Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, surrounded by the towering Gros Ventre and rugged Teton mountain ranges, is best known for its “steep and deep” skiing and snowboarding. Plus, it is home to one of the US’ longest vertical drops, often featured in daredevil snow sports films.
However, the valley is more than a snow sports mecca. After the spring snowmelt when the wildflowers begin to bloom, millions of people pass through on their way to the nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. But there is no need to rush to see Yellowstone’s famous geysers – from romance to wildlife to family bonding and high adventure, Jackson Hole has something for everyone.
Rekindle the romance
A perfect romantic stay in Jackson Hole should include lunch or dinner at Couloir. A ride up Bridger Gondola from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort takes you to 9,095ft, with stunning views over the entire valley. All the ingredients on the prix fixe, four-course seasonal menu are from within 250 miles of the restaurant, with fresh and flavourful dishes like bison tenderloin, fresh greens and pan-roasted fish. So as you relax and reconnect with a loved one on the outdoor patio or in front of the picture windows overlooking the valley, you will also being caring for the Earth by eating sustainable, local food.
With fireplaces in the rooms, a heated infinity pool and a rooftop hot tub overlooking the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton Village’s Hotel Terra is a luxury, eco-friendly hotel. Hit up the Chill Spa for a couple’s massage; if you are feeling extra romantic add on a chocolate body wrap and champagne sugar scrub. And if you really want to go all out, splurge on the couple’s spa suite which has a large spa tub with a mountain view, where you can get treatments in the privacy of your own room.
Waking up before dawn will be worth it for the sight of the sun’s rays hitting the Tetons from a hot air balloon thousands of feet in the air. From May to October, both Elevated Ballooning and Wyoming Balloon in Jackson will take you for a quiet and unforgettable hour-long sunrise ride over the valley.
Wildlife and the Wild West
Right across from Jackson’s town square, with its iconic elk antler arches, is one of the oldest commercial sites in Jackson Hole – the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. The bar, originally built around the beginning of the 20th Century, is a favourite with visitors; who could pass up the chance to belly up to a bar on a saddle instead of a regular bar stool? For a post-drink meal, go downstairs to the Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse in the basement. Along with classic western dishes including T-bone steak, elk fillet and steelhead trout, the restaurant also has vegetarian options, and the food is regionally sourced whenever possible.
In the Jackson area, wildlife runs free and has the right of way; it is not uncommon to stop and let a moose cross the road. The region is a part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem – about 20 million acres with Yellowstone National Park at its centre and extending south through Grand Teton National Park. With the controversial reintroduction of grey wolves to Yellowstone in 1995, the ecosystem here is complete again, with every predator, from wolves to grizzly bears, and every prey species, such as elk, moose, bighorn sheep and bison, that belongs here.
One of the best safari tours in town is through the Four Seasons Jackson Hole. The hotel has its own wildlife biologist and photographer, Tenley Thompson, who created the programme and trained a team of naturalists to take small groups (with at least one guide for every five hotel guests) on customised wildlife safari tours through Bridger Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. If you are visiting in July, sign up for an “evening with the wolves”, where you can safely watch a mother and her pups at their den while enjoying some delicious treats from the Four Seasons kitchen.