Aspen Ridge-Boulder Ridge Loop
|Trail Features:||Scenic Lake Views, Fall Aspens, History|
|Trail Location:||Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve|
|Roundtrip Length:||6.2 Miles|
|Trailhead Elevation:||6405 Feet|
|Total Elevation Gain:||785 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||253 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||6810 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||7.77 (moderate)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||43.62662|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-110.77362|
The trailhead for the Aspen Ridge-Boulder Ridge Loop hike is located in the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve off Moose-Wilson Road. To reach the trailhead from Moose Junction, turn left onto Moose-Wilson Road and drive roughly 3.6 miles south to the turn-off for the Preserve on the left.
The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve is an 1106-acre refuge within Grand Teton National Park. The site, near the south end of Phelps Lake, was originally a dude ranch known as the JY Ranch. In 1932 John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the 3100-acre ranch and turned it into a family retreat. Over the years the family gave most of the ranch to the national park. In 2001 Laurance S. Rockefeller donated the final 1106-acre parcel, which would become the Preserve. The guiding document establishing the Preserve states that it "will become a place of physical and spiritual renewal, and to serve as a model for achieving balance between preservation of natural values and public use and to demonstrate that our citizens working in partnership with their government can achieve important goals. The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve is intended to inspire appreciation and reverence for the beauty and diversity of the natural work, to demonstrate the importance of protecting the land while providing public access and to foster individual responsibility for conservation stewardship."
The hike begins with a short walk across a sagebrush flat to reach the LSR Visitor Center. Beyond the visitor center the trail enters a mixed forest dominated by spruce, fir and lodgepole pine.
At just over two-tenths of a mile from the trailhead you'll reach what appears to be an unmarked split in the trail. Actually, the side trail leading towards the left visits a small viewing area just off the main trail. To continue on the main trail hikers should stay towards the right here.
A short distance later you'll arrive at the Woodland Trail / Lake Creek Trail junction. Although you can take either route, this hike description follows the loop in a clockwise direction. We chose this direction because the views along the Aspen Ridge Trail are better as you ascend towards Phelps Lake.
From the junction the Lake Creek Trail immediately crosses a footbridge over Lake Creek, and then resumes its steady ascent towards Phelps Lake.
At just over eight-tenths of a mile the trail crosses over Moose-Wilson Road. A short distance beyond the road is the Aspen Ridge Trail intersection. Although the Lake Creek Trail is the most direct route to Phelps Lake, the Aspen Ridge Trail offers hikers the opportunity to explore a larger portion of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. Hikers should turn left at this junction to continue on the loop hike.
Once on the new trail you'll immediately notice that it's more narrow, more primitive, and obviously not used nearly as much as the main trail. Consequently, this segment of the loop offers hikers a bit of solitude in this otherwise very popular area.
As the name would imply the Aspen Ridge Trail ascends to the top of a ridge, and subsequently passes several aspen groves as it makes its way towards Phelps Lake. Hikers will also have some decent views of the mountains towards the west. From this point forward the trail more or less meanders up and down the ridge with no particular goal of getting anywhere in a hurry.
At roughly 1.1 miles the trail crosses over an old gravel road.
At 1.6 miles the trail briefly begins following a small creek. Shortly thereafter it makes a sharp turn to the right and begins ascending the ridge once again. There will be a few spots along the crest that offer views of the southern Teton Range, as well as the Gros Ventre Mountains towards the east.
At just over 3.1 miles hikers will reach the old gravel road once again. The Aspen Ridge Trail actually merges with the road for a short distance. Hikers should turn left at this junction. After walking roughly two-tenths of a mile the road splits off to the right, while the Aspen Ridge Trail continues towards the left.
A short distance after splitting-off from the road you'll arrive at the Phelps Lake Trail junction. Just beyond the junction is a small viewing area along the southern shore of Phelps Lake that offers outstanding views of the glacially-carved lake and surrounding mountains. Sitting directly across the lake from this vantage point is Death Canyon and 10,552-foot Albright Peak. To the left of the canyon is 11,241-foot Prospectors Mountain. With a surface area of 750 acres, Phelps Lake is the sixth largest lake in Grand Teton National Park.
After returning to the main trail you should turn to begin heading eastbound (counter-clockwise around the lake). Just beyond the lake viewing area the Lake Creek Trail will branch off towards the right. Hikers should proceed straight ahead to continue on the loop hike.
From the junction the trail circles around the southern end of Phelps Lake. At roughly 3.6 miles it crosses over the Lake Creek Bridge, and at roughly 3.8 miles will reach the Woodland Trail junction. Just beyond the junction is another lakeshore access point that offers even better views of the lake and surrounding mountains. This small beach area has plenty of large rocks and a couple of wooden benches to relax and soak in the magnificent views of the lake area. After visiting this vantage point you should continue heading eastbound along the Phelps Lake Trail to continue on the loop hike.
After passing the Woodland Trail junction hikers will reach the Boulder Ridge Trail. From this junction the main trail continues by circling around Phelps Lake. To continue on the Aspen Ridge-Boulder Ridge Loop hikers should turn right here.
The Boulder Ridge Trail portion of the loop begins under the canopy of a lush green spruce-fir forest. A short distance past the junction hikers will arrive at the final resting spot for David W. Spalding. Mr. Spalding was the first settler to homestead on this land after serving in the Civil War with the 92nd Illinois Infantry division under General William T. Sherman.
As the name would imply the Boulder Ridge Trail passes through several areas with some very large boulders. These are leftovers from the last glacial retreat which created the canyons and lakes in the Grand Tetons.
As the trail descends from the ridge hikers will be treated to some decent views of Jackson Hole towards the east.
At just over 5.3 miles hikers will arrive at the Woodland Trail junction. To continue back towards the trailhead you should turn left here.
At roughly 5.7 miles the trail crosses over Moose-Wilson Road once again, and at just over 5.9 miles hikers will reach the Woodland Trail / Lake Creek Trail junction. From this point simply retrace your steps to return back to the trailhead.