Table Mountain, WY

25 Jun 2006 - by Kari Burchett

On the first day of a week long trip to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone, Table Mountain was slated on the agenda. Knowing some of the best views of the Teton Range are from the summit Table Mountain, my husband and I were excited to get going. With some difficulty finding detailed information about this mountain and trail, we still felt confident in our route and had topos in hand. On the dirt road to the trailhead, a moose was spotted about 20 yards off the road, this was about 5:15am. Our trailhead directions were seeming accurate - however they stated we would cross 2 single lane bridges before we reached the trailhead. We saw a sign and a trail for Table Mountain before crossing these bridges and headed up this trail. Although this did not exactly match our directions to the trailhead, it matched our topo quite well as the trail was following the north side of the creek.

After walking for about 30 minutes and turning a corner, 2 moose were eating leaves on a tree about 15 yards off the trail. Apparently our bear bells did little to deter them. They were fun to watch for a few minutes before we headed on. They did not seem to mind us much. About 15-30 more minutes down the trail, the trail crossed the creek - however the rushing waters did not look inviting and there was no bridge across the water. After searching about 100 yards up and down stream, the trail crossing seemed to be the best place to cross the water. It was moving pretty good and very cold - appeared to be about 2 feet deep at the deepest spot. We opted to remove our boots and socks and roll our pant legs up as high as possible. The air temperature was probably about 50 degrees, not sure of the water temperature other than very cold! My husband crossed first - I must admit I was quite scared just watching him, realizing a misplaced step or fall would be devastating to the hike. He safely made it to a rock and immediately began drying and warming his feet. I was quite worried to cross myself as I am not tall and don't tolerate cold well. Shaking with fear of falling as I crossed, I slowly made it across the stream. And it was moving fast in the middle! Thank goodness for trekking poles or I never could have stood up in that water. After drying and warming up a bit, we headed on down the trail feeling good about safely crossing the water. Little did we know, about 1/2 mile upstream the trail crossed the water again! With wet pants from the previous crossing and still being a little cold, I was not about to go through that again! Our topo only showed the trail crossing water one time. We knew we would have to cross an odd number of times to get to table mountain. I sure did not like the idea of crossing a total of 3 times! So we elected to navigate our way along the south side of the creek looking for where the trail crossed again.

After working our way east and south for several miles in the woods, we finally crested the south side of the canyon to see a trail marker, Table Mountain, and the Grand Teton in front of us. I've never been so happy to see a trail in my life, even though it headed straight up a field of snow to the east. So we slowly climbed our way straight up the snow (which I now understand is a set of switchbacks after the snow has melted.) The route was straightforward (although still steep) for the last mile or 2 up to the summit of Table Mountain. 5 hours after leaving the car - crossing water, bushwacking along the side of the canyon, climbing snow, and trudging up the last mile, we were finally on the summit of Table Mountain.

The rewarding views of the Grand Teton and other peaks were well worth the hike. Lots of snow up there - it was beautiful! While snacking and relaxing on the summit, we noticed 2 other hikers making their way up. We met them on the way down and I had to ask how many times they had crossed the water. They looked confused and said none! Apparently they had taken the south trail, which begins on the south side of the creek. (Thus my trailhead directions saying we cross 2 bridges before arriving at the trailhead.) We chose to take this route down, and sure enough it never crossed water or snow. However this route was very steep, especially the last mile down! So all in all, this turned out to be a great day. We actually did a loop hike by taking the 2 different trails, which was kind of nice. And the 2 trailheads only turned out to be about 100 yards apart.

So in summary, the North trail had better views and was not nearly as steep until the switchbacks/snowfield - but look out for the water. If I had it to do again, we never would have crossed the first time and would have just walked upstream to meet the trail again. But at the time we didn't know the trail crossed twice within less than .5 miles. I would imagine the water runs this high at least until mid July. Hope this helps anyone who plans to hike this beautiful mountain. This probably turned out to be the best (and most memorable) hike on this trip! Enjoy Table Mountain and the Tetons!


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