Painbrush Canyon, Grand Teton National Park

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Painbrush Canyon

Paintbrush Canyon is one of least visited canyons in Grand Teton National Park, yet one of the most stunning. Easily accessed from the String Lake Trailhead, you can wander up the canyon along an out-and-back trail or loop it up with Cascade Canyon for an epic and strenuous hike or overnight.

  • At the base of Paintbrush Canyon, enjoy the easy String Lake Trail, circumnavigating the shallow and bright blue lake.
  • Go on a strenuous day hike up the canyon to Holly Lake.
  • Plan for an epic day hike or overnight by hiking up Paintbrush Canyon, over Paintbrush Divide, and down Cascade Canyon.

String Lake Trail

Trail Overview: From the trailhead, the String Lake Trail circumnavigates the lake through an old burn area and along bright blue waters. Stop and take a dip in this shallow lake if it is a warm summer day. You can walk along this easy trail clockwise or counter-clockwise. The trail is 3.3 miles round trip and takes about 3 hours. Once on the west side of the lake, you can link this trail up with Paintbrush Canyon Trail (look for signs).

Trailhead: String Lake Trailhead. From the South entrance to the park (near Jackson, Wyoming), drive north to Moose Junction and turn left. Follow the Inner Park Road to the North Jenny Lake Junction and turn left onto a one-way road. Park at the Leigh and String Lakes Trailhead.


  • Distance: 3.3 miles round trip
  • Average Time: 3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 580 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Loop

Notes: The Inner Park Road is closed during the winter months and typically opens in the summer in May.

Holly Lake Trail

Trail Overview: Holly Lake is located in the heart of Paintbrush Canyon and is a great day hike for avid hikers. The lake is surrounded by rugged rock canyon walls and is a spectacular site. Follow the String Lake Trail around the lake until the junction with Paintbrush Canyon. Then start heading uphill and up the canyon until you reach Holly Lake, a great spot for lunch or a quick but chilly swim.

Trailhead: String Lake Trailhead. See directions above.


  • Distance: 12.4 miles round trip
  • Average Time of Hike: 8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 2,625 feet
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trail Type: Lollipop (out and back with a loop near Holly Lake)

Paintbrush-Cascade Loop

Trail Overview: This strenuous loop hike can be completed as a long day hike or an overnight by camping in Paintbrush or Cascade Canyon backcountry camping areas. The loop trail begins at String Lake Trailhead. Follow the trail around the lake and then head up Paintbrush Canyon (look for trail sign). The trail ascends to the stunning Holly Lake, a great resting point, and then continues over the steep Paintbrush Divide. From the divide, descend to Lake Solitude and down Cascade Canyon. At the mouth of Cascade Canyon, take a moment to gaze out from Inspiration Point and visit Hidden Falls. When you reach Jenny Lake, turn left and follow the trail back to String Lake Trailhead.

Trailhead: String Lake Trailhead. See directions above.


  • Distance: 19.2 miles
  • Average Time of Hike: 14 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 4,840 feet
  • Difficulty: Very Strenuous
  • Trail Type: Loop

Notes: Paintbrush Divide is often covered in snow until mid-summer. Make sure to wear sturdy hiking boots and bring plenty of layers. Stop by a park Visitor Center before you hike to determine if you need an ice ax or crampons to hike over the divide. If you plan on spending the night in a backcountry camping area you will need to acquire a backcountry camping permit, available at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center in Moose or the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.

Other Painbrush Canyon Resources

Bright Angel Trail

One of the Grand Canyon's hiking highlights.