Spotlight On: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Anyone who has been to Jackson, Wyoming knows that it is a special place. The town itself offers a distinct mountain town charm, and the surrounding area, Jackson Hole, is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. No matter what it is that you like to do, you will find it here!
The Snake River starts flows from Jackson Lake Dam, winds down along the base of the Teton range, heads west past the town of Jackson, then on into Idaho on its way to feeding into the Columbia River. The views of this river and from the river itself are stunning, especially as it passes the Grand Teton range. If you are an Ansel Adams fan, you know this scene well. The fishing on the river is amazing. The sheer number of fish that inhabit the river is impressive, sometimes estimated as high as 5,000 fish per mile, many of them native cutthroats.
The views from the upper part of the river are better, from Deadman ramp to Moose, but it can be a little hairy getting through some of it, so I would suggest going with a guide. Your chances are also higher of seeing moose and elk from the river in this stretch too. If you’re interested in doing a scenic float, call Barker-Ewing and ask for Michael. He has guided trips on the river for many years and knows a ton of interesting facts about the area.
My favorite stretch of the river to fish is from South Park to Astoria. The fishing is good, and the scenery is beautiful, although you can’t see the Tetons from here. You will probably see a lot of eagles and osprey though, along with deer and the occasional river otter.
There are a few great little local fly shops in Jackson too, and the people that work there are really in touch with what the fish are biting on. If you want to take a day of fly fishing lessons, go to JD High County Outfitters and tell them you want to fish with Jay. This was my first fly fishing instructor, he’s a patient and talented teacher, and has a great mustache!
One of the most obvious draws of the Teton range is for mountain climbing, but if you’re just looking for hiking, go to the visitor center at Moose, Wyoming, just outside Jackson and at the entrance to Grand Teton National Park. They have several booklets that detail great day hikes in the area. While you’re there, look through the displays and watch a movie.
Inside Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake offer more fishing. You can also paddleboard on the lake, but I might suggest a wetsuit. Again, the views here are to die for. Yellowstone Park is on the other side of GTNP, and it makes a good day trip from Jackson. If you’re that close, you shouldn’t miss it. Everything there is to see and do in Yellowstone is another blog post in itself.
If you’re into whitewater rafting, some of the best can be found on the Snake River. There are a lot of really good float companies in town; a personal favorite of mine again is Barker Ewing.
Your lodging choices are really varied in the valley. You can stay in a luxury condo at Snow King resort. You can stay at hotels of all types in Jackson and out at nearby Teton Village. We often stay at the really cute individual cabins at Cowboy Village in town. The Virginian has a campground in town with showers and hookups, with access to the pool at the Virginian lodge. The campground is across the street from the town library and walking distance to the rodeo grounds, where there is a rodeo 4 nights a week in the summer. There are several small fee campgrounds without hookups that are on a first come, first serve basis just outside of town along the Snake River. Or try the free campground by Moran, Wyoming for Grand Teton views.
For a town as small as Jackson, there are an impressive number of really good restaurants. One of my favorites is at the Wort Hotel. I worked at the Wort Hotel for 5 summers putting myself through college, so I have a soft spot for the place.
With a rich history, it is a destination in itself. It was built in 1941, and has an atmosphere and lore that make it truly unique. And the dry aged burger in the Silver Dollar Grill is to die for! Across the street from the Wort is Pinky G’s, which has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. You’ll find a really cool atmosphere here and they serve some of the best pizza in town.
If you love Mexican Food, try Merry Piglets just off the town square. It’s really more tex-mex, but definitely worth the visit. The Bunnery is in that same block of buildings, and it should be a destination for at least one breakfast. Then be sure to hit Persephone Bakery to grab treats for your day trips! All of these are walking distance from the town square, unique in itself with each of its four corners graced by elk antler arches.
Want to see what’s happening right this minute on the town square? Click on this link, this is really fun!
If you’re in Jackson in the summer, there is a nightly shoot-out off of the town square that is fun to watch. You can wander from there over to the Cowboy Bar and sit on one of the saddle barstools to listen to a live band. The Silver Dollar Bar at the Wort Hotel also has live music, and their bar is covered by 2,032 uncirculated 1921 silver dollars (I memorized this fact during my waitressing years and am just pleased to be able to still remember it).
Wintertime is equally impressive in Jackson Hole. With two world class ski area close to town, there are ski and snowboarding hills for all levels of abilities. At the base of Snow King mountain is a tubing hill that can fill an afternoon with kids (or without them).
And take a drive out to see the Tetons, I think that photographing the Tetons is even better in the winter. And be sure to take an afternoon for a sleigh ride out onto the elk refuge while the elk (up to 7500 of them) are feeding there during the winter. Or you can rent a fat tire bike at Hoback Sports if you feel the urge to do a thrilling downhill ride.
In February, the Jackson Hole Shrine Club holds its annual Cutter Races. These are like modern day chariot races in the snow. The horses and their trailers are decorated and festive, and their drivers are tough and talented. They also throw in a few extras, like a barefoot running race, just for giggles. And it all benefits the Shriners Hospitals.
In May, Elkfest, the annual elk antler auction is held. The local Boy Scouts go out onto the refuge and gather the sheds that are dropped by the elk in the spring. They are then auctioned off, with a small portion of the money going to the Scouts and the rest going to the National Elk Refuge for habitat enhancement. Each year between 6,000 and 9,000 pounds of antlers are sold, so it is an event that is worth seeing at least once.
No matter the time of year, there is surely something you can find in Jackson Hole to fit your adventure. Go ready to play hard, eat well, and have a great time!