Upper Brooks Lake
Access via: From Jackson, head north on WY Hwy 89/191 to Moran Junction. Turn right (east) onto Hwy 287 direction Togwotee Pass/Dubois. 5 miles past the summit, park at Brooks Lake Road turnoff on left. Note: this trail description begins 5 miles up Brooks Lake Road at BL Lodge.
Trail Description The winter nordic ski trail begins at Brooks Lake Lodge (or one can start from the roadhead junctions of Brooks Lake road and Hwy 287 if seeking a longer outing – see Brooks Lake Road trail). Head down the bank of the lake from the south end, either via a gully just east of the Lodge, or back by the Lodge entrance gate, and ski down to the frozen lake edge. At 9200 feet elevation, Brooks Lake is usually well frozen by mid- Dec through late March, however, check with Brooks Lake Lodge staff or test the lake edge to be certain the lake is adequately frozen. Snowmobiles cross the lake frequently in mid-winter, so the easiest route across the lake, heading north, is to ski in a snowmobile track. Snow is often wind-swept on the lake, making for a smooth, chalky ski in untracked snow, or in the packed snowmobile tracks proving a packed trail.
Brooks Lake is approx. 1 mile long, and the views of Brooks Peak to the west, the Pinnacles of the southern Absaroka Range to the east, and north east, Mt. Austin, are quite a 360 degree spectacle.
At the north end of the lake, traverse up onto the west bank bluff before reaching the entrance of a small creek on the right. By skiing up onto the bluff (approx. 60 ft rise), one reaches the level of the broad river valley that continues all the way north another 2 miles to Upper Brooks Lake. A snow-covered creek crosses this river valley at approx. 2.2 miles, and one can cross this via snowbridge on the right (east), or by skiing around on the far left (west), depending on the amount of snow in the base. Continue north – at 3 miles, Upper Brooks Lake becomes apparent, though almost indiscernible from the broad valley grasslands preceding the lake. You may turn around here, or continue north across the Upper Lake and up a small, moderately sloped gully to the Continental Divide – marked by 2 signs at the ridge crest as Wilderness Boundary and Teton Wilderness Boundary. The gully can be climbed in a herringbone technique on skinny skis.
Return via the same route.
The area is popular with snowmobile enthusiasts, as is Togwotee Pass. From a XC skier’s perspective, I have not found the snowmobiles to be intrusive, and generally have found the region to offer much quiet, open, back-country style XC skiing without any disruption or distraction.
Brooks Lake Lodge is open to the public for lunch in winter (highly recommended break by the fire), as well as overnight accommodation ( comfortable, classic , elegant rustic).
See http://www.brookslake.com/ for more information on the Lodge and region.