view from ski lake trail

Hike to Ski Lake and Phillips Pass

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The hike to Ski Lake and Phillips Pass is located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest near Wilson, Wyoming.  This is a popular hiking area and a nice alternative for those with dogs who cannot hike in Grand Teton National Park.  It is also an access point for backpacking the popular Teton Crest Trail.

How to Get to Ski Lake and Phillips Pass

The dirt parking area to Ski Lake and Phillips Pass Trailhead may be found across Highway 22 from a dirt road that leads to the network of trails.   It is just a few miles from Wilson and before Teton Pass.  The Alltrails app indicates both the parking and trail navigation.  Parking is also allowed on the dirt road.

The Hike to Ski Lake

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Beginning Elevation: 7,636
  • Elevation Gain: 1,148 feet

Just up the dirt road, there is a sign about the Historical Teton Pass Road which was used from the late 1880’s until 1969.  Follow the road past the sign and keep an eye out for the small trail signs which indicate Ski Lake Trail to the left.  It is about a ¼ mile up the road from Highway 22.

From here the single-track trail to Ski Lake climbs at a relatively consistent grade, gaining approximately 500 feet over 1.25 mile through evergreen forest and wildflowers meadows to a trail junction.  The left fork of the trail ascends another 600 feet to Ski Lake while the right fork of the trail ascends to Phillips pass.  For a moderate 5-mile roundtrip hike, veer left and enjoy the refreshing waters of Ski Lake.

The lake is small and now I can understand why an early morning hiker was enjoying the tranquil ambience until a bear joined him for a drink on the banks.  I wish I had gotten an earlier start to see that!  By 7:30 am on a Saturday, there were already a few groups in front of me and several cars in the parking lot. The popularity was slightly reminiscent of hiking trails near Denver, whose parking lots fill up before 7am on a weekend.

ski lake

The Hike to Phillips Pass

  • Distance: 8 Miles
  • Beginning Elevation: 7,636 feet
  • Elevation Gain: 1,824 feet

For a slightly steeper, longer and more challenging hike veer right to Phillips Pass.  This 8-mile trek continues it ascent from the junction, drops down across a creek, and continues up a steeper grade to the pass. It crosses a few water sources, cuts through a stand of aspens, and passes through remarkable meadows of wildflowers, some standing five feet tall!  Whites, purple, pinks, and yellows stretch for miles as butterflies and bees feed on the nectar and birds chirp overhead.

In late July, the wildflowers are so thick that they drape the trail, making it hardly visible.  At times, my dog Annie was completely hidden from view, and I was tripping on the stems and leaves!  The hike ends Phillips Pass at a trail junction for the Teton Crest Trail and provides nice views of the Gros Ventre and Wind River Ranges.

Combined Hike to Ski Lake and Phillips Pass

For an even longer hike, combine the two out and back trails for a 10.4-mile hike as the first 1.2 miles of the trail to Ski Lake and Phillips Pass overlap. Or just extend the Phillips Pass hike along the Teton Crest Trail.  If combining the two, I recommend hiking to Phillips Pass first to get the toughest part out of the way first. Then make a stop a Ski Lake, have a snack, soak your feet in the cool, emerald water and head back down the mountain to give your parking spot for the next lucky soul making the trek.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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