Glade Creek Trail - Countdown: 12 Days
August 13, 2012
Whether you are a day hiker looking for a quiet trail, a birder trying to find that elusive avian species, or a backpacker with ambitious plans in the backcountry, the Glade Creek Trail is a great option for hiking in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. This trail travels through various animal and plant communities, offering opportunities to spot many different species along the way. There is also access to the quiet north end of Grand Teton National Park. The Glade Creek Trail leads to the Berry Creek and Owl Creek Trails in the park's least visited canyons. Hikers who spend just an afternoon or even several days in this area often come back reporting having seen no one else the entire time - what a treat in a national park!
To reach the trailhead, follow the Grassy Lake Road west from Flagg Ranch. The Glade Creek Trailhead is located between the 5th and 6th camp sites, which are signed and easily identifiable. The sign for the Glade Creek Trailhead is small and set back from the road, and the small parking area is on the south side of the Grassy Lake Road.
The trail begins directly south of the parking area in a heavily burned area. The Huck Fire moved through this area in 1988, the year of the huge fires in the Greater Yellowstone area. Trees that are twenty years old still only stand up to shoulder height. Tall, dead trunks point skyward, while ones that have already fallen lay haphazardly all around. Watch and listen in this area for falling trees; even a slight breeze can topple these long dead treetrunks.
After less than a quarter mile of hiking, the scenery changes into a mixed conifer forest. The forest is alive with the sounds of nature: birds chirping, small animals rustling in the undergrowth, wind in the trees.
After about one mile, the trail begins to dip down into the Glade Creek drainage. The vegetation starts to thicken, and the plants are lusher. Even late in the season, wildflowers are abundant in this area.
At approximately 1.5 miles the trail crosses Glade Creek on a small footbridge. Beyond the bridge there are some small streams that are easily stepped over by mid-July, but you might get your boots wet earlier in the season.
From here, the trail leads through more mixed forest and then opens up into a large meadow where the Snake River widens into Jackson Lake. Osprey, eagles, sandhill cranes, and other birds are easy to spot in this area.
If you continue for another half mile through the meadow, you will reach the Grand Teton National Park boundary, 3.5 miles from the trailhead. Is this your turn-around point, or just the beginning of a larger adventure in Grand Teton National Park?