On the Trail

Hiker with backpack standing on the edge of a alpine lake with peaks in the distance
Hiker at Surprise Lake

NPS Photo / J. Tobiason

Navigating the trails of Grand Teton National Park demands not only an appreciation for the breathtaking scenery but also a commitment to protecting this special place. With every step, visitors become stewards of this pristine wilderness.


Backpacking Essentials

Prepare for an unforgettable wilderness odyssey in Grand Teton National Park with these essential items that will ensure your backpacking journey is both safe and rewarding.

  • Water plus water purifying tablets and water filter
  • Food and snacks that are high calorie and light
  • Bear canister if sites don't have a bear box
  • Backpack that can carry all your gear
  • Shelter, tent, or tarp to keep you dry and warm
  • Sleeping bag or sleeping system
  • Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses to protect you from the sun
  • Map, compass, and other navigation devices, don't depend on electronic devices as batteries and signals can run out
  • Bear spray is essential and sometimes necessary when in bear country
  • Trowel, toilet paper, and closeable baggie
  • Layers, including a waterproof layer and warm synthetic layers
  • First aid kit for the backcountry that includes emergency essentials like matches, solar blanket, etc.
  • Flash light and headlamp for lighting your way

This is not an extensive list but only the essentials, be sure to gather all the gear you think you need.

Bear Canister for backpacking, black cylinder on its side with food spilling out and a lid with a bear symbol
Bear Canister

NPS Illustration

Food Storage

Backpackers are required to carry approved  bear-resistant storage except where food storage boxes are provided. Hanging food inside park boundaries is strictly prohibited.

Grand Teton National Park requires the use of Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee approved containers for food storage in the backcountry. Permit holders may check out a canister with their permit, free of charge. 

Backpackers are welcome to bring their own bear-resistant food container. For a list of all approved portable bear-resistant food containers please visit the  IGBC website.

Food Prepartation and Storage

All food, garbage, toiletries, and any odorous item that may attract a bear, must be stored in a bear-resistant food canister when not in immediate use—day and night.

  • Prepare food, eat, and store your food canister on flat ground 100 yards downwind or more from your campsite in brush or behind rocks.
  • They only work if they are closed and locked. Be sure to keep the canister closed and locked even while you're around your campsite.
  • Do NOT place canister near cliffs or any water source, as a bear may knock the canister around or roll it down a hill trying to open it.
  • Do NOT attach anything to canister. Ropes attached to canister enable a bear to carry it away.
  • Place clean pots and pans on top of canister as a bear alarm.

Keeping Odors Down Around Camp

  • Do not store anything odorous in your sleeping bag or tent.
  • Leave packs away from your tent.
  • Do not cook or eat in or near your tent.
  • If you plan on frying foods or elaborate meals don't sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking, they may smell of food.
  • Keep a clean camp. Pack out all garbage, do not bury or burn.
  • Do not leave food, packs or garbage unattended. Bears are active any time.

On some specific alpine routes where a climber is bivouacking on a high rocky ledge where bears cannot go, park-approved bear canisters may not be required (check with a ranger).


Trail Etiquette

The best thing you can do when hiking is to remember the “golden rule”: treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Here are some main points of hiking etiquette:

  • Hikers coming uphill have the right of way. If you’re descending the trail, step aside (if you are safely able too) and give space to the people climbing up.
  • Hikers yield to horses and other pack stock. Slowly and calmly step off to the downhill side of a trail. If you approach from behind, calmly announce your presence and intentions. Horses and other pack stock can frighten easily, so avoid sudden movements or loud noises.

Enjoy the peaceful quiet of nature to hear the sounds of birds, bugling of elk, pikas chirping, flowing water, and wind blowing through the leaves. Leave music devices behind, even wearing headphones is not recommended because your ability to be fully aware of your surroundings is compromised. Let other explorers of nature have a break from the sounds of modern city life.

Leave it be. Picking wildflowers, leaving geocaches, and writing messages on rocks and trees is not allowed. Please refrain from “rock stacking” or building cairns as it mars the landscape and can confuse fellow hikers. Leave nature as is for all to enjoy.


How to Handle Your Poop

Human waste in the backcountry will happen on every excursion.
It is encouraged that all backcountry visitors use a landfill-safe commercial toilet bag system such as Wag Bag or Restop which are available at park stores and in the local community at outdoor stores. These include toilet paper, sealable bag for packing out waste, and sometimes hand sanitizer.

If nature calls and you need to use a cat-hole have a small trowel handy and find a spot that:

  • Is located away from water and campsites, at least 200 feet, to reduce contamination.
  • Has soil you can dig a 6-8 inch hole and then cover hole when finished

Pack out toilet paper, sanitary napkins, and tampons in a airtight bag or container. A kit containing privacy baggies and toilet paper may be available at park stores.



Some higher backcountry lakes have a small fish population, but relying on fishing for a food source while hiking is not recommended. Valley floor lakes such as Jackson Lake and Leigh lake are known for their fishing. If you are intending to fish, a Wyoming State fishing license is required. Check out the Fishing page for details.

Two backpackers hiking up trail with the Grand Teton in the distance.
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Leave No Trace logo with flowers and the Teton range in the distance
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Garnet Canyon with snow
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Hikers descend Static Peak
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Screenshot of a map showing the camping zones and sites
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Last updated: November 28, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 170
Moose, WY 83012


Talk to a Ranger? To speak to a Grand Teton National Park ranger call 307–739–3399 for visitor information Monday-Friday during business hours.

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