Jackson Hole, Wyoming is amazing year round!
I’ve now been lucky enough to visit Jackson Hole 3 times and each time it keeps getting better. My first time was for barely 24 hours during June 2014. All I really had time for was to ride the tram to the top of Jackson Hole to see Corbet’s Cabin and the views from the highest peak, and then walk around Jackson to see the typical touristy spots (the antler arches, classic Wyoming shops, Million Dollar Cowboy Bar to name a few). The second time I spent 4-5 days there visiting friends in February of 2018. I finally had the chance to ski Jackson Hole and experience the nightlife of the towns (Jackson and Teton Village). My most recent visit was for Christmas 2019. At this point, I’ve skied enough of Jackson to share some of my thoughts and suggestions, but I also want to share a few things I discovered in the surrounding areas!
Because Jackson Hole is nestled in the Tetons, there is far more to explore in all directions!
First and foremost, a quick note about costs… it is true that Jackson, Wyoming is very expensive.
It’s expensive to fly to Jackson. The airport is small and only allows certain size aircracts so you almost always have to have a connecting flight from Salt Lake City or some other city close by. I typically fly through SLC and this most recent time, actually flew into SLC and rented a car to drive to Jackson through the mountains. It’s a beautiful trip if you the extra 5 hours.
It is expensive to stay in Jackson. Unless you are camping or staying with friends, expect to pay more for a spot to rest your head than you usually would or expect to be cramped with a bunch of people. The first time I went we found a small cabin with 1 bed and a couch that we split between 4 people to keep costs low...this was not comfortable. The second time I was able to stay with a close friend who lives out there (which I always recommend doing wherever you travel for many reasons beyond the obvious cost savings!) This last time it was a family trip so we rented out a condo in Teton village to fit everyone and to have easy access to the slows (this was very expensive and something I would not recommend doing or even considering if you’re trying to be cost conscious).
It is expensive to ski. Jackson lift tickets for adults are $170 if you buy them at the ticket office, day of. You can sometimes save a bit by purchasing online ahead of time, but not much. There are 2 other ways to ski Jackson for cheaper. The first is the Epic pass. Since Jackson is one of the more expensive mountains on the pass list, this ends up being a big win. The only other way I know of is if you know someone who works on the mountain and is able to get discounts on lift tickets for friends. On one of my trips, I was lucky enough to ski with a friend who was able to snag a 50% off ticket for me!
It is expensive to eat and drink in Jackson. This is simply because it is a tourist town with a lot of nice restaurants.
Admitting to the high costs of Jackson Hole is not meant to dissuade you from visiting! But you should be sufficiently prepared to spend more money on a trip here than other places. That being said… the money is worth it to see a place this beautiful!
Not only do you have the quaint ski towns of Jackson and Teton village combined with the incredible experience that is skiing Jackson Mountain, but you also have easy access to all of the Tetons and especially to Teton National Park. Wyoming is a gorgeous state, but the Tetons are one of the most (if not THE most) beautiful mountain ranges in North America. Everytime I visit Jackson, I make sure to get outside the touristy parts to enjoy all the natural beauty that area has to offer. If you’re looking for the highlights, there are 3 places you have to see when visiting Jackson. But for those who have a bit more time or like to explore beyond the basics, there are 2 other things I would definitely recommend doing and then a few more options to consider.
The Must-See Highlights
The Mountain: Regardless of whether you’re a good skier or not one at all, you need to take the Tram up to Rendezvous Peak sitting at 10,450 vertical feet. The very top of the mountain has a small cabin called Corbet’s Cabin that makes a few delicious waffle options for anyone looking to warm up and add a little sugar energy to their system. The views are breathtaking and the cozy cabin is exactly what you’d expect from a ski cabin on the top of a mountain. You can ride the Tram up either using your ski pass or by buying a specific ticket for the Tram. The Tram experience is a bit like being a sardine stuffed inside a can. They pack 100 people into each ride and you don’t even have room to move your arms. The best thing to do is accept the slight discomfort on the 5 ish minute ride up the mountain and then enjoy the views on the way down without all the eager skiers. If you’re a skier, be prepared for the most difficult runs Jackson has to offer and to learn why Jackson is considered the most challenging mountain to ski in the U.S. Here’s a link to the trail map.
If you’re skiing, my favorite spots on the mountain are at the top of Bridger Gondola (in the middle of the map and where Rendezvous Lodge sits) and Teton Lift Summit. There are mostly blues and blacks, but also a bunch of tree or long run options. If you’re skiing on this side of the mountain, the trick to avoid ending up back at the bottom or on any of the easy greens is to not go past Teton Quad Chair or make it back to Casper Quad Chair. If you prefer only blacks, you will fall in love with the terrain below Rendezvous Bowl (left side when look at a map). In short, if you’re a solid skier, you really can’t go wrong no matter what path you choose.
Teton Village: At the base of Jackson Mountain near the Tram and Gondola, there are a bunch of ski shops and restaurants attached to hotels. One of my favorite places to grab a beer and chill outside by the fire pits is called Handlebar in the 4 Season’s hotel. The food is excellent too, so if you’re staying in Teton village and looking for a good place to grab dinner, add this to the list. Two other great dinner options are Teton Thai and Spur.
Jackson Hole: If you’re staying in Jackson Hole, there’s endless options to eat, shop and enjoy being in a ski town. A classic spot to at least make sure you see is Million Dollar Cowboy bar. The inside is carved out of old trees and all the bar stools are saddles. It’s a unique experience with some entertaining Jackson Hole history. Outside of food, there’s ice skating in town square, the antler arches, and strolling around to see all the shops. The best advice I have for choosing a restaurant is to check out this site here and decide what you’re in the mood for. Call ahead and make a reservation though! Things fill up quickly here.
My Favorite Spots
Astoria Hot Springs: About 40 minutes south of Teton Village and 30 minutes South of Jackson Hole, you can find one of the coolest spots in all of Jackson Hole in Hoback, Wyoming. Astoria Hot Springs is a free and completely natural sulfur hot spring that sits on the bank of the Snake River. The parking lot is not marked so it can be tough to find off the highway, especially when it's snowing. If you’ve past the bridge, W Johnny Counts Rd, you’ve gone just a bit too far. If it’s snowing and you can’t see the parking lot, I recommend parking on the side of the highway because your car will get stuck at the bottom of the hill. After you park, you have to traverse the ridge along the river until you find a spot where you can climb down to the bank safely. There are plenty of pools to check out, all with varying degrees of heat. The less-than-pleasant sulfur smells fade as you get used to it so don’t be concerned if you feel overwhelmed by the rotten egg smell at first. This spot mostly attracts locals because it is difficult to get to and has no signs marking it. Once you get there, you quickly strip down to your bathing suit and settle into one of the pools to let the heat soothe your muscles while the sulfur exfoliates your skin! I usually bring some whiskey or wine to sip on while enjoying the view because there are no rules. The place is so pristine, make sure you take all your trash with you and avoid breaking anything so that its as beautiful for everyone else. Also, bring a towel because it is not fun to have your dry clothes soak up the water from your bathing suit.
For a bit more information on the hot springs, check out their website. This park used to be family owned, but the state has plans to make it a protected park area.
Grand Teton National Park: The entrance to Grand Teton National Park, is about 10-15 minutes north of Teton Village (when all the roads are open). There are a variety of guide options you can take to venture into the park, but if you are confident in your own winter hiking abilities, you don’t necessarily need one. Taggart Lake is a very popular trail in warmer weather because it's a low difficulty level and only a ~3-mile loop. During the winter, many people wear snowshoes to hike the same trail, but again, if you are comfortable hiking in warm boots, you will be fine as long as you respect where the trail is. If you go off trail, it’s possible you might sink a few feet down into unpacked snow. There are also places to cross-country ski near the trailhead of Taggart Lake Trail. If you drive to Taggart Lake trail, you’ll also pass by the National Elk Refuge on your way. For $25 you can take a 30-minute sleigh ride around the Elk Refuge and see these majestic animals up-close.
There are plenty more trails to check out in Grand Teton National Park during warmer months. Once I get back there for a summer trip, I’ll share some of my favorites!
Other Cool Things To Do Around Jackson
There are a few other experiences you can have around Jackson Hole. I haven’t tried all of these because of either time or price, but they could be fun activities to check out!
Day Tours to Yellowstone