I first heard about Jackson when I was in Lake Tahoe one summer long ago. Rumor had it that the richest of the rich were leaving Tahoe for a more remote winter getaway in Aspen, Colorado and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I didn’t know much about it but I’ve learned quite a bit. It’s a very unique mountain town near Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks. It’s filled with snow lovers and very warm and friendly rich folk (that you wouldn’t suspect have at least two commas worth in their banks) that roam around in jeans and cowboy hats. There are a TON of east coasters that live there as well, which got everyone to start saying: “Wyoming has an east infection.” 🙂 Bostonites somehow end up here and adapt a country western lifestyle.
My friend Elisabeth (in photo on left) left San Francisco to move here years ago. She was planning on going for one ski season and she ended up staying because she fell madly deeply in love with the town’s charm and surrounding mountains. Not hard to do! I’ve been trying to visit her for many years and finally made it happen in September 2015. I am so thankful I had a chance to go because she not only showed me THE best time for nearly an entire week but this was by far one of the best trips I took in 2015 (which says a lot because I unexpectedly fell ill while there and still had a great time). Therefore, I have to share everything we did, so you can do it too! Today I share with you: Fall is the New Winter in Jackson Hole: A Beginner’s Activities Guide. Before I dive into activities, let me review when and how.
When to go…Timing is everything isn’t it? According to US Travel, the best times to go are in the spring and fall. But really the best time to go is THE FALL. Any other time the town is flooded with tourists (in winter they hit the slopes, in summer they take over the trails). According to Elisabeth, in the spring it gets wet and muddy. If you visit in the FALL, the town is perfectly covered in reds, oranges, and yellows making the backdrop undeniably epic. The weather is also perfect, a light jacket and colorful scarf is all you need. Since everyone else focuses on the high seasons you can also have the town and scenery all to yourself (well, for the most part!).
How to get there…You should know upfront that a RT flight from no matter where in the US is expensive given it is located in a very remote area (see map). When I lived in Denver, the cheapest flights were running at around $600 and they weren’t nonstop, most go through Salt Lake City. The airport actually sits in the Grand Teton National Park so the landing and take off offer epic views. Since I’m cheap and always look for ways to save on costs, I drove 8 hours from Denver instead. There isn’t much to see along the route till you get there besides parts of the Oregon Trail (there are wagon remnants on the side of the road – some signs will point them out along the route if you decide to road trip it).
Before I arrived, I did some Pinterest pinning to build up my excitement of things to do, see and eat based on suggestions from local bloggers. I made a list but wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I knew I could count on Elisabeth to show me a good time! I was pleasantly surprised when I rolled into town – it is one of the quaintest towns in America and there’s PLENTY to do there and in the surrounding area. So, what is this remote ski town like when the snow has long melted, the sun beams around and leaves float about? Find my favorite activities below and make sure to include these as part of your itinerary:
Check out the Grand Teton National Park
Of course this is first on my list, since they are EPIC. They are certainly the most unique mountains I’ve seen in the US with jagged edges and wildlife roaming about, you definitely need to make it a point to get out to the park.
Enjoy time on the Snake River
Float down it, tube down it, or even go white water rafting. Just make sure to get on the river! We saw eagles galore along the stretch and enjoyed a very relaxing ride during sunset with cocktails and hors d’ouvres. Highly recommended!
See Wyoming’s Wildlife
When you first enter Wyoming from Colorado, you see tons of signage that Wyoming is known for its wildlife – Moose, Eagles, Elk, Mule and White-tail Deer, Pronghorn Antelope, Black Bears, Mountain Lions, Coyotes – you name it. Whilst in Wyoming, be sure to visit the National Elk Refuge and nearby ranches that surround the national park. Keep your eyes open and you will surely see some wildlife!
Bike around town and visit Town Square
Eat, drink, shop, and party around Town Square! First, grab a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop called “Cowboy Coffee”, also named best coffee shop in WY in 2014. Take a stroll around the various shops and check out the Elk Antler Arches at each corner of the town square. For lunch, eat at Snake River Brewery (yummy pizza) and then when it’s time for a drink, head to The Cowboy Bar where the bar stools are saddles!
Ride the gondola up to the Top of Jackson Hole Ski Resort
The gondola takes 12 minutes to go up 4,139 feet and it offers EPIC views. Did you know the JHSR has over 3,000 acres of unparalleled skiing and an average snowfall of over 400″? The JHSR offers more expert, intermediate and beginner terrain than most resorts in the US (open Thanksgiving weekend through April). The views are INCREDIBLE, especially during fall with all the colors. At the top of the gondola, you must eat at Waffles. When you get down, the surrounding village is perfect for a stroll around the shops and restaurants. I also highly recommend you book a reservation at one of the nearby world-class spas.
While I would certainly consider myself one of “those travelers” that typically wants to go to new places anytime I take a vacation, I already want to go back to Jackson Hole and spend more time getting to know it better. It is just one of those places you can’t get enough of! I HIGHLY recommend a trip here and hope you follow this activity guide when you’re there to make the most of your time. You will love it, and I guarantee you will if you go in the fall.
Do you live in Jackson Hole? Have you ever been? What would you recommend visitors do and see?