Delta Lake is a stunning body of water found high in the Grand Tetons. There is no official trail to the lake, which makes reaching it a difficult venture for the unwary.
If you have the experience and navigational know-how to locate this alpine jewel, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of turquoise waters, ancient glaciers, and towering peaks.
The lake’s exquisite color is due to the presence of glacial flour (aka rock flour) suspended in its icy waters. This powdery silt is deposited into the lake by two glaciers – Teepe Glacier and Teton Glacier.
From the lake, much of Teton Glacier is hidden from view by an impressive moraine (glacial debris) deposited below, though the upper portion of it can be seen.
From left to right, Teepe Pillar, Grand Teton, and East Prong dominate the landscape. Grand Teton itself is 13,776 feet while the lake sits at 9,016 feet, leaving you gaping up at an impressive 4,760 feet of prominence from Delta’s shores.
I’ll be straight with you: This is one of the most scenic alpine lakes you will ever see – if you can find it.
The fastest and most direct route is to start at Lupine Meadows Trailhead and take the Amphitheater Lake Trail to a “secret” turnoff at the end of the sixth switchback.
Even though the turnoff to Delta Lake has no signage, there is a well-worn, narrow trail, along with cairns and ribbons to lead the way through talus slopes and off-trail portions.
- Distance: 8 miles
- Hike Time: 4-5 hours
- Elevation Gain: 2,300 feet
- Fee: $35 for a 7-day pass to Grand Teton National Park
- Dogs: No
- Difficulty: Hard
Hiking to Delta Lake
I parked at Lupine Meadows Trailhead on a Wednesday at 8:30 am. By this point, the lot was mostly full with a few open spaces.
After 0.4 miles of flats, the trail begins a somewhat gradual ascent. This comfortable grade nets you about 300 feet over one mile. From this point on, the hiking is steep.
The first switchback starts 1.8 miles in from the trailhead. Unless you’re following a GPX track, I’d suggest counting switchbacks so you don’t miss the turnoff at the sixth switchback like I did.
I continued for over a mile in the wrong direction, but I don’t regret it in the least. I made it to Platform Campsites before turning around. Along the way, I was awestruck by the views in Garnet Canyon.
Unless you’re in the mood to explore Garnet Canyon, make sure to bear right at the sixth switchback. There is a sign at this junction that indicates the mileage to Amphitheater Lake.
Once you hit the first switchback after the junction, bear right over the railroad ties and continue north onto the dirt path.
If you miss this, you are well on your way to Amphitheater Lake! Otherwise, congratulations – Delta Lake is only 0.8 miles of strenuous uphill hiking from where you are.
Stay vigilant and you should have no problem following the “off-trail” route to the lake. The first half is a dirt path that traverses the mountainside before giving way to a less-navigable talus slope.
Although the route can be difficult to navigate and the trail is steep and strenuous, the prize for your effort is one of the most picturesque lakes in the Grand Tetons and beyond!
Lupine Meadows Trailhead is located at the end of a dirt road off of Teton Park Road (to the left), 8.6 miles from the turnoff on U.S. Highway 191.
- Outdoor Project – Delta Lake
- Free Roaming Hiker – Delta Lake Hiking Trail
- The National Parks Girl – Backpacking to Surprise, Amphitheater, and Delta Lakes