Review: A Day Hike to Ramshead Lake & Lake of the Crags

Review: A Day Hike to Ramshead Lake & Lake of the Crags

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Status: Not yet proofread (and my sister charges me $25 a pop to proofread these, as she is a miserly harridan!). Slide Lake is one of my favorite day hikes that anyone in moderate physical fitness can do.

➻ Quick Facts

Info at a Glance

  • Time of Year: Fall (October 21st)
  • Notable Features: String Lake, Jenny Lake, Hanging Canyon, Ribbon Cascade, Arrowhead Pool, Ramshead Lake, Lake of the Crags, Symmetry Spire, Rock of Ages, The Jaw, Mount St John
  • General Route: Valley Trail / Jenny Lake Loop Trail to Hanging Canyon Trail / Lake of the Crags Trail and back.
  • Total Miles: ~7.46
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: +/-3420
  • Elevation Min, Avg, Max: 6820, 7802, 9639
  • Grab a free Gaia account to download the GPS file for your phone or Google Earth.

Interactive GPS Map (Click to See)

Elevation Profile


Relive ‘Fall Hike to Lake of the Crags’

The weather was going to be quite nice toward the end of our fall, so like the previous year, I wanted to have my dearest Brood Mother come along with me for a day hike in the Tetons. While we’d done the 22-miler before, this year seemed a good opportunity to scurry up and take a look at Lake of the Crags, which my friend Beatriz had done in the summer of 2022 and liked.

Although the fall means that the Jenny Lake ferry is not operating, the early morning views on the trail from the north should be seen anyway (unlike the trail to the south of Jenny Lake if you’re going up Paintbrush), and the fall has the benefits of:

  • Not having bugs.
  • Significantly reducing tourist volume.
  • Nicer colors.
  • Far better temperatures.

Mom came up the night before and stayed with us so that we could get an early start.

⤑Day 1 and Only: The Day Hike

Mom and I got up early and brought our down gear and some light gloves for the first portion of the hike. We were in the park (no one at the gates to stop us) before 0700 and in the parking lot not too long after.

There were a few vehicles, but it was mostly deserted. We utilized the latrine and then hit the trail, which took us over the river and then down to Jenny Lake. As the sun rose, the views were staggering. It’s impressive what this little, island range can do. The trail is pretty flat as it gradually heads down to Jenny Lake. Steam was coming off the waters and our breath added a little flair to the air; we stopped for pictures numerous times.

We ended up taking a use trail that petered off into nothingness and had to climb about 150 feet to the actual trail, so don’t make that mistake. The true trail is highly distinct and unmistakable…just keep going until you find it; it’s by a little creek.

I had imagined that the hike would be straight up, but it really wasn’t. Yes, it’s up, up, up, but I had envisioned having to climb up boulder fields, pulling myself up by my hands, and yet it was just a consistent, uphill walk on a fairly easy trail that wasn’t scrabbly at all. At 7600 feet there is a big switchback, and as we rounded it, I saw a bear with her two cubs, so I told mom and we vacated the trail to avoid her. She followed up toward the Ribbon Cascade which wasn’t really flowing impressively, and we made our way up and around her. When she was below us, we saw a couple of other hikers approaching her without seeing, so we yelled and pointed, and then continued on.

Another switchback took us to the ridge briefly and up by some trees, then we were above Ribbon Cascade. We stopped to drink water and the man and woman from earlier passed us. They had never seen the bears and thought we were just very excited about the cliffs. Whoops.

The trail became a little indistinct, with a branch heading south toward the creek, but it was impossible to get lost. We climbed up, up, and up, which mom truly hated, and she moved slowly to show her disdain. Eventually we entered a chute where the trail was quite distinct, and then we crossed the creek and bee-lined across the rock field adjacent Arrowhead Pool, which as this time of year was more of a muddy marsh. Another chute presented itself with a little climb at the top which required arms, and then we attained the flat by Ramshead Lake. Jets on the approach to Jackson were abeam us!

Symmetry Spire framed the lake beautifully and we decided to stop, get pictures, and collect water at the outlet. There was snow and ice in the shadows, but the temperatures were perfect for a hike like this, and there was also no wind at all. It was a perfect day. As we relaxed and had a snack, multiple couples and groups passed us on the way to Lake of the Crags. One couple was especially affable, which seems less common these days. I am myself not the friendliest person, but most people naturally find my looks offputting anyway and prefer that I respect their distance. Mom says they asked the doctors when I was small and all of them said the same thing: “There is nothing we can do.”

We crossed and climbed a final boulder field and popped out at Lake of the Crags. Everyone was going along the northside, so we went to the south and had it to ourselves. The affable couple from earlier spotted us across the lake and the female laughed and waved. The guy laughed as well…but I don’t think we’re that funny looking.

Following some pictures, we headed back down. At the climbing portion (I mean, not really climbing-climbing, but easier if one uses hands), a group of elderly ladies were ascending. We let them get up and beyond us and continued down. I was using my Creepers socks and didn’t get any pinch spots! The guy and gal from earlier passed us again, this time with what appeared to be a set of parents. Before the ridge, I stumbled on the trail and knocked a small stone loose, which went hurling down toward Ribbon Falls. I was TERRIFIED that it would hit someone, but blessedly it was small enough that some bushes stopped it. Ever after reading about the tragedy that occurred at Leg Lake (referenced and linked in my memories here), I have been wary of dislodging rocks. Thankfully I didn’t hurt anyone and didn’t fly off the trail myself, though it left the back of my right patellar area a little sore.

The bears were gone and this time we took the trail all the way to the bottom. We only saw one other couple going up (about 800 feet below Ramshead), so like us, most people had gotten an early start. A ton of people were on the loop trail at the bottom. We got back around 3PM, so our own travel had been quite leisurely. It snowed a few days later, as you’ll notice in the last picture above.

➤Conclusion and Rating

As a fall day hike, this was really easy and pretty enough. Not staggeringly beautiful, but certainly worth it to get some exercise in. I probably wouldn’t do it during the summer as the heat wouldn’t be pleasant, and I don’t think the honey is worth the bees in that case.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

  •  My scientific rating system. I truly enjoyed this little hike.
  • Beauty. Quite nice if not totally memorable.
  • Camping spots. N/A.
  • Crowds. Probably lots during the summer. We saw about 20 people total.
  • Difficulty. Strenuous for most. As an end-of-season hike, when you’re already in shape, it’s easy-peasy.
  • Fishing. N/A.
  • History. No.

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