Static Peak - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

August 23, 2015

Written by Paul van Valkenburgh

Having spent many years of my life skiing and mountain biking and doing some hiking, 2015 was the first year that I seriously started mountaineering. And I love it! Starting my 'new sport' as an East Coaster, making my way to Grand Teton National Park for my first Western mountain challenges definitely brought on some newness. For one, there is much more bear danger! But the sheer height, acclimation, and rocky-above-tree-line hiking was all new to me. My first hike was to the top of Static Peak. 17 miles, 5700 ft. elevation gain, and about 10 hours.

Death Canyon Trailhead Sign

Static Peak Divide Sign

All of the reports for Western Peaks discuss getting an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Since the weather was in a pattern with no T-Storms in GTNP, I started the hike around 9:45AM. Unfortunately my girlfriend Sheri thought the hike was too long, so I was all by myself, which is also against recommendations to always hike in groups of 3 or more. I would have many conversations with myself all day to keep the noise factor up!

The hike starts at the Death Canyon trailhead, which, while a little bumpy, was reachable from Moose-Wilson Road using our Ford Fusion rental car.

Bear Spray in hand, the first few miles of the hike take you through Alpine areas in easy terrain with the first feature being the Phelps Lake overlook. Soon after starting, I had my first experience with what I called wild turkeys, but I think they were grouses. One was right along the side of the trail and seemed to walk right next to me for 20 feet or so. We had a nice discussion and I continued on. I ran into a group of folks who were from Idaho Falls and had a nice talk. I was hoping they were going to Static Peak but they told me they weren't going that far. So, I forged ahead without them as my pace was a bit faster.

Keeping the bear spray handy!

Phelps Lake from the trail.  Photo taken on return trip in the evening.

Video: Phelps Lake And Entrance To Death Canyon

After the Phelps overlook, you begin the entrance into Death Canyon. As they say, the pictures don't do it justice... Death Canyon is amazing!

As you enter the canyon, you are greeted by giant mountain cliffs on both sides of you that continue all the way up the canyon. Some rocky switchbacks move up the canyon paralleling a nice creek with small waterfalls. Towards the top of the canyon the trail reaches the Patrol Cabin, originally built in 1935.

The trail in Death Canyon is gorgeous

Beautiful cliffs on the sides of Death Canyon

Beautiful cliffs going into Death Canyon - on the South (left) side, this is Prospectors Mountain

Another view on the left (South) side of Death Canyon - Prosepectors Mountain

Beautiful Creek and Scenery in Death Canyon

Stopped for lunch at the nice beach on the creek near the Patrol Cabin in Death Canyon

Death Canyon Patrol Canyon - Built in 1935

Video: Hiking In Death Canyon

Video: Sitting At The Beach By The Creek in Death Canyon

Video: Arriving at the Patrol Cabin in Death Canyon

At the Patrol Cabin, you turn to the right onto the Static Peak Divide trail. And this is where the real work begins! The next 2.5 miles climb up the side of Albright Peak. Gorgeous peaks and rock spires begin to come into view. The terrain also looks very bear friendly with lots of berry bushes and hidden brush. There are many switchbacks which continue taking you up, up, up!

Yes, the hike goes all the way up to those spires and then some!

Looks like bear poop to me!

Really neat spires on the way up Albright Peak

Cool rock spires along the Static Peak Divide trail heading up the side of Albright Peak

Another gorgeous view of the spires with Buck Mountain finally peeping through the big notch

Interesting terrain along the switchbacks up Albright Peak

More UP to go!

THe side of the mountain is steep, but the switchbacks get you all the way up no problem!

Looking towards the Western portion of Death Canyon from the trail up Albright Peak

Another view West from the trail up Albright Peak

Eventually, after one saddle that can be mistaken for the saddle between Static Peak and Albright Peak, you reach the real saddle. The gorgeous canyon above Stewart Draw opens up to where you can finally see Static Peak. After already having been hiking for a long time uphill, seeing how far one still must go to reach the summit of Static Peak is a bit discouraging. Were it not for a nice couple I ran into who said 'Well, we've already come this far!' and who kept going, I may not have had the motivation to continue.

The trail from the Albright-Static Saddle up the ridge towards Static Peak Divide is spectacular. You basically criss-cross atop the spires shown in the previous pictures.

Video: Switchbacks Up To Saddle And First View Of Static Peak

The first views of Stewart Draw from the Albright-Static Peak saddle are breathtaking

Still a long way to go!

Views from the saddle-to-Divide ridge trail

Views from the saddle-to-Divide ridge trail

Views from the saddle-to-Divide ridge trail

Views from the saddle-to-Divide ridge trail

Video: Saddle-Divide Ridge Trail

Beautiful bluff from near the Static Peak Divide

A closer look at the bluff from near the Static Peak Divide

Finally reaching the Static Peak Divide was a major mental relief, but with the final push up Static Peak still in front of me, another 500 feet of elevation gain. The trail basically ends at the point and you just scramble to the top.

Static Peak Divide sign

The remaining 513 feet and 1/2 mile to go from Static Peak Divide to the summit of Static Peak

The view of Buck Mountain as you scramble the final 500 feet to the summit of Static Peak

The terrain on the way to the summit is easy.

Video: Terrain Towards Summit Of Static Peak

The views from the summit are unbelievable from 11,303 feet. To the West, Buck Mountain is completely 'in your face'. Grand Teton can be seen further North. And views out to the Alaska Basin, towards Death Canyon, and back towards Stewart Draw and Albright Peak are all amazing. On the north side of the summit, Static Peak cliffs over with Timberline Lake below. The pictures don't give the whole story... you must go there yourself to see this amazing place!!

Buck Mountain (front-left) and Grand Teton (background) from the summit of Static Peak


Panorama from Static Peak - L-R - Death Canyon - Alaska Basin - Buck Mountain - Grand Teton

Proof of Attendance - The Survey Marker

Timberline Lake over the cliff from the summit of Static Peak

Looking back to Albright Peak and the really fun ridge trail... Death Canyon is down to the right

Video: Summit of Static Peak - Static Peak Hike - GTNP

Of all the amazing sites along the journey, I must say the ridge trail between the Albright-Static Peak saddle and the Static Peak Divide was probably my favorite. Here's some more video of that one the way down:

Video: Ridge Trail Down - Static Peak Hike - GTNP

Google Earth Narration of Static Peak Hike - GTNP

Considering doing this hike? The views along the hike to Static Peak from the Death Canyon Trailhead are incredible. There are no technical portions to this climb to where it is all rated Class 1 or easy Class 2 on the climbing scale. However, the hike is very strenuous due to the length and the elevation gain. If you are considering this hike, consider preparing by doing longer hikes and other physical training before attempting this. An easier version would be to just hike to Phelps Lake, or to just hike to the Patrol Cabin in Death Canyon.

Hope this has been enjoyable and / or helpful to anyone reading it!!


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