Paintbrush Pass is an easy hike for people who get lost easily but are in shape, and it offers stunning views of the Cathedral Group. Being in the Tetons, it’s always going to come with crowds. Anyway, my thoughts as a local.
➻ Quick Facts
My job in Jackson is beautiful. Truly poverty with a view, as some of the pictures from my work attest to above. (Note: those pictures were not from the time of the trip.) My mother, who lives some hours away, was unable to find a hiking partner for the weekend, but my second dad, Wendle, suggested that the two of them come up to visit me. I suggested that we go to the Bar J Wranglers, which is the best thing you could do in Jackson (2021 was their last season), and mom and I could hike by ourselves. Wendle has never been a huge fan of hiking, so that worked out for everyone. After considering which hike would be nicest, I convinced my mom that we should do go up by the Cathedral Group. We had no real destination in mind, but rather just wanted to get out and about to see where life would take us. I’d previously hiked in the Jenny Lake area, and told here that we should pay for the ferry to the other side of the lake, which shaves off a number of boring miles.
⤑Jenny Lake Dock to Paintbrush Pass and Back
The parking lot was incredibly crowded (as usual), but we managed to get a parking spot, use the restroom, and make our way to the dock within about 10 minutes. The shuttle service costs $18/rt for each adult, and I bought my mom’s ticket. You can find click on this for their website and information. Man I’m nice, huh?
The boat ride was super fast and we began our climb up the trail on the north side of the Cascade Creek. The trails were undergoing remediation on both sides of the canyon, but past the confluence near the Cascade bridge there was no more work in progress, and we were quickly past the switchbacks and into the gentler climb up Cascade Canyon.
I am delighted to tell you that this trail is so simple that even a bear can manage it. Being frank, this is such a defined route that it’s impossible to get lot and has nothing trick to describe. In essence, it starts off climbing up some cliff areas which give you a nice view of Jenny Lake, and beyond that it follows the river beneath the gorgeous Cathedral Group. The Cathedral Group consists in total of Grand Teton, Mount Owen, Middle Teton, South Teton, Teewinot Mountain, Teepe Pillar, Cloudveil Dome, Nez Perce Peak and Buck Mountain, most of which are over 12,000 feet. However, this trip primarily showcases Teewinot and Grand Teton to the south, as the other members of the Cathedral Group are hidden beyond them.
Passing through small meadows, over rockfields, and at times along the stream, both roaring and pooling, it’s a steady climb the entire way, but for folks who are in good shape it’s not a challenge. The trail is quite crowded because, you know, it’s the Tetons and everyone needs to Instacrowd. (Including me!)
The canyon splits at 5.8 miles in, just after entering lusher forest. We took the right branch, heading northwest toward one of the numerous lakes in Wyoming which carries the name “Solitude.” The north fork of Cascade Canyon isn’t as wooded as the lower portions, but excellent opportunities to take photos of Grand Teton behind you are present during this section, and wildness campsites are also present, though you have to get the right permits to use them. I have no interest in ever doing that, as such sites are usually pretty “well worn” and smelly. Gross.
We reached Solitude Lake feeling just fine, took a bunch of pictures, and then decided to hoof it on up to Paintbrush Pass. The trail becomes very rocky, but it’s totally passable. At the most notable switchback, the view of the Grand is unbeatable.
- Our favorite part of the trip.
We reached Paintbrush Pass and took a ton of pictures, even though the views there are limited…really, the best thing to see is the Cathedral Group on the climb us, as you won’t be able to see much of Jackson Lake. It was rather cold and windy, and we were both shocked to meet a French couple in shorts. I don’t know how they weren’t hypothermic, but they seemed happy (heh heh, Tetons, oui oui) and we obliged their request happily.
- Various views from Paintbrush Pass. We were going to climb a peak, but it was windy and getting late.
Then it was time to head back to the Jeep, so we took off at a pretty quick clip…only to remember that we’d forgotten something behind that came from the backpack. Thankfully we’d not gone far, so I retrieved it and then caught up to mom.
With the weather being cool and the clouds stacking up, we were still fresh, even at this point, so we decided to jog most of he way back down the trail. Just past the junction trail to Jenny Lake we encountered an aggressive, young bull moose on the trail, who chased us. We got up on a large boulder until he lost interest and left. I was not happy with him.
- Spot the moose below.
Finally we got back to the dock to catch the ferry back. There we met a young guy carrying an entire, bathroom mirror/cabinet. As it turns out, he does that and takes selfies in the bathroom mirror on his hikes. He’s BeyondTheBathroomSelfie. Funny guy, and dedicated, with one heck of a strong back.
We got back to the Jeep just over 8 hours after starting, still feeling pretty good. That’s what happens when you only have a day-pack.
➤Conclusion and Rating
This hike was pleasant and uncomplicated. With better lighting, it’s great for photographers who want to get some cracking shots. Taking the ferry is worth it to save some boring miles and to get some killer views from the boat.
- My scientific rating system. This hike is an easy blast. One star is deducted due to PEOPLE.
- Beauty. It’s the Cathedral Group.
- Camping spots. This was just a day hike. Special permits and whatnot are needed to camp.
- Crowds. Sardines. You’ll be like sardines.
- Difficulty. Strenuous. High altitude and lots of climbing.
- Fishing. Not applicable this time.
- History. No.
Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to help you do more with that time of yours, and I’m here to serve you!