By Dina Mishev
Yes, the tram at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is one of Wyoming’s most iconic winter sights. Skiers flock here from around the world to take the JHMR tram 4,139 feet up to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain and then ski the resort’s expert slopes.
The JHMR tram has a summer season, too. Starting Memorial Day weekend and going into October, the tram whisks sightseers and hikers up the same terrain. Of course, sightseers and hikers can always hike the 7.2-mile Summit Trail from the resort base to Rendezvous’ summit. Do you know how long it takes the average person to hike 7.2 miles up 4,139 vertical feet? A hint: you could have a mini Harry Potter marathon in the same amount of time.
The tram covers the distance in nine minutes and doesn’t leave you sore and sweaty — it does leave you with energy to do a hike from Rendezvous’ summit though.
Read on for three of my favorite hikes off the tram, in order from shortest to longest:
1. The Summit Trail in reverse (7.2 miles and 4,129 vertical feet down)
I’d only recommend this if you’ve got healthy knees. You’d think walking downhill would be a piece of cake, but, well, unless your knees and quads are used to it, it can hurt more than walking up. For those willing and able, expect wide-open views for the top 3,000 feet and then beautiful single-track the last 1,000 feet into Teton Village. As recently as last week, wild flowers were still abloom, butterflies were flitting around and dust was minimal. It was all I could do to keep my inner Julie Andrews quiet.
Things are drying out fast though, so I don’t know how much longer the flowers, butterflies and my inner Julie Andrews will last.
2. Into Granite Canyon in Grand Teton National Park (about 10 miles and 4,500 vertical feet down with a few small climbs)
Just to the north of JHMR is Grand Teton National Park. Hiking off the backside of the tram on a well-worn trail, you can get to Granite Canyon, one of the least-steep trails in the Park (not counting the trails encircling the lakes on the valley floor). If your knees balk at the idea of walking down Rendezvous Mountain on the Summit Trail, consider this trail. You’ll still be covering the same vertical distance, but it won’t be as steep.
Granite Canyon also has plenty of shade and the resident moose are fairly well-behaved. This summer — and it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been back there, so I don’t know if they’re still flowing — there’s also a plethora of waterfalls spilling over the granite outcrops on both sides of the canyon. I stopped counting at six. There are some pretty impressive avalanche paths to marvel at as well.
3) Tram to Marion Lake and then down Granite Canyon (15 miles, 5,500 vertical feet down)
For lack of better words, Marion Lake is freaking fabulous. Yes, there’s a 600-foot, fairly steep climb just below it and taking the tram up Rendezvous doesn’t exempt you from this climb. But, as soon as you’re lakeside, laughing at the obese marmots splayed out sunning themselves on the boulders by the water’s edge, you’ll forget the pain.
And then you’ll have the same lovely scenery walking down Granite Canyon as option No. 2.
Note: Only Option 1 has you ending in the same place you start. Options 2 and 3 can be made into loops though. The Valley Trail between Teton Village and the Granite Canyon Trailhead is 3.9 miles with about 400 feet of climbing. Or you can set up a car shuttle.
A 14-year resident of Jackson, Dina Mishev is the author of Total Tetons, an app available in the iTunes store. It was named a “New & Noteworthy” app by Apple when it launched in June 2010. Dina updates it regularly.