Canoe Camping in Grand Teton National Park

July 20th, 2009

Paddling on String Lake

Getting on the water at String LakeFor a few years when I was a kid my family was big into canoe camping. Well, all camping actually, but we’d just bought a canoe, so: canoe camping. There aren’t a whole lot of places to go around my neck of the Rockies since a lot of rivers have big whitewater and there aren’t that many lake systems. Yes, many places have no canoe camping opportunities at all, but the Yellowstone area isn’t a particularly big canoe destination. It is a “destination” in the general sense though. Which means that the canoeing opportunities there are, are spectacular.

The canoe on Leigh Lake

The portage from String Lake to Leigh LakeOne such gem from my childhood is the String Lake to Leigh Lake trip in Grand Teton National Park. The put-in is on the smaller, aptly named String Lake, which you paddle up until you come to a 200yrd portage. I don’t know how long it actually is, but I wouldn’t recommend a huge boat as there is a hill involved. The portage lands you on picturesque Leigh Lake. A much larger lake than String, it is peaceful (no motorized boats) and scenic, running right up to the foot of Mount Moran.

Mount Moran from Leigh Lake in Grand Teton National Park

CampfireThere are maybe 8 designated campsites around Leigh Lake. Previously I had camped at the one at the mouth of Leigh Canyon. The trouble is that since there are a limited number of sites, they have to be reserved. Some are reserved months ahead of time, in the spring, and some are kept open to be reserved just a day in advance. It’s a good plan to allow both, I think. My girlfriend and I planned on taking advantage of the “day of” reservations, by showing up really early in the morning. The problem was that it turned out the “day of” reservations are actually “a day before”. This is a bummer if you are not going to be in Jackson the day before - like us - since it means all the sites will probably taken the morning before. But (with backup plans in mind) we figured it was worth a try.

A large school of fish at the bottom of Moran - carp?Happy CanoerLittle fishies

We got lucky! Mostly. We got there right when the Visitor Center opened and all of the sites right on the lake were already taken… but there was an open site on Trapper Lake, just a short hike past Leigh Lake. That meant our trip would still have all of the canoeing we hoped for, plus a short walk! And it turned out great because there’s only one site on Trapper Lake, so we had our own private lake. :)

Boulder Island huckleberriesTrapper Lake - our own private lake!Mmm huckleberry pancakes

More TetonsAn OspreyThe Tetons reflecting on Leigh Lake

The weather was pretty much perfect, and our little one night camping trip was everything I hoped it would be. I caught (one) fish, enjoyed padding all around both lakes, took in stupendous views of the Tetons, did a little climbing on Boulder Island, found some early Huckleberries, swam, and on top of it all got to share it with my lovely lady friend. :)

Boulder Island on Leigh LakeBouldering on Leigh Lake's Boulder IslandThe main "boulder" on Boulder Island

The Tetons!

Massive clouds in the afternoon

A little Photoshop fun

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