Jackson Hole WY is booming.
I recently visited the area and was pleased to see the volume of travelers in the area. Resorts, restaurants, and attractions in the area had a strong summer 2020 season, and 2021 promises to be another banner year for this sought-after destination.
Wyoming is larger than life, with towering peaks (some nearly 14,000 feet high), mighty rivers, abundant wildlife, wide open spaces, and many unique landmarks. Although Wyoming is sparsely populated, the state looms large over our idea of the West. This is a land of fur trappers, ranchers, cowboys, and legendary men like Buffalo Bill and Washakie, brave leader of the Native American Shoshone people in the 19th century. Wyoming is also a land of firsts - home of the first national park (Yellowstone), first national monument (Devils Tower), and the first national forest (Shoshone). Of all the special places in Wyoming, Jackson Hole is perhaps the best-known because of its breathtakingly beautiful natural setting, outdoor adventures options, sophisticated vibe, and great places to stay.
Please note the distinction between Jackson Hole (the 50-mile long valley) and the town of Jackson, hub of the region.
Jackson: Culture, Rodeo, Drinking & Dining
Over the years, the town of Jackson (population 10,000) has become one of the West’s most sophisticated destinations and one of the top five art markets in the USA. Explore the galleries in downtown Jackson for original paintings, crafts, and one-of-a-kind photographs. If you visit one museum, make it the National Museum of Wildlife Art – a local landmark, with art by Georgia O'Keefe and notable artists from the region.
Dining is a highlight in Jackson, with a wide range of options to choose from. A few favorites are the Rendezvous Bistro for its outstanding seafood and American classic dishes, Coelette for a fresh take on farm-to-table mountain menus, and The Snake River Grill, perhaps the most celebrated restaurant in Western Wyoming and a beloved dining spot of repeat visitors. If you are hankering for great Mexican menus, try The Merry Piglets or Hatch Taqueria. At any time of the year – advance reservations are a must.
Finally, no visit to Jackson is complete without going to The Rodeo, a local tradition. Rodeo season usually runs from Memorial Day to early September, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Best bar: After a day of adventures, stop at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar on Jackson Square, for drinking, dancing, and live entertainment. The bar is an institution in Jackson and has been serving cowboys, presidents, ranchers and celebrities since 1937.
Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Parks
Jackson Hole is also the perfect ‘base camp’ from which to explore Grand Teton and Yellowstone, two of America’s top National Parks.
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton can easily be visited in one day. Start at the South Entrance near Teton Village, and explore the Laurence Rockefeller Preserve. This interactive exhibit will give you a richer understanding of the park, as well as the legacy of the Rockefeller family, whose donation of over 200,000 acres acres of land made the creation of the present-day park possible in 1950. The Parking Lot of the Rockefeller Preserve is also the starting point of two great hiking trails to nearby scenic spots. Further ahead, stop at Jenny Lake, for one of the best views of the Teton Range. Ride the boat shuttle across lake, with the mountains towering above you. There are also beautiful hiking and biking trails in the area – including the path to the shore of Phelps Lake, my personal favorite. For great views of Mount Moran, drive to the top of Signal Mountain or stop at Oxbow Bend. Catch the herds of bison grazing in the open fields with your camera. You also have the option of rafting or kayaking down the Snake River as you take in the stunning scenery. Towards the end of the Grand Teton Park loop, visit the historic Mormon barns, built by settlers in the 19th century. Whatever you do, take time to stop and admire the majestic views of the Teton Range – an unforgettable sight.
Yellowstone National Park
The world’s first National Park, was established in 1872 and considered ‘America’s Serengeti’ for the abundance of wildlife –elk, bison, bears, wolves, and countless bird species. Because of Yellowstone’s massive expanse - almost 3,500 square miles, my advice is to break up the journey into south and north loops, or perhaps starting in the Jackson Hole Valley, overnighting at a resort within the Park, then making your way up to Montana and the park’s northern entrance over two or three days. Yellowstone is a land of natural wonders, including Old Faithful, perhaps the most famous geyser in the world, erupting about every ninety minutes for over a century. Get up close and personal with the many geothermal pools throughout the park, especially the multi-colored Grand Prismatic Spring – largest and most awe inspiring of all.
Other sites certain to impress are the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and its canyon; Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Hayden and Lamar Valleys – and that is just for starters. Better yet, hike one of many trails that crisscross the park, and immerse yourself in this storied wilderness.
From Spring to Fall, enjoy rafting, fishing, biking, hiking, or horseback riding along the Jackson Hole Valley Floor. I also recommend visiting Teton Village for the sheer range of 'ultimate' experiences, such as soaring with a professional pilot on a tandem paraglide flight from Rendezvous Mountain (a descent of 3,000 feet in twenty breathtaking minutes); scaling a challenging Via Ferrata with vertical granite walls and suspended bridges; riding a gondola to the top of the mountain and setting off on hiking trails to hidden peaks and valleys, and many other adventures. From November to April, Jackson Hole is justly famous for the quality of its ski slopes, known for their ‘cowboy powder’ and challenging terrain, as well as every kind of winter sport imaginable. Winter is also a magical time to visit Yellowstone riding a snow coach or snowmobile.
A word of advice: Jackson Hole is set about 6,700 feet over sea level, and higher in certain locations. Adjust to the altitude by drinking plenty of water, pacing yourself the day you arrive, and avoiding alcoholic beverages the first couple of nights during your stay.
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