Often called ‘The Last of the Old West’, Jackson Hole is a destination like no other. Tucked away in the northwest of Wyoming, the vast valley sits between the Gros Ventre and Teton ranges with the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks nearby.
Settled by fur trappers, and then homesteaders, in the 1870s, it now attracts thousands of tourists who come to enjoy the stunning scenery and outdoor activities. Skiing at the three terrific resorts is one of its top draws.
The surrounding mountains, rivers and forests lend themselves perfectly to hiking and biking, camping and kayaking. Wildlife watching is also among the most popular things to do in Jackson Hole as the pristine landscape houses bears, bison, elk, moose and countless other creatures.
Jackson, its largest town, still has an Old West look and feel. And all the celebrity residents mean it has a plethora of trendy restaurants and upmarket boutiques. It also has a scattering of art galleries and museums to visit besides its thrilling rodeo and theater.
Otherwise, most people use it as a base from which to explore the ski resorts, nature sights and national parks.
14. Grand Targhee Resort
Whether it’s summer or winter, the Grand Targhee Resort is a great place to hit up and enjoy some exciting outdoor activities. Located on the west side of the towering Teton Range, it boasts excellent amenities, lovely lodges and, of course, miles and miles of multi-use trails.
Founded in 1969, it has expanded enormously with trails, terrain parks and chair lifts dotted about its slopes. Often ranked among the best resorts in North America for its quantity and quality of snow, its mountains are just as delightful to explore in summer. This is because you can hike, bike and horseback ride while basking in phenomenal views over the valleys and forests.
In addition to natural riches, guests can relax and unwind at the resort’s spa, shop at its stores or play fun rounds of disc golf.
13. Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum
If you want to learn more about the vast valley, make sure to check out the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum. Set in the centre of town, it contains all kinds of interesting artifacts and exhibits on the people and places that shaped the history of the region.
What started out in 1958 as a passion project, has since morphed into a sizeable collection of around 30,000 or so historic objects, photos and oral testimonies. These and its displays on old tools, textiles and teepees, focus on everything from early settlers and Native Americans to the fur trade, ranching and modern tourism.
You can also organise engaging walking tours through the museum that traverse the town with a knowledgeable guide.
12. Antelope Flats
A wonderful way to see more of the area’s spellbinding scenery is to take a relaxing drive around the Antelope Flats. Part of Grand Teton National Park, its rambling road takes you past majestic soaring mountain peaks, atmospheric old historic sites and some incredible wildlife.
An important habitat and migration route for local wildlife, its rolling plains and sagebrush flats were only added to the park in 2016. Rising in the distance are remarkable snow-capped peaks with lonely historic homesteads dotted here and there.
On the expansive Flats you’ll view elk, bison and pronghorn. Coyotes and wolves are sometimes spied, too, prowling amidst the undergrowth. As it combines history, nature, wildlife and views into one perfect package, cruising around the Antelope Flats really is a fantastic way to spend a morning.
11. Jackson Hole Playhouse
If you’re after a fun night out, then there’s no better place to head in the valley than the Jackson Hole Playhouse. At the rustic performing arts theater in the center of town, you can watch fabulous plays and enjoy a delicious dinner and drinks.
Built in 1915 as a livery stable and then staging post, it was later transformed into a theatre at the end of the forties. Instantly recognizable, its colorful exterior and bright lights entice you in. You’ll feel at home right away with its warm wood furnishings, Old West-look and friendly, welcoming waiters.
While the tasty food and gun slingin’, singing staff are already an attraction in themselves, the main event is, of course, the packed schedule of superb shows. All in all, its rousing musicals, sumptuous grub and saloon setting make for an unforgettable evening.
10. Snow King Resort
Another brilliant spot to hit the slopes and enjoy some soft, powdery snow is the Snow King Resort. Very conveniently located, its trails and terrain parks lie on the southeast edge of Jackson and a scenic gondola ride can take you to the top in no time at all.
From Panorama House at its 7,808 foot summit, you can ski, snowboard, tube and even coaster your way down the side of its steep slopes. Actually, the first ski area to be opened in the Cowboy State, it dates to 1936 with loads of summer and winter activities on offer.
Besides shooting down its 35 runs, locals and tourists alike can hike, bike and boulder during the warmer summer months. Challenging rope courses, bungee trampolines and America’s steepest zip line can also be found at the resort.
9. Jackson Hole Rodeo
An exhilarating event like no other, the Jackson Hole Rodeo has now been a huge part of the town’s cowboy culture for well over a century. At the intimate arena on the southwestern outskirts, you can see brave bronco riding, exciting roping events and other entertaining rodeo activities.
Held during the summer months, the hallowed rodeo’s roots date to the 1890s when the first settlers arrived in the valley. Since those early days, contestants have flocked here to challenge themselves and compete in events such as barrel racing, calf roping and bucking bulls.
Thanks to the electrifying atmosphere, excellent announcer and up close view of the death-defying feats performed, it really is one of the most memorable events to attend in the area.
8. Raft the Snake River
Yet another of Jackson Hole’s unmissable outdoor activities is rafting along the raging Snake River. While only a small stretch is located in Wyoming, it has plenty of navigable parts, peaceful sections and roaring rapids to float down.
Rising in the west of the state, the gorgeous river then meanders its way through Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Nevada for more than a thousand miles. Just outside of Jackson, it already passes stunning natural sights such as the colossal canyon of the same name and the rugged Teton Range.
From the center of town, countless companies run rafting excursions that are appropriate for all ages and abilities. As you hurtle past rocks and rapids and float along tranquil stretches, you’ll be able to enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery, nature and views on show.
7. Laurance Rockefeller Preserve
Also nestled away with Grand Teton National Park alongside the Snake River is the picture-perfect Laurance Rockefeller Preserve. Here visitors can hike to their heart’s content and lounge on its sandy lakefront beach.
Originally a dude ranch in the early 1900s, it was bought by the Rockefellers to be a family retreat several decades later. The expansive preserve now encompasses everything from glorious groves of firs and pines to wildflower-filled meadows, reflective lakes and shimmering streams. Bears, deer, otters and pine martens can sometimes be spotted amidst the lush foliage.
Aside from basking in its beauty and drinking in the divine views, you can also stop by its visitor center. This teaches you all about its history, nature and wildlife through photos and exhibits.
6. National Museum of Wildlife Art
A must for art aficionados and wildlife lovers, the magnificent National Museum of Wildlife Art lies along US Route 191, just north of Jackson. What at first appears to be a crumbling castle or natural rocky outcrop, actually houses an outstanding collection of paintings, photos, prints and sculptures.
The only museum in the nation dedicated solely to wildlife art, it now boasts roughly 5,000 amazing artworks of animals from all around the world. Very well laid out and displayed, its galleries explore over 4,500 years of wildlife art history with indigenous artifacts featuring alongside contemporary masterpieces.
Afterwards, make sure to stop by its sculpture trail, restaurant and outdoor patio, all of which offer sublime views over the mountains and neighboring National Elk Refuge.
5. Granite Hot Springs
Hidden amidst the region’s endless mountains, valleys and forests, you can find the peaceful and picturesque Granite Hot Springs. Situated an hour’s drive southeast of Jackson, its warm waters are the perfect place to relax and unwind with stupendous scenery spread out all around you.
Built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, it lies at an elevation of 6,987 feet with the pristine pool being fed by a bubbling hot spring. Surrounding the secluded site is a little deck where you can enjoy the mountain vistas, and there are cosy campsites and a cabin nearby.
After days of incredible outdoor activities, wildlife watching and sightseeing, soaking in the springs is a heavenly experience. As the gravel road is only negotiable in summer, in winter visitors have to snowshow, snowmobile, ski or dog sled to the spring. This only adds to the adventure and increases the feeling of relief and relaxation once you arrive.
4. Jackson Town Square
A pleasant spot at which to spend some time, lush, leafy Jackson Town Square lies right in the historic heart of the small settlement. Lined by dozens of local shops and restaurants, it is most known for the iconic elk antler archways that can be found at each corner.
Made out of hundreds of bright white antlers, these intriguing archways are its defining feature with locals and tourists alike snapping profile pictures beneath them. The smallish square itself has lawns and tree-lined paths to stroll about with benches and a moving veterans’ monument.
The heart and soul of life in town, it is surrounded by art galleries and restaurants to souvenir shops, themed saloons and even a small mall.
3. National Elk Refuge
If you want to see some wildlife up close and personal, then the National Elk Refuge is one of the best places to head in the valley. Sprawled across a massive area just east of Jackson, it contains bears, bison, wolves and elk.
Established in 1912, it protects marvelous mountains, marshes and meadows that are key habitats and migration routes for local wildlife. Each winter, upwards of 7,500 elegant elk inhabit its snowy plains with romantic horse-drawn sleigh rides taking you out to see the humongous herds.
Due to its striking scenery and nature, the refuge is just as lovely to visit the rest of the year with bighorn sheep, coyotes and bald eagles often spied.
2. Grand Teton National Park
While Wyoming is awash with epic landscapes and dramatic vistas, one particular part stands alone: Grand Teton National Park. Offering all kinds of awesome outdoor activities, its sparkling alpine lakes, soaring mountains and vast forests just beg to be explored.
Named after the range’s highest peak which towers 13,775 feet high, it was founded in 1929. Aside from the magnificent mountains and rugged rock formations, it has verdant woodlands, rushing rivers and shady meadows for visitors to explore. It’s a popular mountaineering destination, but hiking, biking and camping are equally popular, as are swimming and kayaking in its waterways.
To top it all off, the national park has everything from moose and elk to bison, bears and bald eagles to spy amidst all its untouched and unspoiled wilderness.
1. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Often listed among the biggest and best ski resorts in the States, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort lies just twenty minutes drive northwest of Jackson. Known for both its challenging terrain and vertical drop, it has more than a hundred exciting trails for skiers and snowboarders to shoot down.
First opened to the public in 1965, its superb slopes, terrain parks and chairlifts are perched high up on the side of the south-facing Apres Vous mountain. While the 4,139 feet vertical drop attracts lots of people, just as many come to hike and bike the range in summer.
At any time of year, you can enjoy phenomenal panoramas over the surrounding mountains, valleys and forests. Its vibrant village base also hosts fun-filled events, shows and concerts while numerous stores and restaurants are located amidst the sleek condos and cozy lodges.