Best Things To Do in Jackson Hole
Thanks to its prime location near Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, Jackson Hole beckons to outdoors enthusiasts. Opportunities to hike abound here, while winter travelers can hit the slopes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or Grand Targhee Resort. This is also a haven for wildlife. Come in the fall to hear the shrill bugle calls of male elk searching for mates, or get up close with these magnificent animals at the National Elk Refuge. When you're ready to relax, soak your cares away in the Granite Hot Springs.
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Occupying a large chunk of Teton Village in the northwest corner of the valley, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a vacation destination unto itself. The primary resort area in the valley, this property boasts several hotels and timeshares and an adventure park, not to mention a variety of dining options on top and below the mountain. However, the main reason people visit the resort is to take advantage of the skiing; located at the base of Rendezvous Mountain, the resort offers prime access to 2,500 acres of ski runs and 4,139 feet of vertical drop. And with more than 400 inches of snowfall annually, it's no wonder why the area is considered to be one of the best ski resorts in the country.
Skiing isn't the only activity here. During the summertime, the resort offers visitors numerous opportunities to hike and mountain bike as well as paraglide. Recent visitors also said that a ride on the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram is a must, no matter the season. The 9-minute tram ride runs to the top of Rendezvous Mountain at a summit of more than 10,000 feet, allowing for breathtaking views of the Teton Mountains. If heights aren't your thing, don't fret. Travelers said there are so many activities to do there you'll likely never be bored. Some suggested arriving at the village as early as possible, as you'll probably end up staying until closing time.
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Boasting a whopping 310,000 acres of jagged, snow-capped peaks, verdant forests and crystal-clear alpine lakes, Grand Teton National Park is the highlight of any trip to Jackson Hole. It was amidst these stunning mountains that nomadic Paleo-Indians spent their summers almost 11,000 years ago and that America's 19th-century fur-trading industry thrived. Now, Grand Teton National Park plays the role of wild wonderland, offering visitors a taste of the mighty wilderness that pioneers encountered a couple of centuries ago.
There are numerous reasons to visit Grand Teton. To get a feel for the park, take a drive along the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, which traces the eastern side of the stunning Jackson Lake and continues north to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park. However, don't spend all your time behind the wheel. Opportunities to hike, mountain climb, cross-country ski and fish are abundant. And keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of Grand Teton's full-time residents, which include moose, elk and bison. Bears and coyotes also call the park home, so take extra precautions when heading out on a hike or setting up camp.
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Every autumn, Jackson Hole resonates from the distinctive mating calls of one of its most prominent residents: elk. These large, deer-like creatures have roamed Jackson Hole and the nearby Teton Mountains by the thousands for many years, but they still have difficulty finding food during the harsh winter months. So as temperatures begin to drop, the Hole's herds make their way to the National Elk Refuge, a massive non-enclosed sanctuary. Visit the refuge in winter to find them waiting for spring thaw, munching on staff-provided alfalfa pellets.
While at the refuge, you can observe the animals from your car, or you can tag along on a guided sleigh ride (during the winter months). If you want to spot the most elk, plan your visit for the winter months. Travelers who visited the refuge during the warmer months reported seeing little to no elk. But those who did make the trek here during prime elk-viewing season were surprised by the amount of activity at the refuge and pleased by how close they were able to get to the animals. Many also strongly recommended scheduling the guided sleigh ride tour to get a unique look at the elk in their habitats and highly praise the guides for their expertise. If you sign up for this, make sure to wear plenty of warm layers.
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Just because the sun's gone down and the ski lifts have closed doesn't mean the fun has to stop. In the evenings, valley visitors head to the Jackson Hole Playhouse. This small dinner theater in downtown Jackson is housed in the oldest building in town, and is famous for its fun atmosphere and quality performances. The productions are so good, some past audience members have compared them to those on Broadway, despite the venue's diminutive size.
Guests are welcome to skip the dining portion of the evening and come only for the show, but many recent visitors urged future travelers to reconsider – cast members of the night's show not only serve the food, but serenade diners. Most also gave high marks for the food served, as well as the friendly hospitality.
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Jackson Hole's many natural attractions may cater primarily to adventure junkies, but the Granite Hot Springs are reserved solely for those in need of some rest and relaxation. Open during the winter and summer, this thermal pool offers bathers beautiful views of the surrounding Bridger-Teton National Forest. The water's average temps range from a steamy 93 degrees in summer to 112 degrees in winter. Visitors can also take advantage of the area's scenic hiking and snowshoeing paths, or try whitewater rafting through the nearby Hoback Junction.
Recent visitors claimed that the scenery alone is worth the trip, saying it is a must-do. Nestled among the Gros Ventre Mountains, the hot springs are 7,000 feet above sea level, so you can only imagine the views your eyes will be treated to. Because the springs are located on the side of a mountain, the road leading up to the springs is not in the best of conditions. Travelers reported the road to be unpaved and gravely, but stressed to future visitors that the attraction is worth the climb, and if drivers simply exercise caution when driving, they can navigate it successfully.
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With a stop by the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum, travelers can learn about the area's Wild West history. Through artifacts, historical narratives and photographs, visitors will glimpse exciting characters like animal trappers, dude ranchers and cowboys, as well as the Native Americans that used to inhabit the region. The museum also offers various specialty programs and events for travelers, including walking tours of the town of Jackson and local author talks.
Despite its small size, recent visitors said that the attraction is chock full of interesting information, and definitely worth your time, especially for those interested in American history. Many reviewers said it's a great place to bring children for the attraction's animal exhibits and noted the knowledge and warmth of the staff helped make their experience at the museum a memorable one.
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Combining Jackson Hole's love for the arts with its age-old respect for local fauna, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is definitely worth a visit. Located less than 3 miles north of downtown Jackson – just off Route 89 – this small museum is home to more than 5,000 works of wildlife art from more than 550 artists. Some pieces even date back to 2500 B.C. While the museum features several European pieces, American works dominate the 14 galleries.
Recent guests were impressed by the quality of art displayed here and said you don't need to be an art specialist to appreciate and enjoy this museum. Travelers also enjoyed the panoramic views the property afforded of the National Elk Refuge, with some visitors able to spot animals from the museum. Make sure to check out the outdoor art, particularly the nearly mile-long Sculpture Trail, which features sculptures of area elk traversing the terrain. Others were particularly impressed with the Children’s Discovery Gallery, which includes a puppet theater, animal costumes and a reading nook.
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If you're looking to add a dash of history to your downhill run, consider a visit to the Snow King Resort in Jackson. Founded in 1939, Snow King was Wyoming's first established ski area. Ever since, avid winter sports enthusiasts have flocked here for a taste of Jackson powder. The resort boasts more than 400 acres of skiable terrain – 110 acres of which can be used for night skiing – and 1,571 feet of vertical drop. Novice skiers take note: only 50 percent of Snow King runs cater to beginners and intermediates. For easier skiing terrain, consider visiting Grand Targhee instead. Also located within Snow King are several areas reserved for snowboarding and tubing, as well as an ice rink and lodgings that cater to moderate budgets.
Many recent travelers agreed that the property is a bit dated for a resort but appreciated the close proximity to the town of Jackson (less than a mile and accessible via the Start bus) in comparison to the other hot spots in the area. Visitors recommended taking a ride up the ski lift for amazing views of the mountain. And if you're here during the summer, don't leave without a ride on the alpine slide, especially if you've got kids in tow.
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For those of you who aren't quite ready for the black diamond slopes at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the Grand Targhee Resort offers easier, more family-friendly runs. Located in Alta, Wyoming – a small town about 38 miles northwest of Jackson – this resort has claimed two of the Teton Mountains as its own. Here you'll find more than 2,500 acres of ski terrain that sees an average of 500 inches of snowfall each year. A sizeable portion of the resort caters to beginner and intermediate skiers, plus you can take ski lessons at Grand Targhee. However, recent visitors said that more advanced powder hounds will find several runs that cater to their skill level as well.
Recent travelers enjoyed their time at Grand Targhee Resort and noted that the resort's small size meant fewer crowds, which was a much appreciated reprieve from Jackson Hole's more congested slopes. Some travelers strongly encouraged a visit to the on-site naturalist, whose knowledge in the region's geography and botany enhanced their experience at the resort. Others, however, said if you're a skier who's looking for a challenge, try a different resort.
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