Hike To A Beautiful Mountainside Lake At This Western US National Park

From its snowcapped mountains and forested valleys to its roaring streams charging through rocky ravines, the Grand Teton National Park feels like the setting for a fairy-tale adventure. Certainly, for any hiking fans at least, there are no end of adventures here with more than 250 miles of trails traversing this Lord-of-the-Rings-esque landscape. For some true magic, though, few can beat the journey to the serene turquoise waters of the enchanting Lake Delta.

Tucked away among the vast rugged rocks of the Teton mountain range, this sub-alpine lake is a hidden oasis. And we mean hidden. A little off the beaten track, the latter section of the trail is not maintained by the park, and the rocky terrain is quite tough in parts. Also pretty steep towards the end, with a total elevation gain of 2,300 feet, this hike is only really suitable for those with a head for heights. And then there's the weather. The winters here can be bitterly cold, with some serious snowfall, so the trail should only be attempted between June and October.

In light of all that, this 8-mile round trip is generally regarded as quite a challenging hike. That said, as long as you have a reasonable level of fitness, and some decent walking boots, it's still very do-able. And you'll be rewarded at the end with a breath-taking panorama worthy of any adventure story.

Our top tips for a trek to Lake Delta

First things first, though, and let's start with the practical side of things. Located in Northwestern Wyoming, the Grand Teton National Park is situated south of Yellowstone National Park and north of the town of Jackson. In terms of getting there, this national park is unusual in that it's the only one to have a commercial airport within its surrounds, the Jackson Hole Airport. Arriving by road, there are four entrances to the park, and an entrance pass is required ($35 for a private vehicle or $20 for a pedestrian).

Once inside, you need to head to the southwest area of the park and the Lupine Meadows parking area. It's worth noting that it can get pretty busy here, especially as word is spreading about this particular trail, so getting there early in the morning is advisable. Also, in the height of summer, the cooler temperatures early in the day will make the whole experience more enjoyable. On that note, be sure to wear comfortable clothing, bring water and snacks, and wear good-quality walking boots. Taking bear spray is a sensible idea, too.

Also, a map, compass, and an app on your phone for directions are definite prerequisites, as not all of the trail is included on the park's map, and the route goes properly "off-road" towards the end. Having said that, there's usually enough walkers around to be able to follow others, but it's always best to be on the safe side. 

A step-by step guide to this terrific trail

So now to the fun part — the trail itself! The route begins at the Lupine Meadows trailhead where we begin by following the Valley Trail through relatively flat forest. Eventually, there is a junction, where the left turn continues along the Valley Trail. However, our route is straight on to the Garnet Canyon Trail — and the evocatively named Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes.

Now comes a whole series of switchbacks, but the good news is that this part of the route offers beautiful views over Bradley Lake. On the sixth one, there is another junction, where our way is again straight on, heading towards the Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes. At the end of the switchback, look out for the makeshift stairs, which you'll need to head down. Then get ready to traverse not one, not two, but three boulder fields. Don't say we didn't warn you! Finally, the last half-mile of the walk, over Glacier Gulch, can be even more challenging due to the super-steep incline and loose surface. 

But then you've made it! Opening up before you will be the mystical blue waters of the Delta Lake — given its color by the glacial silt — a fitting finale to any worthy quest. So, while you might need to channel your inner hero or heroine to reach this mythical setting, it's an adventure that certainly comes highly recommended.