REIMAGINGING TAGGART LAKE
Taggart Lake Trailhead is Grand Teton National Park’s most-frequented, year-round destination and a place for all visitors to experience first-hand the beauty of this iconic national park. The popularity of the area, along with a significant increase in park visitation in the past ten years, has overwhelmed frontcountry facilities and backcountry routes.
Reimagining Taggart Lake will address resource impacts, improve parking and trailhead infrastructure, educate and engage visitors, and create new accessible hiking experiences at a well-loved and spectacular place in Grand Teton.
Just a little more than one mile from the road lies a breathtaking glacial lake at the foot of the towering Teton range. What makes this place special—and unique—is that the roughly three-mile round trip excursion is the perfect length for families, groups of all ages and abilities, and visitors who only have a half day to explore the park. For the more experienced recreationists, this is a year-round gateway to discover the vast backcountry. Taggart Lake Trailhead is Grand Teton National Park’s most-frequented, year-round destination and a place for all visitors to experience first-hand the grandeur of this incredible national park.
Taggart Lake Trailhead is many visitors’ first stop north of the Moose entrance station on the Teton Park Road. The beauty and popularity of the area, along with a significant increase in park visitation in the past ten years, has overwhelmed the Taggart Lake Trailhead. The sixty-two car parking lot is commonly beyond capacity, forcing people to park along the roadside leading to and from the trailhead. Arriving visitors experience surprise and disappointment at the diminished aesthetics of a line of cars and event-style port-a-johns. Eighty-seven percent of visitors surveyed said they experienced some level of crowding and had concerns about safety. It is clear that current trailhead facilities are not meeting demand or visitor needs.
Once away from the cars, crowds disperse and it’s not as congested as conditions at the trailhead suggest. However, measurable impacts exist in the form of deteriorating trail sections, user created paths, and denuded areas along Taggart and Bradley lakes’ shorelines.
At the Trailhead
Sixty-five-percent of people surveyed at Taggart Lake Trailhead in summer 2021 were first-time visitors to Grand Teton, emphasizing this destination’s role as the front door to the park. The existing facilities are outdated, vegetation is trampled, and the visitor experience does not meet the need of the hundreds of people who use this site every day during peak seasons. Overall, trailhead improvement goals will provide amenities for multiple user groups, create an accessible parking zone, add year-round facilities, and establish a centralized gathering space for visitors that is worthy of this gateway to Grand Teton.
Renewing Backcountry Routes
In less than two miles and roughly 300 feet of elevation gain, hikers arrive at Taggart Lake. Stunning views of the Tetons and Jackson Hole valley accompany visitors on their journey, with ample opportunities to learn about and explore the ecological story that has shaped this landscape.
The current experience for visitors once they leave the trailhead does not match the grandeur of the surrounding area. Not far from the parking lot, hikers find themselves on a dirt road with electrical wires overhead, multiple trail junctions, a metal gate, and confusing signs—not what the average person would expect in one of our country’s most iconic national parks. The route to the lake is well-defined but marked by user-created paths, areas widened from people avoiding mud during spring and fall, and places that are challenging for those who are mobility impaired. Once at the lakeshore, hikers are greeted with eroded and denuded viewing areas and social trails created by decades of visitors who were eager to reach the water. Overall, trail improvements will renew disturbed areas, eliminate wayfinding challenges, create sustainable trails, and provide a memorable hiking experience for everyone.
Creating Accessibility for All
Building on past achievements at both Jenny Lake and along the Snake River, this public-private partnership project will also enhance accessibility so that visitors of all ability levels are able to experience the front and backcountry at Taggart Lake. Grand Teton National Park is at the forefront of this work within the National Park Service, and both the park and Foundation are inspired by the opportunities available at this specific destination.
The landscape surrounding Taggart Lake provides the opportunity to make significant improvements to create universal access for all user groups. Hiking can be enhanced with the addition of new, accessible trails. The design team will examine the potential to establish a short, universally accessible loop leading from the trailhead and improving accessibility to Taggart Lake itself, which will create new opportunities unique to this destination. These goals are more easily accomplished here than in other areas of the park given the site’s accommodating geography (a short distance to the destination along existing trails) and geology (the trail alignment is on gentle slopes of a moraine comprised of loose material, as opposed to the rugged and rockier conditions found elsewhere in the park).
JOIN US AND DONATE TODAY!
Grand Teton National Park is a national treasure and a memorable destination for visitors from across the world. Renewing Taggart Lake Trailhead and its network of trails will provide enjoyment and preserve this extraordinary mountain landscape for generations come. This popular destination is worthy of a significant investment and the time is now before damage to the area becomes even more extensive.
Grand Teton National Park Foundation will raise $6 million, which will leverage at least $3 million from the National Park Service. Private, philanthropic support will create outcomes at Taggart Lake that would not otherwise be possible. We hope you will consider supporting our Reimagining Taggart Lake campaign, which will transform a key location in Grand Teton. Thank you!