The Mountain Goat Gallery

Bradley and Taggart Lakes: An All-Season Adventure

Posted by Jim Steele on May 28th, 2008 filed in Grand Teton National Park

The Bradley-Taggart Lake “Grand Loop” hike offers a little bit of everything: two fairly large lakes, spectacular views of the Tetons, some history and geology, a little elevation gain, and the chance to see a variety of wildlife. Depending on the season, it can be a great hike or a cross-country ski trip.

Bradley Lake

Numerous trails go through the Bradley-Taggart area, so depending on how much time you want to spend outside, you could do anything from a short (just over three miles) hike straight into Taggart Lake and back to a loop that goes from the trailhead to Bradley Lake, to Taggart Lake, and home via Beaver Creek. I’ve already written about the hike straight into Taggart Lake. This article is about the “Grand Loop,” which is about six miles. If that’s more hiking than you’re in the mood for, you can shorten the trip. But if you want to do even more, the loop connects with other trails that offer the potential for side trips. There isn’t a lot of elevation gain on this trip – Bradley Lake stands at an elevation of 7,022 feet and Taggart Lake is at 6,902 feet.

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To get to the trailhead, travel north of Moose on the Inner Park Road for about three miles. The Taggart Lake Trailhead is well marked with a sign, large parking lot and an outhouse on the west side of the road. The trailhead is at the northwest corner of the lot by the outhouse. A sign at the trailhead shows the Taggart Lake-area trails, and a map is available for a nominal donation.

You’ll start out walking west across level, lightly treed terrain. The lack of trees in this area allows you to enjoy a great view of the Tetons and this is a great place to try out the panoramic function on your camera if it offers one. After juts a few minutes, you will come to a signed junction. Go right (north) to head toward Bradley and Taggart Lakes or go straight to connect with the Beaver Creek trail. Your “grand loop” will start and end here, so you have the option of going in either direction. I’ll start with the trip to Bradley Lake.

After turning right, you’ll continue through flat territory for a few more minutes before you start climbing a glacial moraine. Both Bradley and Taggart lakes were formed when glaciers receded, leaving moraines that trapped water and formed the lakes. As you climb the moraine, you’ll see plenty of boulders that the glaciers left behind. You’ll spend plenty of time climbing up and down moraines on this trip.

Shortly after you start climbing the moraine, you’ll cross a bridge over Taggart Creek. As you look up the creek, you’ll see a peak in the background. You’ll wind along the base of the moraine, passing behind a small ranch where you might see horses corralled. Next, you’ll cross a small bridge over a small offshoot of Taggart Creek, then begin climbing the moraine in earnest, following the creek much of the way.

You’ll also see plenty of evidence of a forest fire that burned the area in 1985. Some of the area that you will pass through on this hike has been burned, and it is interesting to see how busy nature has been over the past 23 years rejuvenating the area. Throughout this hike, you will see both aspen and pine trees.

After you ascend the moraine, you will come to a junction. You can continue straight on the main trail to Taggart Lake; it’s 0.5 miles. Turn right (northwest) to continue the trip to Bradley Lake. You’re one mile away. You’ll continue through similar terrain for much of the trip to Bradley Lake. Along the way, you’ll have several opportunities to see Taggart Lake and Avalanche Canyon from a distance. Most of the trip from the junction to Bradley Lake is a fairly gradual climb up another moraine. From the ridgeline, you’ll have views of Taggart Lake, then begin descending to Bradley Lake. It is interesting to watch the forest thicken once you begin the descent to Bradley. This is partially because you’re going down a north-facing slope and partially because this area did not burn in 1985.

Just above the Bradley Lake shoreline, you’ll come to another junction, where you can turn left (west) to continue your trip to Taggart Lake. If you go right, you’ll wander along the east shore of Bradley, eventually crossing a bridge over Bradley Lake’s outlet. This trail connects with the trail that leads to Amphitheater Lake and Garnet Canyon. I recommend taking the side trip at least part of the way along the shore. The views of the Tetons and Garnet Canyon are spectacular – and you’ll avoid the shoreline if you go straight to Taggart Lake from the junction. If you want a bird’s eye view of Bradley and Taggart lakes, go on the Amphitheater Lake or Garnet Canyon hikes later this summer; as you switchback up the mountain, you’ll see both of these lakes.

Bradley Lake, left, and Taggart Lake, right, viewed from the trail to Amphitheater Lake and Garnet Canyon.

From the Bradley Lake junction, you are 1.4 miles from the Taggart Lake junction. Head west and you’ll climb up the moraine through pine forest. From the top, you’ll switchback down the trail to Taggart Lake, which is longer than it seems. You’ll feel like you’re almost at the lake, but the trail doesn’t follow a particularly direct route to Taggart. Along the way, you’ll see a trail that heads west up Avalanche Canyon. This isn’t an official trail and a small rock barrier has been placed at the junction.

Taggart Lake, photographed from the moraine between Taggart Lake and Bradley Lake.

Watch for wildlife. You could see just about any kind of critter on this hike. I’ve seen moose and marmots in this area several times. On my last trip through the area, moose had left an abundant crop of scat through the winter. It’s not tough to imagine a bear in the vicinity.

Eventually you’ll come to the shore of Taggart Lake, winding along it for a few minutes. The views of the Tetons and Avalanche Canyon are spectacular. The elevation gain on this hike is minimal – a few hundred feet at most each time you cross a moraine – but you still enjoy awesome views of the mountains. After wandering along the shore for a few minutes, you’ll reach a junction. Head left (east) to take the direct route back to the parking lot (1.6 miles). I have written about this trail here. Or keep going on the “grand loop” via Beaver Creek by going straight. You’re 2.4 miles from the trailhead.

Past the junction, you’ll cross a bridge over the Taggart Creek outlet of Taggart Lake. Take a minute to enjoy the view from the bridge. Next, you’ll start climbing the moraine – again. As you make the modest climb up the moraine, don’t forget to turn around and enjoy the view. From the top of the moraine, you’ll be able to see south toward Jackson. You’ll descend, meeting up with Beaver Creek before long and eventually coming to a junction with the Valley Trail, which would take you to the Whitegrass Trailhead (3.3 miles). I’m sure Beaver Creek is a great place to see wildlife, especially in the small meadows.

From the junction, you are 1.6 miles from the trailhead. Follow the trail to a signed junction near the trailhead where you can turn right (east) to return to your car or keep going straight to begin the loop all over again.

A storm begins rolling in near the Taggart Lake trailhead.

I love this hike. It’s a great after-work hike, due to its modest length and because the trailhead is only a half-hour from town. It offers a variety of vegetation, from sagebrush to aspens to pine, and two gorgeous lakes. Be warned that this is one of the most popular trails in the park, so if you’re after solitude, you might want to go somewhere else. The direct route from the trailhead to Taggart Lake is by far the most popular, so if you follow the loop I’ve outlined, you’ll avoid many of the people.

This area is also popular in the winter. The Inner Park Road is plowed from Moose to the Taggart Lake Trailhead. Taggart Lake and Bradley Lake make an excellent cross-country ski trip, and you can also ski along the Inner Park Road, which is groomed during the winter.

Taggart Lake in the winter

Due to its low elevation, this trail is accessible earlier than most in the spring.

Trail conditions: I did this loop on May 25. There was sporadic snow throughout much of the area, but it is receding quickly and the majority of the trail system was clear. However, there was still considerable snow cover around Bradley Lake, and it was several feet deep in many places. If you do this full loop in the near future, plan on coming home with wet shoes. The ice had melted off both lakes. When I was at Taggart on May 18, it was still covered with slush, but it was all gone just a week later.


Grand Teton National Park day hike guide (PDF)

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