There’s A Place In… is a new series where I’ll be asking fellow travellers to share a place that has stood out from their travels. This week’s story comes from Ryan McCoy, a van-dwelling traveler and employee at Yellowstone National Park. He runs the website Travel & Graphs when not running for his life to get away from bears.
Where did you go?
On a back-country trip in Grand Teton National Park. The hike is called Devil’s Canyon and is an uphill trek through the canyon, eventually leading out to cliffs and frozen passes beyond.
The group was comprised of me and three fellow hikers. We were celebrating my friend Brandon’s recent graduation from West Point.
I am working in Yellowstone for the summer, and the three of them came up to visit. Before driving to the Tetons we intended on a different route that went by Jenny Lake, but that one ended up being too icy.
“Devil’s has fewer areas that are frozen over” said the informative female Ranger at the kiosk.
I couldn’t resist the possibility of making a corny joke.
“So…would you say that not all of hell has frozen over?”
She gave me a pity laugh, rolled her eyes playfully, and shooed us out the door.
Why does this place stand out to you?
The hike is absolutely striking. There is a high variety of scenery: A staggering lake overlook, dramatic mountains on all sides, and the thrill of being up close to a roaring river. Once you get out of the canyon proper, further options open up. One hike leads to the excitingly titled Electric Peak, one hike leads up into iced over paths through the mountains, and yet another takes you through a dense wooded highland area.
Here is the view we had from our campsite:
As for my particular experience…well, it was kind of horrifying. I will be the first to admit, hiking and long distance outdoorsy stuff is not my thing. Give me the internet and a book with a great story. So I was already heading into an overnight in bear country with trepidation.
I even jumped when one of these cute little critters ran across our path:
During the night, I took a moment away from my shivering to focus on sounds coming from the wilderness:
Patter, patter, patter.
Then came a low sort of moaning in a sing songy type way. The sounds got closer and closer, until the thing freaking rubbed up against my body in the hammock. Paralyzed by fear and contemplating my demise, I told myself I would never leave Starbucks again.
The next morning, we had these claw marks left for our viewing pleasure (we were later informed by a ranger that the most likely candidate was a coyote).
Despite my misadventures, the trail is loved by hikers who want to feel a sense of isolation and challenge.
How can we get there?
You will need to go to the main information center for Grand Teton National Park and talk to one of the friendly rangers there. They will advise you about the best paths open at the time. Should you be fortunate enough that Devil’s Canyon hasn’t frozen over or been conquered by malevolent coyotes, the trailhead is only about 20 minutes from the building.
The first hour or so of the hike is uphill to the lake overlook; from there it is about an hour and a half uphill trek through the canyon, leading into about a forty five minute path through the campsites. I would recommend the first parts of this trail to anybody who enjoys mountain scenery and wooded environments, and the latter parts to any nature lovers with a taste for ruggedness and opportunities for more daring adventure.