Julie United States 8 Comments

The hike to Amphitheater and Surprise Lakes is one of the more popular hikes to do in Grand Teton National Park. It’s a tough hike but your reward is a visit to two stunning alpine lakes.

On this hike, you have the option to add on a third lake, Delta Lake. Once a hidden gem in Grand Teton National Park, the secret is out. Delta Lake has become one of the most visited spots in the park, and once you see photos, you will know why.

Delta Lake has become so popular that most people we met on the trail were solely hiking to Delta Lake and had no intention to continue up to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes (but they’re worth it). So, you should expect big crowds on the trail to Delta Lake.

Hiking Stats

Surprise, Amphitheater & Delta Lake

These hiking stats are for the round-trip hike to all three lakes starting at the Lupine Meadows trailhead.

Distance: 11.5 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total Elevation Gain: 3,800 feet
Starting Elevation: 6,750 feet
Highest Elevation (Amphitheater Lake): 9,700 feet
Length of Time: 5.5 to 7.5 hours

Map to Amphitheater Delta Lake

Amphitheater Surprise Delta Profile

Elevation profile for Surprise, Amphitheater and Delta Lake

Surprise & Amphitheater Lake

These hiking stats are for the round-trip hike to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes from the Lupine Meadows trailhead.

Distance: 10.3 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total Elevation Gain: 3,100 feet
Length of Time: 4 to 6 hours

Delta Lake

These hiking stats are for the round-trip hike to Delta Lake from the Lupine Meadows trailhead.

Distance: 8.75 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total Elevation Gain: 2,400 feet
Length of Time: 3.5 to 5.5 hours

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

How to Hike to Surprise, Amphitheater, and Delta Lake

Getting to the Trailhead

The trail starts at the Lupine Meadows trailhead, which is located at the end of Lupine Meadows Road. Lupine Meadows Road is a gravel road that is suitable for standard cars. There are a few potholes but these are easy to dodge.

The parking lot is fairly large, with enough space for at least 50 cars. However, due to the popularity of this hike, and the handful of hikes that start from this spot, there is overflow parking along Lupine Meadows Road.

The trail starts at the far end of the parking lot. Just look for the large Lupine Meadows Trailhead sign.

Hiking to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes

At first, it’s an easy hike. The trail starts off flat and then gradually gains elevation, but it is nothing too strenuous. For the most part, you are hiking through meadows and forests and occasionally have views out over Bradley and Taggart Lakes.

First Part of Hike GTNP

Once the trail turns towards the mountains, the hike becomes more challenging. Now, you are heading up a moderate incline and the trail almost never seems to level out.

Teton Trail September

Almost 2 miles into the hike, you reach a fork in the trail. Continue straight to hike to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes. If you take the trail to the left you go to Bradley and Taggart Lakes.

It also at this point where the switchbacks begin. As you steadily gain elevation, you get wonderful views over both Bradley and Taggart Lakes.

Bradley Lake

3 miles into the hike you reach another split in the trail. This is where hikers can take the trail to head into Garnet Canyon. To reach Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes, continue up the switchbacks. Yay!

At the very next switchback is the trail to Delta Lake. If you have plans to hike Delta Lake, you can do so now, or add it in after hiking Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes. We chose to hike to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes first, to get the majority of the climbing over with early in the hike. Plus, since Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes get fewer visitors than Delta, we were able to have both lakes all to ourselves early in the morning.

From the trail split to Delta Lake, you still have one mile of hiking with 1,000 feet of elevation gain to get to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes.

Teton Switchback

Teton Trail in the Trees

Surprise Lake is the first lake that you will come to. Take the short trail to the lake. Grand Teton, the highest mountain in the Teton range, forms the backdrop of the lake.

Surprise Lake

Surprise Lake

It’s a short walk to Amphitheater Lake, just 5 to 10 minutes total. This lake is larger than Surprise Lake and is surrounded by several of the largest mountains in the Teton Range: Middle Teton, Disappointment Peak, and Grand Teton.

Amphitheater Lake

Amphitheater Lake

 

Amphitheater Lake

Amphitheater Lake

To get back to your car, retrace your steps. If you plan to hike to Delta Lake, look for the turn off about a mile from Amphitheater Lake.

How to Hike to Delta Lake

Delta Lake was once a hidden gem in Grand Teton National Park, but the secret is out. It frequently shows up on hiking websites (on All Trails this is the 3rd most popular hike in the park at the time that I am writing this) and it is also listed on Trip Advisor. This is a high traffic trail so expect large crowds.

The trail to Delta Lake is an unofficial, unmaintained trail in Grand Teton National Park. The trail is rough, rugged, and unmarked. It can be very easy to lose your way, despite the high traffic on the trail (the hikers in front of you might not be going the correct way, as we saw during our hike).

Hopefully, with our trail description and photos, we can point you in the right direction, to make your experience better and to prevent damage to the area by keeping you on the correct trail.

Trail to Delta Lake

To get to Delta Lake, you will cross boulder fields and hike up a very steep, slippery, dirt trail. It’s tough to get to Delta Lake and you should only do this if you have prior hiking experience.

The trail to Delta Lake is unmarked. On the Amphitheater Lake Trail, one switchback past the turn-off to Garnet Canyon, look for the steep, dirt trail that leads down to Delta Lake.

Delta Lake Dirt Trail

It is a half-mile, challenging climb up to the lake. After the first steep descent, it’s mostly uphill to the lake, and at times, the trail will be very steep. At first, you will hike up a narrow dirt trail and climb over several fallen trees.

At the first boulder field, head directly across to the other side, where you will reach another dirt trail. This dirt trail heads steeply up the mountain, before reaching a second boulder field.

Delta Lake First Boulder Field

Looking across the first boulder field

At the second boulder field, stay to the right and head for the trees on the opposite side. This is the correct trail. You may see a line of hikers climbing up the boulder field…they are not on the trail. They will end up on a ridge high above the lake and will have to traverse down the boulder field to get down to Delta Lake, making their hike longer and more difficult than it needs to be.

Delta Lake False Trail

This is the second boulder field. On the left hand side of this photo you can see a sketchy trail that leads uphill. This is NOT the correct trail.

 

Delta Lake Correct Trail

Go straight across the second boulder field. Do not hike up the hill.

 

Correct Path

One last view of the boulder field. Once you enter the trees, you will hike up a steep, dirt path.

From the far side of the second boulder field, it is one last, steep climb up a dirt trail to Delta Lake.

Trail to Delta Lake

Dirt trail to Delta Lake.

Once at Delta Lake, enjoy the view! It’s worth it.

Delta Lake

Tim and Kara Delta Lake

Delta Lake

You can walk around the lake for different views.

 

View from Delta Lake Trail

View from the top of the trail near Delta Lake.

Tips to Have the Best Experience

Start the hike early, ideally by 7 am. This ensures that you get a parking space and gives you some solitude on the trail, before the masses arrive mid-morning.

Leave no trace. When you are in the park, practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace. This includes packing out what you bring into the park, be considerate of other hikers, stay on the trail, and do not remove anything from the park.

For more information about Grand Teton National Park, read our Guide to Grand Teton National Park. Get important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

What to Bring on the Hike

Hiking shoes. If you only plan to hike to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes, hiking shoes are ideal but a good pair of walking shoes is sufficient, as long as there is no snow or ice on the trail. For Delta Lake, don’t wear anything other than hiking shoes or boots, since the trail is slippery and you will need good traction.

Hiking poles. Hiking poles take the stress off of your legs and help to ease leg pain and fatigue.

Water and snacks. At least 2 liters of water in the summer.

Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. For more than half of this hike you will be exposed to the sun, with very little shade.

Camera. Even a smartphone will do. The lakes are a great place to use the panorama feature.

Rain jacket or fleece. It’s chilly at these lakes, especially Amphitheater Lake. We had snowshowers while we did this hike (in late September). Pack a rain jacket and/or fleece and even another layer of clothing.

If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.


If you have any questions about hiking to Surprise, Amphitheater, or Delta Lakes, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Wyoming:

Read all of our articles about the United States in our United States Travel Guide.

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Grand Teton Delta Amphitheater Lake Hike

 

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Comments 8

  1. Thanks so much for your detailed hiking notes for this trail. It came in handy for our recent trek up to these lakes. It was absolutely gorgeous and the summer sun helped take the bite off the chilly waters of Amphitheater lake.

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  2. Thank you for your post! We will be hiking to Delta Lake next month. Your post is very useful! Is it possible that you can make your instructions printable? I’d love to have them in my back pocket while on the hike. Thank you!

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      Author

      You can print this post by pushing CTRL+P on a PC or Command+P on a Mac. It will be a lot of pages but that is the best option that I can offer right now. I hope you have a great visit to Grand Teton NP! Cheers, Julie

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      Author

      We did this in late September. Snowshoes or traction cleats might not be a bad idea. You might have difficulty getting to the trailhead due to road closures in the park. Cheers, Julie

      1. Love the Delta Lake details. We are headed up last week of Sept. Two questions:

        1. Do you feel like traction cleats are needed at that time?
        2. The first boulder scramble photo says-“At the first boulder field, head directly across to the other side, where you will reach another dirt trail. This dirt trail heads steeply up the mountain, before reaching a second boulder field.” So once we get to these boulders and are looking up do we stay to the left or the right to reach this dirt trail mentioned as it doesn’t show anything in your photo like the 2nd scramble does.

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          Author

          We were in GTNP at the end September when we did this hike (we did this hike on September 27). We got a dusting of snow but that’s it. But of course, weather can vary year to year. You probably will be fine without traction cleats, but you could bring them along just in case. If it hasn’t snowed recently then leave them in your car.
           
          Head straight across the first boulder field and then you will see the dirt trail right in front of you (this trail is very easy to see from the boulder field). Then, once on the second boulder field, stay low. I heard recently that the trail is easier to follow now. It’s also such a popular hike that you can follow the others in front of you. But it was the second boulder field that was more sketchy, and where a lot of people mistakenly leave the trail, which is why I added the text to that photo.
           
          Cheers, Julie

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