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Leigh Lake and Bearpaw Lake

Grand Teton National Park

July 29th, 2011

7.4 miles
310 vertical feet
Total Time: 6:06

Starting elevation
6933 feet
Max elevation
6966 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Colter Bay, go south along the park road. Turn right onto Teton Park Road. Turn right at the sign for String Lake. Follow the signs toward the String Lake picnic area. There are three lots of varying sizes in the area. Park in the large one at the end of the road. The trail starts near the bathrooms.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

It was a bright sunny day as we prepped in the parking lot. There were cyclists, hikers, and picnickers here at the String Lake area. When we finally got started and walked on the paved path over to String Lake, we could see a few boaters in the lake, as well. Needless to say, the start is a very developed area.

The paved trail at the start of the hike

Rafts in String Lake

We turned right and soon left the pavement behind, hiking on the relatively flat trail as it follows String Lake toward Leigh Lake. The trail is mostly shaded as it follows the water's edge. After about 0.8 miles, the trail veers right to the first intersection. The left fork leads to the water's edge, the Leigh Lake portage. We took the right fork, which soon exited into bright sunshine and climbed very briefly before leveling off and re-entering the shade.

String Lake

String Lake

From here, the trail pretty much follows the eastern edge of Leigh Lake to its northern end. Along the way, we encountered lots of hikers and a few fishermen, as well. We could glimpse Leigh Lake through the trees, and every once in a while a short spur led us to a nice view of the lake and the snow-flecked mountains above it to the west.

Leigh Lake

Panoramic of Leigh Lake
(Click image to view full size)

About 2 miles into the hike, we found a nice beach area next to the trail and settled down for lunch. From here we could see a large group of canoes floating past, heading north. We'd see them on land a little later. For now, we enjoyed the sound of the tiny waves lapping up against the shore, and the beautiful scenery. Despite being so close to the trail, it was still peaceful.

Leigh Lake beach (our lunch stop)

After lunch, we continued north along the shore. We passed the group of people in canoes, now enjoying a beach themselves. Next, we passed campsites 12A, 12B, and 12C, in that order. they're spaced well apart, one after another along the trail, and none of them were occupied at this time. They looked quite nice, with large flat areas for tents, and areas for cooking on the other side of the trail closer to the water.

Leigh Lake

Leigh Lake

Playing on Leigh Lake beach

After passing the campsites, we came to a burned-out section of forest, but with colorful wildflowers sprouting underneath the dead trees. We then reached another small beach near the end of Leigh Lake, about 2.9 miles into the hike. We rested here for a while, eventually deciding to continue north toward Bearpaw Lake.

Flowers growing beneath dead trees

Leigh Lake

As we continued along the shady trail, mosquitoes became more of a problem. We slapped them away as we continued past the end of the lake. We asked some hikers coming in the opposite direction about Bearpaw Lake, and they said it was only 10 minutes away. Just 5 minutes or so later we saw a sign for Bearpaw Lake and turned right. Minutes later we descended down to the shore of little Bearpaw Lake. To be honest, I was hoping for a little more than what Bearpaw Lake had to offer. Most of its shore is lined with grasses. It's backed by a green, mostly forested mountain to the west.

It was quite hot in the afternoon sun as we took a quick break at Bearpaw Lake. We didn't detect anyone else at the lake while we were there. We had the whole place to ourselves, but we didn't stay long. We left around 4:20pm, starting our return trip back exactly the way we had come. We didn't encounter many people on the way back, as most had already finished for the day. We did pass a large group that now occupied campsite 12A (I believe it may have been the same group we'd seen in canoes earlier).

Bearpaw Lake

Bearpaw Lake

We sped through the trail, finishing the return trip in about 95 minutes, including the last mile in about 23 minutes, I think the fastest the boys have ever hiked a mile so far. If only they could hike that fast all the time.

String Lake

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