Cottonwood Creek ski trail offers some of the most spectacular views of the highest peaks in the Tetons in Grand Teton National Park - and is flat, easy to access, and provides a feeling of wilderness and solitude. The trail is made by skier and/or snowshoe tracks, and at times, you may be making your own ski track breaking trail across meadows and along the meandering creek.
The trail can be skied as an "out-and-back", and thus kept reasonably short, or do the full loop out to Jenny Lake and return via the groomed ski trail on the inner Park road (the full 9.7 miles).
Begin at the north end of the parking lot, at the start of the groomed (and sometimes not so groomed) ski trailhead to Jenny Lake. after 300 yards, before crossing the bridge over Cottonwood Creek, bear left at an angle and begin following the creek drainage northwest. The first few miles of ski trail are fairly popular and likely to have ski and/or snow-shoe tracks. After crossing a large meadow of nearly 1 mile in distance, the trail - always following Cottonwood Creek westbank - traverses a stand of conifers.
The trail continues north paralleling the Teton Range, entering a large meadow. In the distance, log cabins can be seen. These are the historic Russell and Geraldine Lucas Cabins, and several smaller cabins. The Russell Cabin was named for the son of Geraldine Lucas, and served as the office and summer home to Rockefeller's agent, Harold Fabian, in the 1940's to 1985. Fabian helped to purchase and preserve land eventually turned into Grand Teton National Park. The Geraldine Lucas cabin sits just north of the Russell Cabin.
Continue north beyond the cabins in the meadows, then reaching forest. Continue north a few hundred yards until you reach the west shore of the Creek. Stay on the left (west) bank of the creek, for the creek flows under the snow most of the winter and is dangerous to venture to the middle. Follow the shoreline north - northwest until the creek begins to head northeast, and your trail continues northwest. Cross another meadow, pass through a section of open forest, then the meadow opens up into a vast area a mile wide and mile+ long. Continue north and cross the summer access road for Lupine Meadows trailhead - visible only by tall metal stakes. In the distance to the northeast (right), one can see the Exum summer climbing school cabins. Further north and straight ahead are the former CCC Camp wood buildings, now also part of Exum's summer facilities. Ski to those buildings - restrooms remain open year round.In winter 2013, the bridge crossng Cottonwood Creek at the Exum -CCC Camp is under construction. Therefore, to cross the creek, one must ski another 1/4 mile north to the next bridge by the Jenny Lake Boatshed.
Before crossing Cottonwood Creek via the wood bridge, ski out to the edge of Jenny Lake to take in the expansive views across the snow-covered frozen lake. The historic jenny Lake Boathouse is located by the lake's edge, and makes a perfect stop for a picnic - weather dependent!
The Cottonwood Creek Trail to Jenny Lake runs for approx 4.5 miles to the Jenny Lake Boatshed. Allow approx 1/2 mile to ski east across the wood bridge, through to the Jenny Lake Parking area, past the Jenny Lake Store (closed in winter), then east to the main inner Park road, before beginning the return leg south back along the snow-covered road trail ( 4.3 miles).
As of March 2013, the grooming of the Taggart Lake Trailhead to Jenny Lake ski trail is irregular, however, as a popular ski destination, there is usually a ski track created by skiers. The trail, if un-groomed and not tracked, can be followed across the wide open sagebrush plain by following the metal stakes that mark the road edge. Wood bollards are often visible from the summer bike path. Views of Tewinot Mountain, Mt. Owen, The Grand Teton directly opposite are truly magnificent. As one skis south, the ridge south of Garnet Canyon, south of the Grand Teton, including Nez Perce, Cloudveil Dome, and the South Teton to the west are craggy and awe-inspiring. The return journey is slightly downhill and tends to go faster, especially if in a laid down ski track.