Passing through Jackson... Cliff Jumping at Phelps Lake

It has long been on my bucket list to cliff jump near Jackson Hole. Ever since a boy in 9th grade gave me a swim lesson so my mom would let me go cliff jumping in Hawaii and told me about cliff jumping in Jackson...
My best friend Savanna and I put it on our summer bucket list immediately following this discussion with him. I had forgotten about it until I found my bucket list a few weeks after visiting Savanna in Jackson Hole last summer... and the desire to live the bucket list moment was ignited once again!
And finally last week, I got to check a glorious item off the list.

We were heading home from Yellowstone and planned to stop in the Tetons then camp in the area before finishing the drive home. I had read about Phelps Lake last summer and was determined to go and do it finally.
Carter and the family were a bit resistant initially, not wanting to go swimming because it had been cold and windy in Yellowstone. I convinced them that we should just hike to Phelps lake, then. We could go there just in case, wearing our swimming suits for good measure, and then just see how we felt when we got up there. By the time we got to the Tetons, I had Carter convinced to jump off the cliff with me :)

So here's my take on Phelps Lake and "Jumping Rock", as they call it.
The hike to the lake is easy and beautiful. It's about a mile to the lake (depending on which route you take) and then another mile-ish along the shoreline before you get to the rock. I'd say the hike is pretty ideal. You get a mild, mostly flat hike in but reach your daily step count ;) That being said, you don't feel so exhausted by the end that you can't jump off the cliff (that would be tragic!). It's quick enough that you can leave around 2 and get back to the parking by 5:10 and make it to the Jackson Hole shootout by 5:45 (that's what we did :). A quick and simple day hike.

The hike to Phelps lake is beautiful. You have the most spectacular mountain views. The snow-capped Tetons have got to be some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen!

The jumping rock is a good one. About 20 feet high, beautiful clear water with amazing views all around. The rock is very easy to climb up on and has a perfect place to jump from (kind of like pride rock in the Lion King :). From what I've researched, it's a pretty safe jump. The rock face plunges perfectly into the water, making a nice deep body of water to jump into. It's not one of those jumps you're paranoid about jumping far enough out for. You can step off and you should be fine.

It took us some time to build up the courage! When you first arrive at the lake and find the rock on the other side, it appears so tiny. But when you are looking over the edge, it is much more frightening. We found that the best way to do it was to start several feet back and just run off the edge.
I'd say the height is just tall enough. It's long enough that you have time to think about your choice before you hit the water. Enough time to realize, "dang, I just jumped off a cliff. I hope I hit okay. I've heard this water is pretty cold from glacial run-off. I hope it doesn't take my breath away too much". You have just enough time to get worried and get that extra adrenaline boost before you plunge into the water. And then it's forceful enough that you have just enough time to think about how deep you are plunging. But all those thoughts make it so you hardly notice the cold water (the part I was most worried about).
I'd give it an overall A+ as cliff jumping location :)

With that being said, I did learn some worthwhile advice while jumping.
Don't flail your legs, and if you do, STOP before you hit. Straighten out and let yourself glide into the water. I learned that the hard way on jump #2. Nothing too serious, just a 5 inch bruise on my leg from hitting the water. Nothing too crazy... just not the most attractive thing in the world. So just jump straight :)

Plan for plenty of time to hang out at the rock before jumping in. Maybe you'll jump in without a second thought, but if you're like most of the others at the rock, you may need a minute to build up your courage. Also, you'll probably want to go again just to prove you can :)

Don't give up on the "elderly" when you're trying to get them to jump. I didn't think Dad would do it, and then we saw him heading into the trees to put on his bathing suit. That was definitely a proud daughter moment. I'm glad we didn't give up on him ;) And check out his form.... that's the way you want to jump ;)

And of course we had to stop in Jackson Hole! 

We camped about 8 miles out of Jackson Hole. We went up Curtis Canyon and found a large pull-off area just after Curtis Canyon Campground. We shared the space with some other BLM campers, but we had beautiful views and it was FREE! After trying it for the first time this summer, Carter has me converted to BLM camping :)


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