The Jedediah Smith Wilderness

The Jedediah Smith Wilderness includes most of the west slope of the famous Teton Range. The classic view of the Tetons is from the east -- from Jackson Hole -- where the peaks rise 5000 to 7500 feet with no intervening foothills.

The west slope of the Tetons is quite different. The range rises gradually, and it is composed of soft sedimentary rock rather than hard igneous rocks. The general shape of the Tetons is like the Sierra Nevada in California and the Wasatch in Utah -- a bold front along a fault with the opposite side rising slowly.

The Wilderness protecting the west slope of the Tetons -- named after mountain man Jedediah Smith -- was established in 1984 after years of effort by local conservationists. The wilderness is not very deep, but it is long -- almost the entire length of the west slope of the Teton Range. Its size is about 115,000 acres. The Wilderness adjoins the western boundary of Grand Teton National Park from near Teton Pass on the south to the north end of the Teton Range, a few miles south of Yellowstone National Park.

 

The photograph below was taken in the North Fork of Teton Creek, a heavily used portion of the Wilderness. Table Mountain, the highest point in the Wilderness is visible on the far right. The Grand Teton and Mt. Teewinot peek over the horizon. © Ralph Maughan

Incredible autumn foliage in the North Fork of Teton Creek. © Ralph Maughan

 


In the Jedediah Smith Wilderness, Wyoming just to the west of
Grand Teton National Park.
Photo copyright © Ralph Maughan

Toward the core of the Tetons from the west slope.


Wildlife is not abundant in the Wilderness, but deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep are present as well as black bear and grizzlies from Badger Creek northward. In fact grizzlies have recently been seen as far south as the North Fork of Teton Creek.

The Wilderness is heavily used except for its northern third. Particularly crowded, are the very scenic North and South Forks of Teton Creek.

© Ralph Maughan
Grand Teton from Table Mountain on the Wilderness east boundary.

Most people access the Wilderness from Idaho on the west rather than make the long hike through Grand Teton NP.


Illegal snowmobiling in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness
Unfortunately some snowmobilers have never accepted the fact that the area is designated as wilderness. In some years large numbers have violated the laws of the United States, and have even driven all the way into the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park, which has never been open to any motorized vehicles. The Forest Service occasionally tries to stop these law breakers. Several years ago one group even tried to run a Forest Service ranger down. A few years later two people who were illegally snowmobiling in the area were killed by avalanches. Their bodies were recovered after an expensive and dangerous operation by the Teton County, Wyoming sheriff's office.

In the winter of 1996 a Pocatello, Idaho snowmoblier was apprehended by a Park ranger on skis deep inside GTNP. He, and others, had entered from the Idaho side. Several winters ago a band of snowmobiliers not only rode into the wilderness and Grand Teton National Park, they threatened a cross country skier who told them what they were doing was illegal.

IMO, a wise person who enters this country in the winter bring protection against human predators. A gun or other method of dealing predatory snowmobilers is wise. Some of the scoflaws have been local politicians, so don't expect law enforcement to help you.


Ralph Maughan on Park/Wilderness boundary (deep backcountry)
at Fox Creek Pass. Copyright © Jackie Johnson Maughan


Jedediah Smith Wilderness (the west slope of the Tetons) / rmaughan2@cableone.net /Updated Jan. 8, 2006