I’ve yet to see Jackson Hole in the winter, under a blanket of snow, but I can tell you that in its glorious abundance of summer, carpeted in wild flowers and grassy meadows, it is a glorious thing. If you haven’t yet been, don’t delay. There are few places where I feel like a leave a little piece of my heart, but this gorgeous part of Wyoming will surely call me back.
First, the arrival into Jackson Hole’s tiny airport is just magnificent. Bordered on one side by the majestic Grand Teton National Park (GTNP), with its snowy mountain caps and the Snake River, and flanked on the other by the Elk Refuge, it tells you immediately that you have arrived somewhere special.
Even picking up a rental car is easy here. Walk under the welcoming archway of antlers from the tarmac, grab your bag and go straight to the counter. There’s no struggle with shuttle buses and runaway suitcases. Just hop in and go. Tip: while I did book a car in advance it was incredibly expensive. When I got to the counter I was able to extend our reservation at a much cheaper price. The same seemed to be true for hotels too. It’s worth calling hotels direct to see what it’s really available and at what price, vs. relying on third-party travel sites.
I arrived with little knowledge of the area, knowing that we’d like to explore the GTNP and chill a little before heading off to Bitterroot Ranch for a week of riding and yoga (more on that later). Through scanning a few of the tourist magazines and speaking to friends and locals, a fun few days soon came together. Here are some of our favorite things to do around Jackson:
1. Fill up on breakfast to fuel a hike
For my money, Jackson itself is much nicer to explore early in the morning before the tourists appear blinking in the sunlight. I’ve already dedicated a post to Persephone Bakery Boulangerie. It has great coffee, amazing bread and pastries and a full breakfast menu (in fact, meals throughout the day). If you’re looking for super healthy, then just walk a few doors down to the Healthy Being Cafe and Juicery – nut milks, juices, smoothies and Buddha Bowls abound. You won’t be disappointed if you need to take a break from the steak dinners that you’re bound to be enjoying in cowboy country.
2. Ascend Snow King Mountain
As you approach Jackson, you’ll see a steep mountain that acts as a backdrop to this historic town, complete with a few ski slopes carved into its face. Locals motor up this steep slope on foot, chatting on their cell phone—or talking to a friend—without puffing or losing stride. We opted to walk to the top ourselves (it took a little over an hour), but our ascent involved a bit (lot) more panting as we struggled to get used to the altitude. It’s well worth it though, the views of the town are stunning at the top – and there’s a thrilling chair lift down for $6 if you have a stomach for heights. (You can also take it up the mountain if you’re not into walking).
3. Grab lunch and a milkshake at Jackson Drug
After burning all those calories you’ll probably be hungry and feel ready to indulge. Check out Jackson Drug, an old-fashioned diner located in a historic space on the edge of the main square. Just recently opened by two sisters who have long-planned this venture, it has a fun history. Their great-grandfather opened the original Jackson Drug Co., in the exact same space in 1919. Despite the property changing hands over the years, it returned to their family eight years ago. I loved to hear how 99 years later this early settler’s descendants had reclaimed their birthright to feed hungry tourists great burgers ad fries and delicious milkshakes.
4. Wander around Teton Village
After a post-prandial nap, or a bit of shopping around Jackson Square, you might be ready for a change of scenery. If that’s the case, head on over to Teton Village, the home of one of the largest ski slopes in the U.S. If you want a cocktail at the bottom of the hill, then The Handle Bar at the Four Seasons is the place to go. If it’s mountain-top drinking and dining you want—and you want to avoid the pricey lift ticket—wait until after 5pm and you can take the gondola for free up to Piste Mountain Bistro. You’ll enjoy a great view and the food is pretty good.
5. National Museum of Wildlife Art
As you drive from Jackson Hole airport into Jackson, you’ll see a low stone building on the righthand side, surrounded by some pretty impressive metal sculptures of local wildlife. This is the National Museum of Wildlife Art which enjoys a beautiful view of the Elk Reserve. (The elk are only there in the winter when they come down to graze from the higher mountain tops.)
If you’re hungry, be sure to check out Palate, the restaurant on the ground floor of the museum with a great outdoor patio and a phenomenal view. We grabbed a bite there and Monkey enjoyed the bison gyro – it was pretty good ($16).
We didn’t quite pack all this into one day, but almost. (You know me.) After our first day in Jackson proper, we headed off to a gorgeous Airbnb near Wilson, about seven miles from Jackson. From there we went to explore Grand Teton National Park. Next post and a million photos coming soon…