What would I do with an extra two or three days or so? Well—the easy answer is that I can do the same trip and just spend less time away from home doing it, which is always an answer. But, maybe I can slip in another small trip to somewhere else that I'd really like to see in the area too. One option is the Shoal Falls Loop; a route that's more or less detailed in Backpacker Magazine and elsewhere, but at the same time, for anyone who knows anything about the area, it is pretty obvious. It hits the highest scenic high points of the Gros Ventre Wilderness in two simple days; or three if you take your time, or otherwise take a side-trip or two. While I admit that there are other places in the Gros Ventre that I'd like to see other that what this loop shows (Brewster Lake, the Six Lakes area, etc.) this is often considered a major scenic high point of the entire Jackson Hole area. And, of course, the big advantage is that it's short. And another advantage is that hardly anyone goes there. Compared to the Tetons or the Winds, it's empty. (The Winds can be empty when you get away from Cirque of the Towers and Titcomb Basin too, of course...)
I've whipped up a Caltopo for this trip that includes the entire loop as a single route, including a couple miles or so of an exploration of nearby Deer Ridge that offers tremendous views of the area and comes highly recommended. I've marked three potential campsites, but Campsite #2 at Shoal Lake is the one I'm most likely to want to do. Unless Deer Ridge ends up taking more time than I think.
I've also added a spur hike to Brewster Lake; a potential day hike if I set up camp at Shoal Lake and stay there two nights. I doubt I'd do this, but it's worth noting as an option anyway. If I do, it makes it much more likely that I'd be "done" with the Gros Ventres for some time; why go back when I've seen all of the must-dos and I have so many other places still to explore in the West?
Here's a few images I've found online here and there.
|Doubletop Peak from Deer Ridge. Doubletop is the range high point.|
|Palmer Peak from Deer Ridge|
|High pond on the route|
|Black Peak with summer wild flowers|