Grand Tetons Hike to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes


Planning to go to the Tetons, I went to my favorite trail app, All Trails, to see what route would be best. I gazed at the scenery, difficulty, length and compared it against some of the great hikes I saw on Instagram with #tetons. After asking a bunch of people via DM about their favorite spots and checking out the routes – we picked the hike to Garnet Canyon to Clif Falls.

Now, if you know how pre-planned hikes work for us – well they don’t. We asked a ranger in the park about our route, who said it was real steep so maybe try Cascade canyon instead. Knowing “real steep” is subjective, we headed there anyway (with our bear spray in hand) and made the trek up. To get there you park in the Lupine Meadows parking area – and there is only one trail you can take.

 The trail itself starts with a casual dirt path (especially to an east coaster) and for about a mile you’ll just be in the woods. I recall literally singing “are we out of the woods yet” by T swift, because I was dying to have some sort of peripheral to watch out for bears. Then you finally get out to a ridge line where you can start to switch back. Here you can see Bradley and Taggart lake in the distance. About 1.5 miles in you will hit the trail to Taggart Lake and then a series of tougher switchbacks leads you about 1.5 miles more towards the split off from Garnet Canyon and Amphitheater Lake. You can guess which one we decide to take last minute.

Amphitheater Lake Trail.jpg

In all fairness, we love a good subalpine lake – and waterfalls aren’t necessary a hot spot for us, so we took the trail about 2 more miles towards our destination. The switchbacks were steep, the trail was covered in high snow – and it was pretty difficult. Pair that with an east coast elevation threshold, and you’ve got a pretty strenuous day. The sights however, were worth it. Along the trek you got peaks at Grand Teton in all its glory and the trails covered in snow were nothing short of magical.

Just shy of 2 miles you reach Surprise lake, which is exactly that. It’s worth a trip down to it – so take the extra steps, even if you are exhausted. Then about .3 more and you’ll reach Amphitheater lake. This is the most beautiful lake I have ever seen. Sitting in the shadow of Disappointment peak with views of Grand and Middle Teton – you can’t go wrong. We stayed there for quite some time until we made our way back.

We were on the trail with just a few others along the way, passing some on the way down, and a few on their way up. The most memorable moment on the way down, however, was getting started by an animal noise and rustling in the woods next to us. I can assure you I was talking/singing at MAX volume the entire way up and down – and you can still startle something. God bless his heart, Tom jumped into action, covered me and had the spray out ASAP. Luckily whatever it was retreated and we were fine, but the entire rest of the way down we felt like prey.

When we did reach the bottom we had a celebratory cheer and raced to find the elk that was "bugling" towards the car. It was a thrilling end to an amazing hike.