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.
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
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.
Wildlife has been a source of fascination
and inspiration for artists for thousands of years. And at the National Museum of Wildlife Art a few
miles north of Jackson there are more
than 5,000 wildlife art works, with pieces by John James Audubon, Georgia
O’Keefe, Rodin and Picasso, with much of the collection focussing on art by
European artists as they explored the US West. The building itself is a work of
art; on a bluff overlooking the National Elk Refuge, the wintering grounds for
the approximately 7,500 elk of the Jackson elk herd, the rocky architecture of
the museum blends nearly seamlessly into the mountainside.
Head to the rustic, homey Il Villagio Osteria in Teton
Village to watch pizza chef Cassidy Hudson show off her dough tossing skills – she competed
in the highest dough toss at the Las Vegas
Pizza Expo in March 2013. Let your kids chow down on pizza topped with
homemade sausage while parents will be tempted by the more complex dishes of fried
Brussels sprouts and foie gras caramel sausage.
At the base of 1,571ft-high Snow King mountain
in Jackson, Snow King Resort can keep
your kids entertained with its an outdoor pool, arcade game room and a mini
golf course. But it also has something no other place in town has – the Alpine
Slide. Open in summer only, take the double chairlift up and ride a sled 2,500ft
down the mountain on a plastic track through wildflowers. You can take it slow
or bomb down as fast as you want – you control the speed with brakes on each
Jackson has claimed itself the “Last and
Best of the Old West”, and it proves it in its free daily summertime “shootouts” in the
town square at 6 pm. Frontier justice involved taking the law into your own
hands, and the re-enactments of these gunfights, complete with elaborate
costumes, are performed by the “Shootout Gang”.
From 15 June to 2 September, Jackson Hole
Mountain Resort transforms from ski resort to mountain biking heaven for cyclists
of all levels. One of the best spots to fuel up after a ride is one of the
newest pubs in Teton Village – The
Handle Bar. Right at the base of Apres Vous Mountain, the restaurant serves
classic pub food with a spin – try the bacon burger with peanut butter or fried
Surrounded by national park and forest, there
is plenty of camping in the Jackson Hole area. But if you do not want to pack
your own tent or food to overnight in the wilderness, head to Rock Springs
Backcountry Yurt. A guide will lead you 2.5 miles and 1,400ft up from Teton
Village into Bridger National Forest to the yurt, a domed structure with canvas
tent walls. It sleeps up to eight on bunk beds, and the guide can prepare
dinner while you relax on the deck or in front of the fireplace.
Jackson Hole also has hundreds of rock
climbing routes for all abilities. To get around on the rock, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides teaches climbing
classes, and lead single day or overnight trips up into the mountains on
classic climbs. If heights are not your thing, get your thrills by hitting the
water. Jackson Hole Whitewater organises half
day excursions on the class III Snake River with some big rapids through the
limestone cliffs of Snake River Canyon.