bird I saw on the trail (not be thing most educated birder) was a robin. The smallest was a humming bird that darted past me momentarily on Death Canyon Shelf.

Snowy covered landscape around Elk Lakes

WRAP-UP

All-in-all I have to say I was extremely impressed with all the wildlife (and how intimate the encounters seem when its only you and them in the middle of nowhere), and blown away by the endless fields of wild flowers. What looked like mountains covered in green grass was actually mountains covered in wildflowers. The Grand Teton Trail is definitely a highlight among hikes for its wildlife, wild flowers and scenery.

A full report of the Teton Crest Trail can be found here

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Kelly McDonald

After spending 12 years in Ottawa Kelly returned to Calgary in 2012 and decided to pick off where he left off by roping his closest friends into some new back-country adventures (some more fun than others).

Kelly McDonald is a father of two hobbits ages 12 and 13 and tries to get them out into the wilderness as often as he can.

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