The Best Places to Paddleboard in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
These legendary Jackson Hole lakes offer stunning mountain views and unforgettable stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) for all abilities. Here’s how to make a perfect day of it at each place.
String Lake and Leigh Lake
Although the Tetons are home to many stunning alpine lakes, String Lake and Leigh Lake are among the most popular for paddleboarding. With its clear shallow waters, String Lake is usually warmer than its deeper siblings, making it an ideal place for a casual paddle or post-hike swim. Epic mountain views surround you on three sides as you paddle in the heart of Grand Teton National Park.
The real treat, however, comes as you paddleboard String Lake’s long narrow path to its far end to access Leigh Lake. To get there, you must carry your watercraft upstream about 100 yards from the northern end of String Lake. The portage is short and only moderately difficult. If your group has a bit of adventure in them it is well worth the effort. Leigh Lake is larger, less busy, and perhaps even more beautiful than String Lake. Resting at the mouth of Paintbrush Canyon, Leigh Lake provides views into the upper reaches of the glacial valley and beyond.
Further north of Leigh Lake is a small, lesser-known lake called Bearpaw Lake. Like Leigh, you’ll have to carry your paddleboard a short distance to get to Bearpaw. If you make the journey you’ll most likely be the only paddler there.
Early morning and sunset are both magical times to paddleboard on these Jackson Hole lakes. Be sure to come prepared with warm layers, food and water.
Pro Tip: The String and Leigh Lake parking areas and trailheads get quite busy. Try to arrive early to claim a spot in the parking lot and on the beach. Remember, if it gets too crowded head over to Leigh and Bearpaw Lakes for some more space.
String and Leigh Lake have a few access points where you can launch your watercraft. To paddleboard on String Lake, you can park at either the String Lake Trailhead or the Leigh Lake Trailhead. There are nice beaches on the banks of String Lake to set up and get ready for a paddle. To paddleboard on Leigh Lake, you must carry your craft from the end of String Lake as described above.
The String and Leigh Lake adventure can be done in a half day or easily stretched out into a full day. Bring whatever you need to play and relax, including your paddleboard of course, and make a day of it!
Drive time from Jackson to the String and Leigh Lake parking areas is about 40 to 50 minutes. However, there are many scenic pullouts on the way and often wildlife sightings of elk, moose, pronghorn, bears, and raptors. The Park road that leads to String and Leigh Lakes is a one way loop, so look out for signs pointing you in the right direction.
Jenny Lake is one of the most iconic lakes in the Park. Spilling out from the mouth of Cascade Canyon, the lake offers breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks. At a maximum depth of 423 feet, Jenny is one of the deepest lakes in the Park and its mysterious blue waters make for an incredible paddleboarding experience.
Jenny Lake Boating operates motorized shuttles that cross from the main Jenny Lake Boat Dock to the mouth of Cascade Canyon. When paddleboarding on Jenny Lake, be sure to give these shuttles a wide berth and get ready to ride the wake when they come your way. More open than String or Leigh Lake, it can get a bit windy in the afternoons. Mornings and evenings are the best time to paddleboard on Jenny Lake. If you do encounter winds, try to stick close to shore and, if possible, paddle into the wind on your way out. You will be much happier with the wind at your back on the return journey to your car.
There are two main ways to get your paddleboard in the water at Jenny Lake. The first option is to park in the main lot and walk a short distance to the Jenny Lake Boat Dock. This is the same area where the shuttles leave so make sure you paddle into the lake proper when the shuttles are out of the way. The second option is to park at the Jenny Lake Launch, less than a mile south of the main lot. This boat ramp is a little harder to find, so click here to view a map and get directions. Parking at the south boat ramp is limited so be patient while looking for a spot.
Jenny Lake is an easy half day trip from Jackson and can be combined with a number of other short adventures. Take a stroll along the trail that encircles the lake or pay a visit to String and Leigh Lakes just to the north.
Drive time from Jackson to the Jenny Lake Boat Dock is about 30 to 40 minutes. Remember, it’s best to get to the lake early to secure a spot, although sunsets here can be fabulous as well. There will be plenty of time to visit scenic pullouts and scope for wildlife on your return journey home.
Covering 25,540 acres, Jackson Lake is by far the largest lake in the Park. All manner of watercraft are allowed here, including sailboats, power boats, and paddle craft. Due to its size and potential for wind, it’s wise to stay in sheltered areas like Half Moon and Colter Bays. There is also easy water access from Signal Mountain Lodge, which is about 15 minutes south of Colter Bay on the Inner Park Road.
An alternative place to paddleboard on Jackson Lake is Spalding Bay, which is accessed from a rough, unmarked dirt road further south along the Inner Park Road (directions below). If you are looking for a more obscure paddle with fewer people, then Spalding Bay is the place for you.
If windy, remember to paddle into the wind at the start so you have a tail wind on the way back. Sticking close to shore will offer you more shelter than venturing out into the open. Make sure you bring a drybag with warm layers, snacks, and a water bottle if you are going for a longer paddle.
Click on the following links to get directions to water access points.
Colter Bay - Major access point with amenities.
Leeks Marina - A quaint marina a few miles north of Colter Bay.
Signal Mountain Lodge - Major access point with amenities. South of Colter Bay along the Inner Park Road.
Spalding Bay - The southernmost point of Jackson Lake. Turn north on the dirt road between the Mountain View and Mount Moran turnouts. Follow the road about 2.5 miles to the lakeshore. Road may be rough! Use caution. Adventurers will be rewarded.
With a variety of access points and thousands of acres of water, Jackson Lake can be explored in a half-day, full-day, or over the course of a few days.
Drive time to Colter Bay from Jackson is about 55 minutes depending on traffic. From Colter Bay: Leeks Marina - 5 minutes north, Signal Mountain Lodge - 15 minutes south, Spalding Bay - 30 minutes south.
With many points of interest along the Park road, you will probably want to stop a number of times to check out the scenery and go on other adventures. Remember, mornings and evenings are the best time to find calm, clear paddleboarding. It’s often a good idea to get your paddle in early, or late, and save the other sightseeing for midday.
Phelps Lake is one of the most southern lakes in the Park. Located along Moose-Wilson Road, Phelps stands alone in beauty and serenity. Nestled at the mouth of Death Canyon, Phelps Lake is a picturesque beauty with hiking trails spreading out in every direction.
Although not commonly considered on the list of paddleboard destinations in the Park, those who adventure to Phelps Lake will be greatly rewarded. The catch? To paddleboard on Phelps Lake, you must first hike with your SUP 1.3 miles to the southern end of the lake. Luckily, your inflatable paddleboard rental comes with a backpack-style carry bag to make this journey easier! The bag can carry your board, paddle, pump, water, and snacks. With all the gear, your bag will weigh about 30 pounds, which is nothing compared to the size of your rewards.
Once you arrive at Phelps Lake, paddle in style as dusty hikers watch enviously from the shore. Once on the water, you can check out the thrilling jumping rock on the north shore and pristine sandy beaches just beyond. Remember to bring your drybag with layers, food, and water. The Park is bear country – never leave food on shore unattended.
The trail to Phelps starts from the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. The LSR Preserve can be reached by heading north on the Moose-Wilson Road from Teton Village or by heading south on the Moose-Wilson Road from Moose, WY. Once you’ve parked, check out the map to get an idea of where you’re headed. All trails are well marked in this area – follow signs to Phelps Lake. After about 1.3 miles of easy to moderate hiking through beautiful forest you will arrive at the lake. Find a flat area to pump up your paddleboard and get on the water!
Driving time from Jackson to the LSR Preserve, via Teton Village and the Moose-Wilson Road, takes about 30 minutes. After you enter the Park, the road will become dirt for a few miles. Because this is well-traveled it can get a bit rough, but is suitable for most vehicles. Follow this winding scenic road for about 4.7 miles until you see the Preserve on your right. If you are coming from the town of Moose, turn south on the Moose-Wilson Road, and the LSR Preserve will be on your left after about 3.7 miles.
Depending on the fitness level of your group, each 1.3 mile leg of the hike should take you 40 minutes to one hour. A conservative estimate for the day would be to add two hours onto the amount of time you wish to spend at the lake and its surrounding trails.
Bradley and Taggart Lakes
Although Bradley and Taggart Lakes are popular destinations for hikers, you are nearly certain to be the only paddlers there if you make the trek with your SUPs. These lakes require moderate hiking to access and the trails that take you there are beautiful. The hike to Taggart Lake is 1.5 miles each way, while the trail to Bradley Lake is 2 miles each way. Adventurers can choose to paddle on either lake or take the loop trail that will lead you to both over a total of 5.5 miles.
Bradley and Taggart Lakes are two of the smaller glacial lakes at the base of the Tetons. These sister lakes offer incredible views of the Grand Teton and the Cathedral Group to the north. Taggart Lake sits at the mouth of Avalanche Canyon, while Bradley Lake, just to the north, lies at the mouth of Garnet Canyon.
From the Moose entrance to Grand Teton National Park, drive 2.3 miles north to the Bradley-Taggart Trailhead. The parking area is well marked and has info kiosks and porta-potties. From the trailhead, follow signs for the Taggart Lake Trail. You’ll reach the first trail junction after one-tenth of a mile. Stay right for the Taggart Lake Trail, the trail to the left is the Beaver Creek Trail. After another one-tenth of a mile, you’ll reach a junction with a gravel road leading to the left, stay on the footpath to the right to continue toward Bradley and Taggart Lakes.
At 1.1 miles you’ll reach the Bradley Lake Trail junction. If you are heading to Taggart Lake, stay left at the fork, this will quickly lead you to the shores of Taggart Lake. If you want to paddleboard on Bradley Lake, take the fork to the right – you will arrive at Bradley Lake in another 1.2 miles. An in-depth description of the trails can be found here.
Bradley Lake - Depending on the fitness level of your group, the 1.5 mile hike to Bradley Lake should take between 30 to 50 minutes. Plan on adding two hours of total hiking time onto the time you wish to spend paddleboarding.
Taggart Lake - At 2 miles each way, the hike to Taggart Lake can take about an hour. Plan on adding 2.5 to 3 hours of total hiking time onto the time you wish to spend paddleboarding.
Bradley-Taggart Loop Trail - If you’re feeling adventurous enough to paddleboard on both lakes, a 5.5 mile loop will allow you to do just that. Hiking at an average pace of two miles per hour, this loop will take approximately three hours. Add 3 to 3.5 hours of total hiking time onto the time you wish to spend paddling these lakes.
Nestled in the Gros Ventre mountain range, flanking the eastern side of the Jackson Hole valley, Lower and Upper Slide Lakes are scenic alternatives to paddleboarding in Grand Teton National Park. Formed by a massive landslide in 1925, these lakes are a hotspot for paddle enthusiasts, anglers, and hikers. The Gros Ventre Wilderness has a classic Wyoming feel and the river valley is home to historic ranches and age-old settlements.
With their abundant wildlife and thriving aquatic ecosystems, an adventure to paddleboard on the Slide Lakes is a must. As you follow the winding Gros Ventre River up the valley, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Teton Range. The sagebrush flats along the road are often teeming with bison, pronghorn, coyote, and raptors. Moose are usually lounging by the banks of the river. There are a few ideal pullouts for viewing these majestic herbivores. Remember, moose are large and in charge, give them plenty of space and respect if you spot one.
From the town of Jackson, head north on Highway 191, toward Grand Teton National Park, and head right at the roundabout for Lower Gros Ventre Road. Follow this road until you wind past the town of Kelly, then take a right on Gros Ventre Road. This junction is well marked and has signs for various areas up in the Gros Ventre. In another 6 miles you’ll arrive at the Atherton Creek Campground on Lower Slide Lake. This campground is the main camping area and boat launch for Lower Slide Lake.
An alternate launch point can be found on Taylor Ranch Road. Taylor Ranch Road is 4.5 miles up the Gros Ventre Road just before Lower Slide Lake comes into view. Once you make the turn, follow the road across the bridge over the Gros Ventre River and look for parking areas on your right and left. There is a nice little beach right on the water where you can set up and go for a paddle.
To reach Upper Slide Lake, continue on the Gros Ventre Road another 13 miles. Upper Slide Lake is much more remote than its lower cousin and places you right in the heart of the Gros Ventre Wilderness. The rough road and longer drive time are well worth the effort to paddleboard on this stunning beauty of a lake.
The upper sections of the Gros Ventre Road are a mixture of pavement, gravel, and dirt roads. The road can be rough so make sure you have the proper vehicle for this journey.
Drive time from the town of Jackson to the Atherton Campground Boat Launch, on Lower Slide Lake, takes about 45 minutes. If you choose to launch at the beach on Taylor Ranch Road, drive time is about 35 minutes.
To reach Upper Slide Lake from Jackson takes about 1.5 hours due to the slower roads. From Lower Slide Lake to Upper Slide Lake takes about 50 minutes.
To get the most out of your adventure to the Slide Lakes we recommend spending a full day in the area. If you only have a half day available, a nice paddle on Lower Slide Lake is a great option. Be sure to bring plenty of water, food, and warm layers for this journey. The town of Kelly offers some amenities including a cute sandwich shop and general store. There is no gas station in Kelly so fill up in Jackson or Moose.
The Palisades Reservoir, on the Snake River, is a large body of water with a variety of access points, campgrounds, and amenities nearby. With 70 miles of shoreline, there is plenty of water to explore. Complete with beautifully forested hillsides and views of the Caribou and Snake River mountain ranges, Palisades is a popular destination for all types of recreational enthusiasts. Open to paddlers, anglers, and motorized craft, this reservoir has something for everyone. The Palisades Reservoir is located 37 miles southwest of Jackson, through the scenic Snake River Canyon.
Palisades Reservoir has a few major access points. Click on the links below for more information.
Alpine Boat Launch - 2 miles west of Alpine, WY.
Alpine North Loop Campground - 2 miles west of Alpine, WY.
Due to the size of Palisades Reservoir and the many attractions in the area, we recommend making this a full-day or multi-day adventure. With a handful of beautiful campgrounds, it’s easy to spend a few days paddleboarding on the expansive water and exploring the myriad trails here.
Drive time from Jackson to Alpine takes about 50 minutes. From Alpine to the far end of the reservoir takes another 45 minutes. There are many boat ramps and campgrounds on the drive around the reservoir.