Beyond the slopes: Why we’re obsessed with Jackson Hole, Wyoming

December 02, 2015                 3m read time
Nicole Wiegand


Known for its world-class skiing, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a prime destination for outdoor lovers of all stripes. Name any activity, and you can probably do it around these parts. Surf the Snake River, mountain bike through the forest, or try a paragliding adventure. Whatever your passion, there's something for you in this mountain town. Read on for our favorites.

1. Hang out with an elk herd

A group of bulls on the National Elk Refuge near Jackson Hole, Wyoming USFWS Mountain-Prairie

A group of bulls on the National Elk Refuge near Jackson Hole, Wyoming

USFWS Mountain-Prairie

 

Jackson is home to one of the largest elk herds on the planet. The National Elk Refuge, created as a sanctuary to protect the herd, allows visitors to view elk and nearly 50 other types of mammals. Come in the winter for the best wildlife-spotting opportunities. You can explore the refuge on foot or opt for one of their popular sleigh rides. In the summer, try some challenging fishing on Flat Creek or go biking on the refuge’s multi-use pathway.

2. Paddle Jenny Lake

Paddlers on Jenny Lake in Jackson Hole, Wyoming gary718

Paddlers on Jenny Lake in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

gary718

 

Located in Grand Teton National Park, Jenny Lake has nearly two square miles of glassy, crystal-blue waters that make it perfect for summertime adventures. Rent a canoe or kayak at Jenny Lake Boating, and head for the lake in the morning, when the water is calmer. When you’re done kayaking, pull up on the shore and go for a hike. Try the popular String Lake Trail loop, or hike to nearby Hidden Point or Inspiration Falls

3. Hit the Slopes

Skier at Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole in Wyoming Snow King Resort

Skier at Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole in Wyoming

Snow King Resort

 

With three resorts within an hour’s drive, skiing is clearly an integral part of the Jackson Hole experience. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is the “big one” of the nearby resorts. It has great intermediate terrain and provides the full resort experience, complete with a spa and other amenities. Snow King, the oldest resort in Wyoming, attracts a fair number of racers. It’s also a great place for night skiing and snow tubing. A little further away, Grand Targhee is known for its awesome powder. With over 2,000 acres of snowboarding and skiing, it’s worth a day trip from Jackson Hole.

4. Mountain Bike the Tetons

Mountain biker in the Grand Tetons near Jackson Hole, Wyoming crosby_cj

Mountain biker in the Grand Tetons near Jackson Hole, Wyoming

crosby_cj

 

The Cache Creek/Game Creek loop trail is perfect for novices, but cyclists of all experience levels will appreciate the amazing scenery. You’ll bike through gorgeous forests and colorful meadows. In the spots where the singletrack gets tight, you can feel the tall wildflowers brushing your shoulders and handlebars. Hard-core enthusiasts should head for Big Munger: The steepness of the trail will make this more of a hike-and-bike for all but the most experienced cyclists, but the thrills make it worthwhile.

5. Soar above the peaks

Paragliding over Jackson Hole Mountain resort in Wyoming Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Paragliding over Jackson Hole Mountain resort in Wyoming

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

 

Have you ever dreamed of flying—making effortless circles in the sky like a hawk? Cross another item off your bucket list with a paragliding experience. The professionals at Jackson Hole Paragliding perform tandem flights every morning at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

No experience is necessary: Just get a running start, and you’ll be airborne in your comfortable chair harness, feeling the mountain air against your face as you soar over the Tetons and Snake River Range.

6. Take a Dip in the Hot Springs

Granite Hot Springs Pool along Hoback Canyon near Jackson Hole, Wyoming pychap

Granite Hot Springs Pool along Hoback Canyon near Jackson Hole, Wyoming

pychap

 

Located south of Jackson along Hoback Canyon, Granite Hot Springs is a favorite place to sooth tired muscles after a day of mountain adventures. The water that flows from the surrounding rocks is naturally heated and stays warm year-round. You can camp at the Hot Springs during the summer. In the winter, the area is accessible by ski, snowmobile, and dog sled.

7. Go Nordic

Nordic skiers at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Nordic skiers at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

 

Cross-country or Nordic skiing is a great way to get your ski on and enjoy the snowy, scenic landscape around you. At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, you can either snowshoe or cross-country ski while getting a guided nature tour at the same time. New to these sports? Not a problem. The resort has multiple routes that are perfect for a novice. Try the Bradley Taggart Moraine tour, which takes you close to Teton canyon and includes a lunch break at a frozen lake.

8. Catch a Wave on the Snake River

Rafters on the rapids in Jackson Hole, Wyoming MBoe

Rafters on the rapids in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

MBoe

 

Surf’s up! When the snow melts in the Tetons, snowboarders and skiers head to the Snake River for some of the best river surfing in the country. There’s always an audience checking out the brave souls who take on the Lunch Counter Rapid. Surfing here is often compared to “walking down an up escalator." The wave just keeps coming. The Snake’s rapids aren’t for novices, but they offer epic thrills if you’ve got some surfing experience under your belt.

9. Learn How to Mush

Dog sledding race in Wyoming in the snow Dana Orlosky

Dog sledding race in Wyoming in the snow

Dana Orlosky

 

Want to get away from the crowds at the resorts and venture into the backcountry? You’ll get a new perspective on the forests and the Tetons when you’re being zipped through the snow by a sled dog. If you prefer a leisurely ride through the snow, take a tour with Continental Divide Dog Sled Adventures: You can kick back in your cushioned sled and stay warm with fleece robes. For a more adrenaline-fueled tour, try Dog Sledding Adventures and learn “extreme mushing.”

10. Grab a beer at Snake River Brewing

Cheers at Snake River Brewing Co in Jackson Hole, Wyoming Snake River Brewing Co

Cheers at Snake River Brewing Co in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Snake River Brewing Co

 

After a day out in the mountains, you’re going to need to refuel. Check out what’s on tap at Snake River Brewing, Wyoming’s oldest brewery. You can take a self-guided tour of the place or have a guide show you around. Try the Snake River Pale Ale or the Jenny Lake Lager. But don’t stop there—Chef Ryan Brogan whips up some amazing handmade dishes every day. You can’t go wrong with the BBQ bison burger or pulled pork tacos.

11. Where to Stay

Teton Mountain Lodge

Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa in Jackson Hole, Wyoming Teton Mountain Lodge

Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Teton Mountain Lodge

 

Stay just steps from the ski and the sights at Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa. You’ll be situated on the slopes next to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, just by the south gate entrance to Grand Teton Park. Needless to say, accessing the aerial tram, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, climbing, and Teton range photo ops is a cinch, but the woodsy, western resort itself gives little reason to ever leave. Five hot tubs (even one on the roof), indoor and outdoor pools, a brand-new spa, and the famed Spur Restaurant and Bar, dubbed “the place to après,” where you can throw back local brews and carb-load on seasonal mountain cuisine… you really can’t go wrong.

Hotel Terra

Hotel Terra's infinity pool overlooking the ski lift in Jackson Hole, Wyoming Hotel Terra

Hotel Terra's infinity pool overlooking the ski lift in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Hotel Terra

 

If you’re seeking an eco-friendly stay with a funky mod twist, try Hotel Terra—just a few steps from Teton Mountain Lodge. Think brass moose sculptures, vibrant horse paintings, and thought-provoking pieces all from regional artists. They’re LEED certified and luxuriously green, from aluminum water bottles to organic mattresses. A few hours spent on the rooftop soaking in the completely-organic Chill Spa—and the stunning mountain vistas—is the perfect way to end a long day on the slopes.

Nicole Wiegand

Nicole Wiegand is a native New Yorker who writes about everything from travel to technology. She loves exploring the city, hiking with her family, knitting, and cooking.

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