Tuesday, August 11, 2015

1998 Backpacking Idaho's Jedediah Smith Wilderness

The Jedediah Smith Wilderness is named for the mountain man Jedediah Strong Smith, a New Yorker who explored the West in the early 1800s. It includes most of the west slope of the famous Teton Range, abuts Grand Teton National Park, is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and contains 123,45 acres. It is home to grizzly and black bears, deer, elk, moose, wolverine, and bighorn sheep. The wilderness lies on both sides of the Idaho/Wyoming state line and some of its 175 miles of trails provide access to Teton National Park.

The Caribou-Targhee National Forest complex comprises over three million acres and the Targahee name is in honor of a Bannock Indian warrior. A second, smaller wilderness area (Winegar Hole at 10,600 acres) abuts the Smith Wilderness and has one unmaintained trail through its prime grizzly habitat. The Targhee has 1,185 miles of trails, accessed at 42 trailheads. It is home to over 50 wildlife species, 150 bird species,, and has over 300 miles of rivers and streams.

The Hidden Lake Trail (out of the Coyote Meadows Trailhead) is a lovely walk through an open forest to the lake. The elevation gain is only 800 feet or so, with a drop of 170 feet down to the lake area. Only one overlook view is available on the trail.

One disappointment I had not expected: From this west side of Grand Teton National Park you do not see the Teton peaks due to other mountains in the way, which is no doubt why the national park is on the east side of the range, giving those awesome views of the peaks rising right up above the Teton valley.

Hidden Lake offers very few camping sites. The best area is directly off the trail where it hits the lake, but that area was taken by a group of 10 teens when I arrived. Their camp is barely visible just right of center across the lake in this photo.

I bushwacked around the lake and found one other place where I was able to set up my small soloing tent. A larger tent would not have fit. Since the lake is located 170 feet below the surrounding terrain, all the sidewalls are steep and loaded with deadfall. The regulations stipulate that you cannot camp within 100 feet of the water, but it would be impossible to set up a tent obeying that directive. 

Two-tenths of a mile away and up the other side of the ridge is a campable area by a spring. The trail then continues and connects with Conant Basin Trail and then the North Bitch Creek Trail, making a loop of just over 13 miles. For additional mileage, continue on the South Bitch Creek Trail through the Narrows up to Camp Lake.


Targhee Trails by Rebecca Woods; White Willow Publishing, Wilson, WY; 1997; 256 pages.

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