Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming is an entire valley that offers mountain retreats with an old west flair and is a goldmine for year-round outdoor adventures. Jackson Hole valley includes the towns of Jackson and Teton Villiage.
Teton Villiage sits as a gateway to Jackson Hole Ski Area and some of the best downhill skiing in the country, while Jackson is home to the National Elk Refuge and is five miles from the awe-inspiring Grand Teton National Park. Hop on the highway and head north from Jackson for a scenic hour-long drive to Yellowstone National Park.
Both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are considered sacred to the many indigenous tribes whose ancestors called these areas home.
Grand Teton National Park
If you’ve never seen the Tetons, you’re in for a religious experience. The Teton Range ranges from 4,000 feet to 7,000 feet above sea level and is the youngest range in the Rocky Mountains. Hundreds of miles of trails run through this cathedral, so there’s plenty of hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking opportunities for anyone who wants to be blown away by stunning vistas every day.
Grand Teton National Park is home to these dramatic mountains as well as grizzly bears, moose, elk, bison, black bears, osprey, bald eagles, and more. It’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about the wildlife you’re not used to seeing at home and keep a safe distance. Ranger-led programs are available to educate the public about the area and animal behavior. They also provide a list of wildlife viewing areas on their website (https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/wildview.htm). Grand Teton National Park is a wildlife photographer’s paradise.
The park has a variety of lodging options for adventurers not looking to camp. Jackson Lake is surrounded by lodges, cabins, and cottages that available to rent during the summer. Choose from Historic Jackson Lake Lodge, Jenny Lake Lodge, Colter Bay Village, or Headwaters Lodge. Whether you choose to glamp, camp, or sip wine on the deck of the lodge, it’s a good idea to book your trip well in advance.
Want to give your feet a break? Horseback riding through the park and scenic float trips on the Snake River let you sit back, take a deep breath, and absorb the beauty around you. Book one of the many outfitters if you and your family are in the mood for guided scenic rafting or fly fishing trips. If you want to explore the Snake River or one of several lakes in the park, including Jenny Lake or Jackson Lake on your own, you can rent kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddleboards for the day.
Yellowstone National Park
With over 900 miles of trails within its 2.2 million acres, hikers always have room to roam. Yellowstone National Park is known for its punctual geysers and prolific wildlife, including bison, elk, and grizzly bears. Heading north from Jackson, you’ll find Yellowstone Lake, a wonder all on its own. The deepest part of Yellowstone Lake is 390 feet, and though it’s often dangerously cold year-round, the lake contains underwater geysers and hot springs. Despite the water’s seemingly inhospitable nature, Yellowstone Lake hosts native cutthroat trout, longnose suckers, and more.
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) traverses through Yellowstone National Park and will take you from Heart Lake and Lewis Lake to Shoshone Lake and Old Faithful. Want to sightsee? Go for an easy 1.6-mile hike to witness the rainbow waters of Grand Prismatic Spring. West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail is another easy mile hike to a caldera. Both Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser are accessible via Midway Geyser Basin Trail, a modest 0.8-mile jaunt.