Delta Lake is a Hidden Gem within the mountains of Grand Teton National Park. The lake is glacier fed which gives it that picturesque turquoise color and keeps the water temperature frigid cold! This is a difficult hike that is 9 miles out and back with a 2,300 ft. elevation increase! This was a challenge for us, as we are not expert hikers, but reaching the oasis of Delta Lake was worth the effort.
More tips for your Grand Teton trip:
Delta Lake Hike Details
Distance: 9.0 miles (4.5 miles to Delta Lake)
Elevation Gain: 2,329 ft
Route Type: Out & Back
The first 3.5 miles of this hike is a park maintained hiking trail. The last 1 mile is not maintained and has numerous complexities.
The hike starts at Lupine Meadows Trailhead. This is where you’ll park. Parking does fill up fast, so you may have to park down the road.
From there you will follow the Amphitheater Trail. This hike starts fairly flat and in a nicely shaded wooded area. At about 1.25 miles the trail will get steep as you start ascending the mountainside.
You will see various trails merge with your own. Paths are well marked with signage, so verify you are staying on Amphitheater Trail.
There are 6 switchbacks on this portion of the trail. There is not much shade in the area, which can be brutal for a midday hike. Otherwise, you continue to get a better view of the valley as you ascend.
Finding the Unmaintained Trail
The turnoff for the unmaintained trail is at the very end of the 6th switchback. Instead of making a left hand “U-turn” and continuing to climb, walk to the outer edge of the turn. From there you’ll see a step off and a narrow path that follows.
A lot of people have trouble finding this turn-off, so we dropped a pin at the GPS Coordinates of the 6th switchback. “Save” this location on your Google Maps and Download the Google Map of the area before you go (How-to). When you lose cell service, you’ll need this downloaded map to navigate the trail, and it will save the pinned location. We also used this to keep up with the switchback count (not that counting to 6 is hard, you just get distracted along the way).
This is the hardest portion of the hike for navigation and complexity. Early in the season (until June) there is typically snow on this trail that covers the path and makes the rocks slippery.
You will cross over three boulder fields that make navigation difficult as there is not actually a trail. (Keep in mind you are moving diagonally across the boulder fields.) Fellow hikers have left cairns to help show the way, so keep a sharp eye out for them through this area. Also, check the sturdiness of the boulders before putting your entire weight on it. They tend to shift. Otherwise, crossing over the boulders is fun and easy.
There are also some very steep sections throughout this portion of the path. There were times where we were basically crawling on all fours because it was either too steep or too slippery. We saw a few other hikers slip and cut their hands and knees.
Delta Lake Hike “Reward”
Once you make it here, we suggest hanging out for a couple of hours and soaking up your reward! There are definitely a lot of good photo opportunities. It is also a serene place to just sit back and relax. Some people brought hammocks to sit in, others took a very quick freezing cold dip in the water.
Tips & Tricks
Go Early in the Morning
- The switchbacks have very little shade. Doing this hike later in the day becomes even more difficult.
- This gives you more time to spend at the actual lake. Soak in your reward!
- The parking lot fills up. Parking farther will increase your hike distance.
- The lake is on the east side of the mountains, so the lighting is best in the morning.
Bring lots of water. We brought 4 liters of water for the 2 of us and still ran out on the way down. Here is the water day pack we used. It’s great for carrying water and the additional hike necessities.
Download an Offline Google Map before you go (How-to). We lost cell service in the mountains but were still able to use our downloaded map to make sure we were going in the right direction. This helps with counting switchbacks and once you get to the unmaintained section of the hike.
- AllTrails Pro Members can also download the trail on their phones and follow along that way.
Follow cairns. These mark the unmaintained portion of the trail. Combining these with the offline map, kept us from getting lost.
Bear Safety! Make sure you bring bear spray and are not running on the trail (on the way down). We did have a grizzly bear cross our trail 50 ft. in front of us. This was an exhilarating and terrifying moment!