On the east side of Grand Teton National Park
, Two Ocean Lake
is named for its proximity to Two Ocean Creek, a short drainage which splits directly on the continental divide, the two branches flowing in opposite directions. The western branch, Pacific Creek
, eventually meets the Snake River and is joined by the lake's exit stream shortly before the confluence.
Although the Teton mountains are visible in the distance, this area of the park lacks the dramatic scenery of the west, and instead of weathered granite, the land is covered by a mix of meadows, sagebrush slopes and low, wooded hills, and hence receives rather fewer visitors, although the lake is reached by a road, partly paved, leading to a picnic area at the east end, and this is the destination for most of the people that come here. Not so many hike the 6.2 mile loop trail that circles the lake; although relatively long, the path is easy, being well marked, fairly level and partly shaded, crossing a few tiny tributaries while traversing open areas, aspen groves and thicker pine woods.
The area has a multitude of wildflowers in late spring, but those in the open areas tend to wither quite quickly due to the exposed, often sunny conditions. The Teton Range is often visible, generally along the north side of the loop, while the lake itself is in view most of the time, albeit from a distance, since a combination of dense undergrowth, boggy patches and low cliffs mean the shoreline is rather inaccessible, so the path stays a little way above.
Location map for Grand Teton National Park
The road to Two Ocean Lake forks northeastwards off US 89/191/287, just north of the Moran entrance station and is paved at first, crossing flat woods and grassy areas, following the wide valley of Pacific Creek. A turn off after 4 miles is unpaved - a bit bumpy and narrow in a few places though still used by quite large RVs, and there are no signs stating that these vehicles are prohibited, unlike other narrow routes in the park. The road crosses a couple of hills and ends at a small parking area in wooded land beside the lake. A very short path leads to a stony beach beside the water, and a notice warns of potential bear activity in the area, both black and grizzly.
North Side of the Lake
Anti-clockwise is the suggested direction for the hike, and the path first crosses the exit stream on a wooden bridge, passes through a patch of trees then moves away from the lake, over grassy land dotted with patches of aspen and pine, while giving partial views of the waters to the south. The path becomes straight as the lake narrows, now separated from the trail by a wide flat, quite overgrown, with woods beyond. A small stream is crossed, flowing through a corridor of trees, followed by more long grass areas and wooded patches. The trail gradually comes closer to the lake again, now nearing its west end; over a usually dry creek bed and on to another small drainage, the entry stream of the lake. Like most of the shoreline, bushes prevent access to the water at this point.
South Side of the Lake
The trail rises, moving southeast away from the lake, to a junction with a path to Emma Matilda Lake
and to an alternative trailhead along the main road near Colter Bay. The left branch is the continuation of the Two Ocean loop, heading back east over a steep, shady hillside of tall trees, staying fifty feet or more above the lake, descending after a while to the lower end of a grassy valley, where shoreline access is also blocked by bushes. The path crosses a stream, another patch of woods and a wider grassy area and enters more extensive forest, remaining in tall trees all the way back to the trailhead. A few spurs lead to tiny stony inlets along the lake, though most of the route is little changing, through shady, closely spaced pines, where wildflowers are limited. Perhaps the best area for flowers is right beside the water, where less-common species include sagittaria cuneata
and scutellaria galericulata