Pack some necessities and motivational snacks along the way: backpacks and additional water bottles, toilet paper for going off the trail, bear spray (we didn't see any as this is a pretty busy trail thankfully), trail mix, picnic lunch, rain jackets for all, treats for motivation to get up the mountain (for some this was Skittles, for my son with special needs, it was an iPad turn at the top).
Good to know
Check the weather for sure and don't do this hike if it is supposed to storm. Even on a partly cloudy day it can sprinkle up on the mountain, so be prepared.
This will take you all day with kids, especially if they happen to be as young as ours or have special needs. It was totally worth it, but it's a strenuous hike, even for adults. Try to get to the trailhead and leave no later than 8:00 a.m. if you are hiking with kids. For adults, the park info says this is a 7-hour hike (10 miles or 16km total) and with younger kids, it took us 9 hours.
Recommended time of the year
This hike would need to happen in milder weather months as the Teton Park Road is closed November through May.
About This Day
Getting up into the mountains at Grand Teton with kids is a must. The Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes hike is a test of endurance at 10 miles roundtrip. However, the serene lakes at the top are a wonderful reward. Begin at Lupine Meadows Trailhead and head to the Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes Trail. Although long, this trail is fine for kids elementary age and up. It is not terribly steep and doesn't have sheer drop offs. For most families, this will not be the kind of thing you want to do every day on your trip. For us, it was the one strenuous hike we did all vacation. Prepare well for it and it will be a highlight for all involved. Afterward, grab ice cream and relax on the rocky shores of Jackson Lake at Signal Mountain Marina; a well-deserved end to an incredible day at Grand Teton National Park.
From the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, make your way along the stunning Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes Trail. Once along the trail, it rises out of the woods and offers expansive views of the valley and lakes below. The motivation of the gorgeous lakes at the top helps keep hikers moving forward. Once at Amphitheater Lake, take the opportunity to rest and enjoy a picnic. It's truly an epic picnic spot, with incredible scenery and plentiful rocks. After lunch, we all enjoyed rock hopping in the stream next to the lake. Once rested and re-energized, head back along the trail. Conquering this 10 mile trail will give your kids (and you) plenty to brag about. In addition to the great sense of accomplishment, it also grants exposure to inspirational beauty.
DIRECTIONS Lupine Meadows Road is just south of the Jenny Lake area. Follow the road until it dead ends at a parking area. This is the trailhead.
TIP The hike is 5 miles up and then you return on the same trail 5 miles down. Your kids will need lots of encouragement, water stops and cheerleading. But they will be so proud and probably get lots of compliments from all the adults huffing it up the trail.
After a long hike, the dream of ice cream and coffee can be realized after a 15 minute drive north. The gas station store in the Signal Mountain Lodge parking area has coffee and ice cream bars. It has a seating area, but skip it for the rocky beach just below the lodge. The beach has stunning views of the Teton Range. It's a perfect place to rest and take in the view after a tiring day. Plus, it's likely your kids will find renewed energy after the ice cream and spend awhile throwing rocks into the lake. We didn't eat at the restaurant, but if you want to stay for sunset you could easily grab dinner at the lodge and head back down to the lake.
DIRECTIONS From the trailhead, follow Lupine Meadows Road back out to Teton Park Road. Head north 10 miles to Signal Mountain Lodge and Campground Area. Parking is plentiful in front of the lodge. The gas station store is at the south end of the parking lot and the beach is just below the lodge.
TIP The gas station store has small packs of wet wipes, which we found handy to deal with the ice cream dribbles on the beach.