Although Turquoise Lake looks beautiful on the maps, I found this hike fairly mundane. I was happy to be out and about, but I have no plans to return. Status: Not proofread.
My wife, daughter, and I had spent the first weekend in September playing on OHVs around Dunoir, WY, camping at Moon Lake, and visiting some nearby hot springs.
I wanted to do something for the 11th and 12th but was planning on staying closer to Jackson Hole given my work schedule. In September, the days are appreciably shorter, and that was also a factor.
For quite some time I’d wanted to hike up the Granite drainage to Turquoise Lake, but it seemed like a but much for a lake of unknown beauty. On the other hand, I had really enjoyed a couple of hikes in the Gros Ventre, so if there were a way to make it happen, I felt it was worth it. Following a lot of studying of maps, I found that I could probably leave work and hike to Goodwin Lake, hike up to Jackson Peak and over to Turquoise Lake the next day, and then head out along the backcountry, popping over by Pinnacle Peak Pass and exiting to Granite Hot Springs. This would avoid the elevation gain associated with going east-west, would make it a point-to-point hike, and would throw in Jackson Peak and Goodwin Lake. I also considered going up from Flat Creek or my house, but those seemed somewhat boring.
Below: My route in red (from right to left) and my original proposal in yellow. My house is up neat the purple smudge.
For my proposed route, the biggest concern I had was mileage (approaching 30) and terrain. I desired to see follow along the mountains, but the terrain looked like miles of boulderfields, which really slow things down. Pinnacle Pass (or at least that’s what I call it) also seemed pretty unholy, being quite steep and intensely rocky. My wife agreed that she could pick me up and take me back to my Jeep after I was done with the trip.
⤑Day 1: The Road to Goodwin Lake Trailhead Hates You
I got off work around 4:45 and drove south into the town of Jackson, stopping by Dairy Queen to get a big meal, and the only food I’d have for the entire day. It was untasty and probably not the best decision, but I wanted something fast, and this was the only fast food en route to the trailhead.
Getting to the trailhead itself requires very high clearance and a tolerance for potentially damaging the crap out of one’s vehicle. The road was so rough that it kept setting off my accident sensor on my dashcam. Anyway, below is the video. It has some abrupt cuts which were typically me stopping to discern how best to go forward, but also some missing segments because I didn’t notice that certain sections had been placed into the accident folder of the dashcam. I have not found the desire to remake the video, so this is what you get. Probably gives you a better idea of how much slamming around your vehicle is going to take, too, assuming you don’t rip out the oilpan.
I arrived at the trailhead at 5:50PM and put on my brand new Montrails. I have been using the Columbia Trans Alps FKT III for some years now, and when I burn through one pair, I’ve been blessed to be able to replace them with another. These shoes are perfect for my feet, have a nice toe box, are very protective without being too jarring, and have the best grip I’ve personally ever used. Here’s an Amazon link in case you want to check them out. I don’t get any sort of benefits from linking to them…just really like the shoes!
Although I had been nervous that the trailhead would be packed, there were only two trucks, making me optimistic that Goodwin Lake might not be too crowded. My goal for the evening was to reach the lake, set up camp, and hit the hay after reading something and maybe watching an episode of Stranger Things. If the lake was crowded, my alternative plan was to head down through the forest to Lake 9215, or one of the ponds above it in the drainage. A creek runs down the mountain there, and there’s also a wintertime warming shack in the area.
I ended up leaving the trailhead at 6:20. While I had packed a lot of my cold-weather gear (extra down liner, down pants, etc.), the temperature was warm as I marched in an upward arc along the well-established trail. Just over 1500 feet later, I broke out of the forest into bald hillside, and there the sun felt like it was really cooking me. Though I’d had plenty to drink before leaving my vehicle, I was worried that I might become parched along the way to the lake, so I’d also packed a couple of bottles of water. Given how easily water infiltrates downward in this area, I was certain that I’d not have a spot to fill up along the way. (I was correct about that, by the way!)
As something of a blessing, the trail through the treeless side of the hill beelined uphill, which meant that I didn’t have to spend much time baking under the oppressive sun. The shade from the trees was welcome in the still air, as was just how easy the path was. Unlike some trails, this wasn’t scrabbly, which I appreciated.
At mile one, the gradient decreased and became relatively flat. Being in shape, I was able to just job certain sections of it, though I found myself stopping for pictures as the sun filtered through the evergreen canopy directly on my right, illuminating golden motes, and creating shadows which darted and leaped about the forest floor.
While I could intermittently see toward the Hole of Jackson and the drainage to the east, it wasn’t until mile 1.5 that I really got to look down into the canyon containing Sheep Creek. As I trotted ahead, I wondered where I’d really start to feel the elevation gain. As it would turn out, the elevation gain to Goodwin Lake would not be significant enough for me to feel oppressed by the earth itself.
Just over 2 1/4 miles in, the trail finally cut north and left the spine of the ridge, which is good because that’s also where the ridgeline starts cranking uphill to Jackson Peak. I took the opportunity to look for cell service, which I knew I wouldn’t have, and message my wife that I was fine and close to camp. Shockingly I DID have service. Because I am protective of my satcom messages, I prefer to check for cell service first.
After taking some pictures of the pretty sunset and Jackson Lake, I pressed forward across an area of rockpiles. The trail really didn’t get super bouldery itself and was very walkable. As I moved onward, the air became cooler, and eventually the last remnant of red, burning glow faded from the mountainsides. The air was still and quiet as I ambled uphill.
At 7:45 I came upon a creek crossing some 500+ feet from Goodwin Lake; there a sign informed me of where camping was allowed. I am not a huge fan of camping in congested areas. The hygiene of humans often leaves a little to be desired, and my last such experience at the hot springs over by Salmon, ID was incredibly off-putting.
Five minutes later I was at Goodwin Lake and availed myself of the opportunity to check it out before darkness fell, then scurried uphill, albeit quietly, in search of a place to camp. When I’m in populated areas I prefer to be quiet so as not to disturb other campers, but as I gently climbed through the wooded hillside to the north of the lake, I saw no one.
Pleasantly surprising was the fact that the campsites were level, well kept, and had no people! Given that that they were relatively close together, I wouldn’t want to camp here if others were around, but with no one nearby, it was pretty nice.
The sites were mostly up on something of a high-point, though a well-maintained trail to them also led downhill to another flat spot. I decided to camp up top as it was a little closer to the water, the area was a little more level, and the large boulders were convenient for placing my pack without getting dirt everywhere.
After taking off my pack, I went and got water, filling up my 1-gallon gravity system, my Jetboil, and a bottle. Upon returning to my camping area, I started getting everything out, only to find the water bottles from the Jeep. Oops. Well that was why my pack was heavier. Rookie mistake.
I lightly munched on some lentil loops. As you can see below, the remainder of my food consisted of m very favorite Peak Refuel Homestyle Chicken and Rice, a little bag of Ruffles, a pink Snowball, and some chips. I had a couple of other little snacks tucked away (gummy worms, for one!), but nothing significant given then short duration of the hike, and the fact that I wouldn’t be out for too long. I set up a small fire in an old fire pit; using the long-shutter mode, it ended up looking like a forest fire, while the moon looked like a 737’s landing lights.
After hanging my bear bag and giving myself forest bath, I watched some episodes of Stranger Things; it gave me a craving for peanut butter. As is my proclivity, I fell asleep far too late. To my displeasure, I woke up around 2AM covered in sweat; the moon also made it difficult to sleep. The temperature outside had gotten warmer during the night, so I had to de-layer and try to cool off.
⤑Day 2: Hiking from Goodwin Lake to Jackson Peak, a Real Turquoise Lake, and a Lake Named Turquoise Lake
At 0810 I awoke from the sun’s rays blasting into my tent. The temperature was cool but not at all brisk, so unlike my previous hike, icing on the tent was not a concern. I mumbled to myself about needing to get up but not wanting to, debated internally about whether or not I should go run and pee, and finally decided to heat up some water and make myself a warm, carbonated, orange energy drink. While I was doing this, I half-watched another episode of Stranger Things. Below are some pictures from my camp. I’m always glad to see that I have a wedding ring! The glasses you see are my Costa Men’s Cut 580g sunglasses, which I have taken to wearing because they have much better clarity than the Jackson Nemesis glasses which I take on “rougher” outings. They also don’t smear sunscreen directly on the lens like the Nemesis glasses do, but thanks to their cost ($99 on Woot), I bring a protective case with them everywhere. I have found that I much prefer the actual glass versions (580g, not 580p), even though they are heavier. These glasses also work with my Shockz bone-conduction headset. (Notice my gloves, which are missing entire pieces from my Roaring Fork adventure.)
After getting water and packing, I was on the road around 9:20. With the air being dead still, I got some nice photos of Goodwin Lake. The blue reflection of the sky was contrasted by the deep green of the lake in the shadows. For being really just an average lake, it still had some charm.
The trail around the side of the lake wraps north as you leave the lake and develops a steeper gradient. As I climbed, a tendon in my right leg ached a bit, but a hobbly gait seemed to relieve the pressure. I hoped it wouldn’t become a thing for this hike.
The forest gave way to grassy flats, which eventually led me to a sign for Jackson Peak. Not wanting to carry my pack up, I went off to a nearby knoll and stashed it. As I did, two girls went running by on the trail, zipping upward toward the peak, and a man with pack goats descended toward Goodwin Lake. It seemed best to me to go far away from the trail and use the restroom before going up, but the ground was hard to dig in. Consequently, I didn’t start the climb until 10:15.
The trail up Jackson Peak was far more docile than I expected. It cuts over to the ridge, an the turn to climb northbound seems to feature the steepest spot, with the most loose dirt and gravel. My Montrails were perfect for this, though, and I didn’t have a problem. The two gals passed me heading back down, and I arrived at the top having taken less than 15 minutes to amble up the 700+ vertical feet. As I said, it was far more docile than expected, and at less than one mile from intersection to peak, probably worth adding on if you’re already in the area. To the south, I watched the two girls take off running toward Granite Hot Springs, following the path that I’d soon take. Shucks they were fast!
Below: The initial climb, looking along the trail southward, and all the views from the top, including my work!
Jackson Peak was deserted, so I had the place to myself. The peak is really just a big rockpile, but the views of the Tetons, the airport, etc., are hard to beat. Unfortunately, it was rather smoky, especially looking south, so my pictures weren’t the best. Still, I enjoyed seeing the airplanes climb out of the valley, hawks diving after creatures in the rocks, and the beautiful vista of the western reaches of Wyoming. Given that I had the place to myself and was in no particular hurry, I relaxed and read a while, giving my right leg some rest. After about an hour, I decided that at some point indulgence becomes sloth, so it was time to head out. Additionally, I saw some people coming up the trail and wanted them to have the mountain to themselves, too. What a luxurious way to hike, taking breaks to my heart’s content.
On the way down I passed a man and a woman with a lhasa apso. The man told me not to be startled, because another one of the creatures was somewhere to be found. As I reached the one switchback on the mountain, two women climbed up past me, and although I didn’t know it, they would be the last people I would encounter on this hike. While apparently this peak is somewhat popular as a day hike, I’m not sure that I’d personally find it worth it. Seems like a hot, dusty sorta walk to me.
Below: That switchback I keep mentioning. I considered whether or not climbing the ridge from the north would ever be fun. Probably not.
By the time I reached my pack, the temperature had gone from pleasant to surprisingly warm. Although I had been curious about a lake on the Jackson side of the ridge and had at one point considered a hike to it, I certainly wasn’t with the sun hammering through the smoky haze. Instead I looked at my map and considered the potential for water along the route: minimal. A couple of marshes and on pond up high and off the trail were likely my only potential sources of water for the next 5 or so miles. I’d packed a bottle from Goodwin Lake in preparation, but as is generally the case with me, the sight of parched land had my throat feeing drier than it was.
Saddling up, I headed annoyingly downhill, across a dry creek, and then started upward again. The trail follows a shelf beneath the ridgeline, and has a habit of climbing and descending in rolling waves. In about 4 miles, I’d end up gaining and losing around 1200 feet. Talk about a waste. I was very glad to be wearing my Montrails, as at times the trail went from being nicely packed dirt to rather treacherous bits of loose limestone.
Below: People on Jackson Peak, changing views of the Sleeping Indian, and views along the trail.
Around a mile and a half from the junction to Jackson Peak, I came across a low-lying saddle that interested me (as it would look somewhat toward my house), so I took off my pack and decided to walk uphill to take a look. First, though, I ate some dried lentil loops and had a bit of my water. The grasses and plants were dry and rattily as I made my way through them, releasing a torrent of sound and the occasional late-season grasshopper. The saddle was a disappointment, looking down into forest and mountains, but mostly having a blocked view of anything interesting. A use trail descended into it, leading to who-knows-where. I spent little time there before returning to my pack and getting back on the road.
Below: Looking down the drainage, the view towards the saddle, the view from the saddle, and the use trail that goes up to the saddle.
The trail continued its ups and downs, passing both dried meltponds and a couple which suprisingly still had water. I was not as thirsty as I’d expected, so I didn’t utilize any of the stagnant water. Just over 8 miles into my adventure, the trail started to descend more steeply, and looked for all the world like it was going to take me far further down than I had any desire to go. To my joy, it ended up being something of an illusion, and quickly I was walking along a flat which was listed prominently as a marsh on my old map. Perhaps it used to be, but now there was plenty of water, thought the marshy margins would make it somewhat difficult to access. I didn’t feel thirsty so I kept going.
A couple minutes past the ponds I arrived at the junction of Goodwin Lake Trail and Trail 4018. 4018 didn’t seem that well worn, and I’m not sure when one might have cause to use it; given that there was no marking for it on the trail sign at the junction. Looking southeast, I wasn’t sure which saddle in the ridgeline I’d need to climb, but following the trail toward Turquoise Lake no longer seemed in my best interest as I wanted to head more directly toward Lake 10250.
I elected to head uphill rather too soon, but was graced with a shelf below the cliffs that made for pleasant walking. Needing to dig a cathole, I found myself not too displeased with myself for my decision. The shelf ended up being very walkable and gave me impressive views of moirane-looking rockpiles beneath sharp cliffs. The geology in this area was no longer limestone, a fact happily reveled in by a small creek which burst forth from the bottom of one of the boulder fields. I should have filled up with water there, but I was busy listening to weirdo Roger Stone on an interview, and his bizarre story gave me the energy to traverse some of the till and head uphill toward an off-trail pass I’d identified.
Below: An animal trail going to one of the many saddles in the area. Looking back at the ponds. Views approaching the boulderfields along the shelf. A marmot. The boulderfields, me, the creek, and where I started my climb.
In the last picture above you can see a low point just to the left of center. The climb up there was about 500 feet and not too bad, or at least not so steep that it was particularly memorable. At the top I was afforded awesome views of the Tetons and Snow King. Elk had been bedding down in the area, leaving it a little smelly, but I found a nice place to sit and communicate with my family, letting them know that I’d be at Turquoise Lake for the night, and where I planned to exit my hike the day after, albeit tentatively. As I did so, numerous jets zipped overhead, from an American Airbus A319 to a privately-owned Citation. I guess the airport was still busy enough, albeit off peak.