South Fork Darby Canyon Trail
Darby Wind Cave
Scott Hunter takes it all in inside Darby Wind Cave
horseback rider south Darby Canyon
Cody Hunter Riding High on South Darby Creek Trail high in the Grand Tetons

Darby Canyon Trail is one of several access points for the Teton Crest Trail but it is better known for The Darby Wind Cave which is the major draw to this popular Teton Valley hike that takes you into the heart of the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness.

 

A boy and his dog inside Darby Wind Cave, this is reasonably close to the enterance so there

The Trailhead for south Fork of Darby Canyon is at 7,069 feet, the first few miles of the climb up Darby Canyon winds steeply through meadows and forest as it quickly gains elevation. Intermittent waterfalls splash down the canyon rim in early summer add to the hiking experience. After about 2.5 miles the trail for the Darby Wind Cave forks off to the right.

If hiking beyond the Wind and Ice Caves you can continue up the trail that is on the south side of Fossil Mountain. This upper part of the canyon is extremely rough, dry and isolated and since most of the hikers go to the Darby Wind Cave solitude is greatly enhanced once you pass the cave trail fork. Spectacular, sub-alpine badlands, jagged peaks, prolific wildflower displays and abundant waterfalls characterize Upper Darby Canyon. From the highest points some of the best views in the Grand Teton Mountain Range can be seen. You climb out of Darby Creek drainage over a 10,000-foot pass then you drop down and hook into Fox Creek Trail at elevation 8,700 feet. From the cave to the pass it is about 2.5 miles then another mile to the Fox Creek Trail junction.

Hikers Darby Canyon waterfall
Dary Hunter and son Cody at the waterfall below Darby Wind Cave in South Darby Canyon in the Grand Tetons

If you continue east on Fox Creek Trail you soonhook up with the Teton Crest Trail shortly before Fox Creek Pass. If you continue over Fox Creek Pass (elevation 9,600) the trail forks you can take the left fork and drop down onto the Death Canyon Shelf or the right fork, and drop into Death Canyon. At Fox Creek Pass you leave the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness and enter Grand Teton National Park.

If you go south on Teton Crest Trail you can hook into the trails systems of the Teton Pass region, Granite Canyon, The Teton Village Tram, Phillips Pass, and Moose Lake.

The Teton Mountains are home to elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bear, wolves, mountain lion and many other species. On this hike it is common to see moose and deer if you get lucky and go far enough you could see elk, bighorn sheep or bear. Some of the wildflowers you may see are fireweed, larkspur, indian paintbrush, purple fleabane, columbine, and lupine proliferate turning every meadow of the region a sea of color.

Expect summer time temperatures to range from highs in the 70s-80s during the day to lows of around 30 at night. Afternoon thunderstorms are the norm most summer evenings so plan your hiking and climbing so that you won't be on an exposed slope when the lightning is competing for space with the waterfalls of the canyon walls. It can snow any day of the year and has, so visitors should come prepared for a wide variety of weather and temperature conditions. Remember Murphy°s Law and pack accordingly.

Wind Cave Waterfall Darby Canyon
Water fall at Darby Wind Cave

The Darby Wind Cave

Darby Wind Cave is 2.6 miles from the trailhead and is a 1,800 feet elevation gain; it lies at 8,940 feet The Wind Cave snakes through the Darby Formation, a thick layer of 350 million year-old dolomite. A flashlight for the cave is a definite must. The hike to the Darby Wind Cave can be done in just a little over two hours. But once you arrive, you may spend hours crawling through the wind cave, which goes from hundreds of feet high at the entrance to merely a crawlspace farther in. For the more adventurous the Darby Canyon Ice Cave is only another mile up the trail, but don°t attempt the Ice Cave unless you have technical ice climbing knowledge.

Getting there

The trailhead is located about 20 minutes outside the town of Driggs. It is very easy to miss Darby Road turnoff from Highway 33, three miles south of Driggs ID; the turn off is just south of the Spud Theater. Drive several miles up the canyon till you see the trailhead.

 

Lady adventures Kathleen Scott from Driggs, Idaho
Amy Cimarolli from Elkins, WV at Darby Wind Cave

darby fox creek map

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